Monthly Archives: June 2012

Now is the Time. Dream Sequence

Dreams weave in and out on Now is the TimeSunday, July 1st at 10 pm. It’s American contemporary music on WRTI-HD2 and the all-classical stream at wrti.org.

PROGRAM:

Anthony Gatto. Lucky Dreams
Peter Lieberson. Drala
Sanghee Lee. Scented Dream from Two Short Pieces
George Crumb. Dream Sequence (Images II)
Judith Lang Zaimont. Elegy from Symphony No. 2 “Remember Me”

Now is the Time combines all styles of concert music by living American composers, every Sunday night at 10. Here are the recording details and complete schedule.

Whale Watching

[First published in the Broad Street Review 26 Jun 2012, as “What I learned from whale watching.” Reprinted by permission.]

oceanchoppy

Looking for whales for the first time, the first thing you notice is that everything looks like a whale.

I grew up in South Jersey and went to the shore every year, so the sea, to me, was just a wave-producing machine. The purpose of that vast undifferentiated mass of water called the Atlantic Ocean was to make waves, mainly so that I could bodysurf.

It seems I have not outgrown that silliness, but have only replaced it with another. The ocean is now a whale-producing machine. I can appreciate how varied the ocean is, but still…every trough, swell, crest, cap, and splash interests me only because it betokens a whale.

Soon—and if I can claim any pride, it’s that I didn’t need the excursion’s entire three hours to figure this out—the non-appearance of whales allowed something else to materialize. But not at first.

Things not noticed

The ocean out here looks pretty much like the ocean at the beach, just deeper. That sounds flippant, and I don’t mean it to be. I acknowledge the depth of it. Rises take their time forming and passing. There’s a restfulness that results only from a deep underpinning.

Waves do appear, but on this calm day they seem boring. They don’t crash. They’re not virtuosic or cadential. They’re by-the-way waves. They’re the ocean being the ocean.

Nevertheless, some things jump out. For instance, there’s a line where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean—a thing I never would have guessed. The small breakers and ridges from each body of water meet each other and, on a calm day, just pat their hands together. But the particular boundary between them is definitely observable.

Manuel on hitting

What’s happening is this: I’m starting to see the ocean. The blues, greens, grays, and whites are in large part a reflection of sky and clouds. It’s easy to see out here because the sky and clouds extend in every direction and are different in every direction.

The sea likewise extends and differs. These blues, greens, grays, and whites are easy to notice; yet I also notice that I’d never seen these before. Perhaps I’ll see them from now on, even from the shore.

The Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, talks about the kind of hitter he likes. The popular theory is that to achieve success, you have to want it. But Manuel says that the hitter who wants a hit won’t be a great hitter. The hitter who loves to hit—now that’s who Charlie wants.

Baseball is mostly failure; even the best hitters fail seven times out of ten. A good hitter loves success, of course, but wanting—and failing—grinds you down. Loving, not wanting, is the key to excellence.

Excellence, you see, is not success, at least as the world counts success.

The art of watching

As a rookie on the boat, watching the water for whales, I finally noticed something else. Other people on the boat were watching, too—the mates, who were masters at watching. So I watched them watching.

There seemed nothing special about them at first; they stood, they watched. (They also, mostly, didn’t hold onto anything, but one education at a time.) Then I noticed a look in their eyes, something I recognized.

I’ve seen it before. Farmers have this look, surveying a field, or taking in a cloud crossing a hill. From opposing bullpens, managers can have this same look, when a hitter is working deep into a count, patiently turning nasty sliders into foul balls. Conductors may have it—listening, wondering after something that’s there, something that may be, and something that isn’t, yet.

Sculpting musical notes

Maybe I’ve had it, too. As a composer, I’ve felt it, anyway, when I’m massaging a handful of notes into a phrase—working them, deleting, grabbing and working them again, trying to sculpt them into something I want, something I think I hear, then letting them become, I hope, what they already are.

The eyes look nonchalant at first, but that’s too small of a picture. The key characteristic is detachment, perhaps, or dispassion, or even disinterest: how the ever-elegant King James Version describes God’s level view of us: that He is no respecter of persons. But that’s too big of a picture, surely.

It’s a fixity I see in the eyes of the mates, a fixity on something below—no, past—the surface, or it’s an encompassing of much more of the surface than I can take in. It’s seeing behind the accidents, as the philosophers say—a fixity on something only they see, or on something they had seen before, surely. I see that in their eyes.

I never did see a whale that day, but I saw that fixity. And, I did see the ocean.

Now is the Time. Fracta

Exotic sounds are broken, chanted, and spun on Now is the Time.

 Philadelphia-area composers Michael Hersch and Aaron Jay Kernis always intrigue, Pat Muchmore scalds with post-modern electric guitar, and Michael Ellison infuses Qu’ranic recitation with spectral wonder, all on Sunday, June 24th at 10 pm. Now is the Time, American contemporary music, on WRTI-HD2 and the all-classical stream at wrti.org.

PROGRAM:
Michael Ellison. Elif
Michael Hersch. Fracta
Pat Muchmore. Broken Aphorism 10
Aaron Jay Kernis. Ecstatic Meditations
Pat Muchmore. Al Gharaniq—Fracture IV

Now is the Time combines all styles of concert music by living American composers, every Sunday night at 10. Here are the recording details and complete schedule.

Mass for Philadelphia at AAM Conference

Parts of my Mass for Philadelphia will be sung at the Closing Eucharist for the Association of Anglican Musicians National Conference today, 3:30 pm Thursday, 21 Jun 2012, at St. Luke and The Epiphany, Philadelphia. Assisting in the congregational singing will be a children’s choir and the Conference Choir. The Mass is for unison congregation, organ, and optional cantor and descant.

I’ve been having a great time at the conference all week, meeting music directors and organists from around the country. I also had the pleasure of meeting British composer Francis Pott at The Crossing concert Sunday night. The Crossing sang two of his luscious, dark works, and they never cease to amaze how good they are, in whatever music they perform: true as truth, warm, vibrant, athletic, always exciting. Peter Richard Conte played a program of his own exquisite transcriptions on the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s last night.

Being an exhibitor at the Conference, and bringing along lots of my choral music, I wasn’t able to attend nearly all of the events I would’ve liked, but it’s been an enjoyable time of meeting church music folks, other exhibitors, and making new friends. I’ve made a re-acquaintance with Charles Kegg of Kegg Pipe Organs. We had met a year ago at First Presbyterian of Phoenixville, when an anthem of mine was premiered at the dedication of an organ he had just installed. It’s a beautiful instrument.

Thanks to Phillip and Heather Shade and the AAM for commissioning this Mass.

Now is the Time. Harp, Harpsichord

Strings will be plucked in all sorts of music on Sunday, June 17th at 10 pm. Now is the Time, American contemporary music, on WRTI-HD2 and the all-classical stream at wrti.org.

Peter Child. Fantasia
Dinos Constantinides. Landscape VI—Rhapsody for Harp and Strings
Harold Boatrite. Suite for Harpsichord
Harold Meltzer. Virginal
James Hartway. Detours

Now is the Time combines all styles of concert music by living American composers, every Sunday night at 10. Here are the recording details and complete schedule.

Now is the Time. Fiddling

Violin, viola, cello, and even a double bass getting busy. Joshua Bell makes an appearance on Sunday, June 10th at 10 pm. Now is the Time, American contemporary music, on WRTI-HD2 and the all-classical stream at wrti.org.

Dylan Mattingly. Lighthouse (Refugee Music by a Pacific Expatriate)
John Musto. Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano
Dennis Bathory-Kitsz. Northsea Balletic Spicebush
James Aikman. Sonata No. 1, for Violin and Piano
Andy Teirstein. Maramures

Now is the Time combines all styles of concert music by living American composers, every Sunday night at 10. Here are the recording details and complete schedule.

Now is the Time. Night Time

Night Time. It’s music of night and longing, with works by internationally known composers, and a lovely orchestral piece from Philadelphian Juliette Stango.

Sunday, June 3, 10–11 pm on Now is the Time, American contemporary music, on WRTI-HD2 and the all-classical stream at wrti.org.

Zhou Long. Song of Eight Unruly Tipsy Poets from Poems of Tang
Juliette Stango. Sol’ per Dirti: Addio
Richard Danielpour. A Quality Love, from Margaret Garner
Andy Teirstein. Rhapsody for Boy Soprano and Strings
Sebastian Currier. Night Time
Lowell Liebermann. Nocturne No. 1

Now is the Time combines all styles of concert music by living American composers, every Sunday night at 10. Here are the recording details and complete schedule, and because you really wanted to know, the theme music and how it was written. Tell me what you think (if I can’t take it, I promise to write back), and ask me where you can send CDs for broadcast consideration.