Saturday, December 31, 2022

We know we dream, we dream we know

My New Year's greeting for 2023 is a song set to a 1917 poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Here's the text:
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of the year.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an extremely popular American writer during the early years of the twentieth century, and I only just learned (while writing this post, actually, because I was too caught up in working on the music to do any research at all on her life and work) that a good number of her poems have been set to music.

But not this one (as far as I know).

You can find the music for medium voice here (there's also a version for high voice). You can listen to the medium voice version here, you can find the music for both on this page of the IMSLP.

The cover image (which I chose simply because I love it) is "A Masque for the Four Seasons" painted by the British painter Walter Crane between 1905 and 1909, at the height of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's fame. Walter Crane was born in 1845 and died in 1915. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in 1850 and died in 1919. I had no idea that Walter Crane was a poet as well as a painter, and that he and Ella Wheeler Wilcox were published side-by-side in many magazines (Crane made illustrations for poems by James Russell Lowell in The Cosmopolitan). They were also both socialists.
It tickles me to see these people I could never have known (but maybe I dreamed I knew . . .), and only recently learned about, tied together in both a blog post and a piece of brand-new music as we approach the new year of 2023.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Two passages from Nabokov's Pale Fire

She kept trying, as one quietly insane, to mend a broken viola d'amore or sat in dolorous attitudes comparing two ancient flutes, both sad-tuned and feeble.

He asked Fleur as she turned to go with the Disa orchids if she still played the viola. She shook her head several times not wishing to speak without addressing him and not daring to do so while the servants might be within earshot.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Two Elaines (one fictional, one real) with the same lamp


Today I have the unusual feeling (for me) of having enough. After what seems like a lifetime of not having enough of one thing or another, I am filled with the unremarkable feeling having and being enough. Normally I would have felt restless if I didn't have a project, an idea, of something to work for. Now (at least today) I feel fortunate to have done the work I have done, and to have developed the necesary skills to enjoy making music in whatever form I feel like making it in.

I write this while smelling the delicious smells of what Michael is cooking for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's lunch, which we will be having with (among other people) our daughter and two of our grandchildren.

The first time in my life that I ever felt a sense of "enough" was after the birth of our first child. I felt at one with the past, present, and future of the universe. I felt like I was a full participant. For me being a mother, in many ways, is enough. And when I spent time with our grandchildren it is enough. And being part of a partnership with Michael is enough.

I write this after having spent some really enjoyable time at the piano with Haydn and Bach. That time was made even more enjoyable for me because a small cold mist humidifier provides enough humidity during this really dry and cold time to keep the piano in tune.

I like the fact that I have been getting enough sleep, enough good food, and enough exercise, and I enjoy the fact that I have enough warm clothes to be able to enjoy taking a walk even when the temperature is below zero.

I suppose I'm sharing this bit of "enoughness" here because my Christmas wish for anyone reading would be to feel (at least for a moment) that you have, have done, and simply are enough, because "enough" is a not a measurement of quantity or even of quality. And I know the feeling of being or having or doing enough might not last, because "enough" is not a measurement of time. But having it might contribute to a state of mind. I hope that this feeling will continue to keep me company.

Friday, December 16, 2022

My Friend Beth Orson

I just learned that my friend Beth Orson died yesterday. I do not know the circumstances, and if she had been sick I didn't know about it because we have only had casual Facebook contact over the past few years. Her posts were mostly about her dogs (whippets), and their races.

Beth joined the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1990, and began teaching at the University of British Columbia School of Music in 1993. I last time I saw her was in New York in 1984 or 1985.

I first met Beth when I was a teenager in my second to last year of high school in a youth chamber orchestra at the New England Conservatory. We began the academic year with the Robert Schumann Piano Concerto, and I sat next to Beth, a senior oboe player who drove into Boston from Providence, Rhode Island.

I was impressed by the fact that she drove all the way to Boston by herself, pleased that she was a really kind and friendly person, and totally blown away by the authority in the way that she played the opening woodwind passage after the piano entrance. The flutes don't play that passage, so I could listen with full attention.

While we were waiting for the first woodwind sectional to begin, Beth sat down at the piano and played the opening of the Schumann Concerto. After the sectional she told me that she had spent the past summer at Fontainebleau, and studied there with Nadia Boulanger. Beth was the most grown-up high school musician I had ever met, and it was such a thrill for me when we became friends. I visited her in Providence, and met her twin sister Diane, who was a terrific violinist. I remember Diane practicing the Bruch Violin Concerto in the basement of their house before breakfast, and I remember their younger brother, Ted (who they affectionately called "turd"). I remember their actress mother who had starred in Peer Gynt. I had to look that play up when I returned to my home in Newton.

The next year Beth went to the Oberlin College Conservatory, and I stayed with her when I went there to audition. My SATs weren't good enough for me to get accepted to the college (I thought I could sneak in a regular education on the basis of getting admitted to the conservatory, but no soap). So I went to Juillard, where my test scores wouldn't matter.

But Beth came to New York after graduating, so I did get to see her again. And Beth had fortunately met my friend Liz (while I was out of the country) and they became roommates, so I got to spend some time with "adult" Beth, who was the same Beth as teenage Beth.

There is a series of videos of Beth teaching. She is exactly the same Beth. I'm so grateful to have known her, and am so grateful that these videos are available. And I feel honored to share this post and these videos here.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Michael, reading Garner's Modern English Usage (fifth edition)

Michael was a member of a panel of critical readers for the fifth edition of Garner’s Modern English Usage, which just came out from Oxford University Press. (The first printing sold out in only two weeks, and a second printing is in the works.)

You can see photos of the other critical readers here.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Film Noir for Piano Trio

Michael and I spend a lot of time watching film noir movies together, and consequently I spend a lot of time paying attention to the music in films noir (to use the pretentious plural). I have spent the past several weeks writing a fifteen-minute-long piano trio that explores what I believe to be the musical essence of film noir. And I made a collage this morning while listening to it.

You can listen to a computer-generated recording here, and find the music on this page of the IMSLP.

And if you want some guidance in your journey through films from the 1940s and beyond, Michael writes four sentences about each of the movies we have watched (with no spoilers) in groups of twelve. You can start here (that's his most recent set of twelve), and then you can find more groups of twelve movies by searching for "twelve movies" in the search box. You will not be disappointed (by the capsule reviews or by the films he rates highly).

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

A list of my vocal music in the IMSLP

Last night, after the premiere performance of a set of songs I wrote for Elena Negruta, I submitted it into the IMSLP. You can find the music for this set of three songs set to poems by Stephen Crane here.

For people who might be interested in knowing what music for voice I have written that is available in the IMSLP, I made a list:
[click on the image for a larger view]

You can find direct links to IMSLP entries for these pieces, as well as commercially published vocal music in this selection from my thematic catalog blog. For a complete list (to date) of narrated music, you can click here.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

A Dictionary of Opera and Song Themes

On Christmas Eve of 2018 I made a post about the Barlow and Morganstern Dictionary of Musical Themes, which was published in 1948. In the introduction the writers mentioned that they were working on a second volume that would include vocal music (songs and opera).

I found the second edition of that volume in a used bookstore yesterday. It was first published in 1950, and my revised edition is from 1976.

I was happy to see that there were entries for Jerome Kern and George Gershwin, but surprised (and disappointed) to see that the entries only have titles and blank staves.

In the introduction to this volume the writers mention that the person (or people) that published music by Gershwin, Kern, Edward German, and Frank E. Tours would not allow themes by those composers to be printed in the book.

I'm guessing that the third Porgy and Bess entry, the one without the title, must be "Summertime," and I'm sure I'm not the only person who noticed that the seventh empty entry for Porgy and Bess is "I got plenty o' nuttin.'" Plenty o' nuttin' indeed.