Monday, February 27, 2023

Inching along

I am in the beginning stages of an exciting project involving Mary Shelley and the exploration of the inner musical life of her creation (the creature). It is quite an adventure, to say the least.

And to feed my insatiable desire for rye, I now can make rye bread that I slice thin and dry in the oven. I actually prefer it to Ryvita, so I claim victory.

There’s something deeply satisfying about being able to make stuff yourself. Baking with rye flour is challenging. But it is a lot easier than writing music, and somewhat easier than learning orchestra music (Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” this week).

It has been pretty much practice, read, practice, write, walk (or do Pilates), practice, write, rehearse, sleep, rinse, and repeat these days (with some quality movie-watching time with Michael tucked in here and there).  

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Grelling in Its Lair

Michael and I spend every day with Steven Millhauser's imagination, which is, thankfully, readily available in his books and stories.

In the title story of his 1990 collection, The Barnum Museum, Millhauser refers three times to the "grelling," an imaginary creature that is on display.

A search for "grelling" lets you know that there is no such creature outside of Steven Millhauser's imagination. But Kurt Grelling, of the Grelling-Nelson paradox comes up immediately. The juxtaposition of the paradox and the naming of an imaginary creature compelled me to make a musical portrait of the grelling in its lair for bassoon and piano.

You can listen here:

You can find the music on this page of the IMSLP.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Flat Music Binding REVELATION!

I got a piece of orchestral music the other day that was bound in a most ingenious and economical way. Binding double-sided pages this way allows the music to lie TOTALLY FLAT, no matter how many pages a piece may have.
I had to try it myself! All that is required is some wide bandage-type paper tape, two pieces of regular adhesive tape, a pair of scissors to cut the tape, and the pages you want to bind together.

Here's what you do.

Stack the paper with the pages about 1/8 inch apart (closer together is fine if you have a lot of pages):
Tape the edges together at the top and bottom with a small piece of scotch tape to hold them in place:

Use paper tape (I used 3m micropore tape) to secure the whole edge. If you have any leftover tape on the long edge, just fold it over to secure the reverse side. Use your scissors to trim any excess.

As long as your pages are straight (which is not difficult to make happen) the music will open and lie completely flat.

I am forever grateful to whoever came up with this brilliant idea.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023


2023 has been a challenging food year for me. Two of my favorite foods, fresh cranberries and Ryvita rye crackers, have become scarce because of weather issues and political issues. Rye flour, the major ingredient in Ryvita, is now really expensive. It is so expensive that the Ryvita company seems to be diversifying in its choice of grains. This package, which came a few months ago in a shipment from the UK, expires in October. I fear that Ryvita won't be available again at any kind of affordable price for a long time.

How I long for the days when I could top my Ryvita crackers with homemade cranberry sauce with reckless abandon!
Since I can no longer rely on Ryvita for my cracker habit, I decided to take matters into my own hands and oven. I didn't have rye flour handy, but I did have some nice whole wheat pastry flour from Bob's Red Mill. I mixed 1 cup water, 1/2-1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and around 2T olive oil together. I added enough of the flour (I never measure flour when making bread) to make a smooth dough, rolled it out on a half-sheet pan lined with a silicone mat, and used a pizza cutter to cut rectangular pieces. I poked holes in each piece with a fork, and baked the crackers at 400 for 20 minutes or so. Then I lowered the heat to 350 and let them cook until they were golden brown (I tend to time by instinct). Then I cooled them on a rack.

They had the taste and texture I love in a wheat cracker. Next time I am able to buy some rye flour I intend to try making them with rye.

I might need to raise the amount of baking soda and salt, but we'll see. And I'll post the results.

Rye update: The results with rye were disappointing for me. It might be the taste of the baking soda. I'm sticking with whole wheat pastry flour for these crackers.

Friday, February 03, 2023

Accidental Doorways

Steven Millhauser's stories always involve imagination, and sometimes they involve explorations of rooms, pathways, rabbit holes, and doorways that lead from room to room.

While teaching a lesson yesterday, with Millhauser on the brain, after reading "Alice, Falling," one of the stories collectd in The Barnum Museum, I stumbled upon a way to help my eleven-year-old student understand the accidentals that kept popping up in her Vivaldi concerto.

It suddenly occured to me that sharps and naturals are like little doorways that lead us into periods of another tonality, not unlike the doorways that lead from room to room in a house (or museum) with many rooms. They even look like little doorways. And in this case the B-flat in measure 77 functions like a window you can pop your head through for a moment, and then go back to the path. This is certainly not intended to serve as any kind of a harmonic analysis, but it definitely was enough for my student to understand what she was playing while she was playing it.

A piece of music, particularly a piece of common-practice music with a tonal plan is a little like a house or a self-contained world of its own, isn't it?

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Musical motion

Everything about this "Ask Augustin" episode is worth thinking about every day while practicing, while playing with others, while listening to music, while composing music, while walking around, while doing household tasks, or while doing anything at all that involves either motion or stillness.