As good as nothing (Day 30/365)

I spent the day thinking about where to go from my newly polished climax of “Milky Way” to get to the last two stanzas of the poem.

Last year, when I was finally deciding how to tackle this piece (I had put it off for twenty years), I decided that it would be in a modified sonata allegro form. For one thing, the A theme (the setting of the first stanza) and the B theme (second stanza) would have to be reversed in the capitulation, since the last two stanzas are mirror images of the first two.

So the puzzle I have (it’s not a hard one) is now that I’ve given the listener a really traditional recap, with the triumphant restatement of the opening chords, I have to twist sideways and lead into the B theme, only in a minor key (because of the rat’s grotesque cynicism) and then back out into the A theme for the final statement.

And there will be another puzzle: Ms. Willard has ended the poem not on a transcendant note but a blunt “handful of dirt to the rat.”

Anyway, I was going to get a lot of this worked out tonight, but I got dragged out to dinner with friends. Oh well.

6 thoughts on “As good as nothing (Day 30/365)

  1. It all hangs on that handful of dirt, doesn’t it?

    This just occured to me; it’s interesting. Dale is something of a Classicist in his approach to questions of compositional form and “decorum” (and my intent is not to pigeon-hole here). So we have the unique sitation of a Classicist surveying a Blakean landscape and making decisions. Has this been a conscious and productive tension? Willard’s illustrator certainly might be saying, “Tension? What tension?” As might Willard herself…

    (Explanation. I’m hanging this on the approach to Blake familiar to all high-school English students–those who were awake–in which Blake is portrayed as one of the Promethean Romantics whose fire is the liberating Imagination.)

  2. But to answer your question:

    Yes, I am a classicist. Brahms is my hero. And it has been an interesting puzzle to work with this Blake-inspired poetry, especially with this particular piece. As I say somewhere in my notes, one thing that attracted me to Visit was the figure of Blake in the book: he is the source of the Inn, the Tiger, the Milky Way itself.

    So how do you control those dots on the page so that sounds emerge from an orchestra and chorus that shows that mysticism? That’s my puzzle.

  3. No, I am not shown a little “e.” Perhaps more re-reading will do me good before I post. See my previous efforts to confirm this observation.

    I have always thought that Blake’s work method, the patient drudgery of the engraving process, reveals a very material (Classicist?) dimension to his visionary activities. His reverence for Milton also belies a nod to received tradition, as does his use of established song and verse forms. Moondog as Mystic. (Thinking of Moondog’s efforts to out-Bach Bach in his allegiance to counterpoint.)

  4. re: the little ‘e’
    Are you logging in to make comments? For some reason, yours go straight to post while Kevin’s are sent to me for approval. I’d love to know what that’s about.

    Later: you weren’t logging in because you weren’t a user. Now you are. Log in, and I’ll bet you start seeing the little e. I’ll email you your password.

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