I actually got back to work yesterday, sort of.
Having chosen the “least of these” text for the Outside the Bachs piece, I sat down to work on it. And nothing happened.
I have in my head a vague Presentiment of what I want the piece to do, but the problem is the text. It is not even close to metrical, which shouldn’t be a problem in the long run, but at the moment it has me stymied. I mapped out its rhythm and tried applying notes to it, but everything I diddled with sounded either trite or aimless.
After an hour of that, I gave up and did the crossword puzzle.
Here’s what I’m thinking: set the text to a quiet, chantlike episode, perhaps a capella. Follow it with a nasty, loud, militant outburst from the organ, perhaps with a snare drum on the side. After the organ’s statement, return to the text, quiet, unaccompanied. The organ rebuts with a louder, nastier section. Repeat.
Two antecedents would be Charles Ive’s Symphony No. 4, 1st movement, and Carl Nielsen’s 5th, with the insistent snare drum in the final movement.
Even if I’m successful with this, it will be too polemical by half, especially if I include recognizable bits of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the organ interludes. I’ve almost decided not to conclude the piece with the congregation singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” and I know you’re relieved to hear that. But I haven’t ruled out members of the choir stating flatly, “I was hungry, and you did not feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me water. I needed clothes, and you didn’t clothe me. I was a stranger, and you did not take me in.” And so on.
Too much? I’m in a mood.