Back to work, kind of

With a clear evening for the first time in a long time, I did a little tidying up (tidying up being a time-honored Lichtenbergian tactic); changed one thing in the GHP video and exported, DVD’d, and burned three copies; had supper; and finally, finally, made myself sit down, turn off the web and email, and put some notes on paper.

I was not very successful. I returned to the opening theme of the symphony and played with that for a while. I played with some chord structures for a while. I played with a few countermotives for a while. I looked at my Fragmentary Exercises and plopped down one measure that might pass as a half-assed attempt.

I wasn’t wearing a hole in that psychic wall, I was just wearing out. So I stopped. But at least I got something on paper, whether it’s worth anything or not.

In other news, I took one of those CDs sitting in a stack on the left-hand side of my table and have been listening to it for a couple of days in the car. This one is the untitled Mercury Living Presence re-release of Howard Hanson and the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra playing some mid-century American greats.

Meh.

Sorry, none of it does anything for me. It’s all very daring for its time: Colin McPhee’s faux-gamelan Tabuh-Tabuhan: Toccata for Orchestra; Roger Sessions’ The Black Maskers, with its crashing seconds and clusters; Virgil Thomson’s Symphony on a Hymn Tune, which has passages of great lyrical beauty, which he insisted on undermining with bizarrely acerbic passages of snark.

But none of it sticks in my head, even after two days of listening. It just registers as so much fashionable claptrap from the 1930s. Into the giveaway pile it goes.

Next: John Adams’ Gnarly Buttons and John’s book of alleged dances. I remember them as being too determinedly “modern,” as if Adams was trying desperately to show the musical establishment that he could resist the siren call of tonality. We’ll see.

As savvy as the Obama team has been about the 21st century, I find it incredible that they didn’t have the John Williams piece performed at the inauguration all ready to roll out on iTunes by 12:01 pm, January 20. I know I said I wasn’t buying anything at least until June, and I haven’t, but I would break my vow in a heartbeat if it were available on iTunes.

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