Cello sonata, take 4

This post is all ex post facto: we have absolutely no internet connection in the remote cabin we’ve rented for the Second Annual Lichtenbergian Retreat. I’m trying to record thoughts as I go along, mostly to avoid working. Enjoy.

Friday, October 15

It is very frightening to sit down at your computer and keyboard on a brilliant fall morning in the mountains. Let me put it this way: I am very frightened to sit down at my keyboard. Upon arising (after a late night hot tub discussion on the nature of God and our ability to understand same), I have gotten my Lichtenbergian travel mug filled with coffee, come downstairs to the play room and set up my computer and keyboard to begin work on the cello sonata.

And that’s it. A couple of amiable good mornings to my fellow Lichtenbergians, and they all vanish. Everyone’s working. It’s dead silent in the cabin. We came to work, and now we’re working.

So I’m frightened. I quickly resolved a couple of harmonic issues in the Andante/Elegy as it stands, but now I’m faced with what to do with that abrupt change. Do I continue working on the Andante, or should I play around with the opening Allegro? This absolute freedom, compulsion, to work is very very frightening.

I open a file that I started on the Allegro, a very simple opening. Now I wonder if this is the opening movement for a sonata that ends up with the Andante I already have. Should it open more vigorously? Or is this quiet, gentle melody what needs to lead into the elegy of the final movement?

I suddenly remember I have not taken my meds for the day.

I’ve added one little measure to the gentle Allegro and a whole landscape opens up. That’s frightening as well.

Noodling around is all fine and good, but eventually, if one is composing a sonata, one must settle on a theme and figure out how it can be developed. Indeed, one must settle on two themes. And develop them both.

Close the simple opening (we’ll call it Allegro_A) and open a blank file. Hammer out something gangbusters.

10:30ish
So, in playing with Allegro_B, I’ve written a great measure that must happen somewhere in the thread of the piece, because it’s not an opening measure.

10:51 (<–I’ve decided to start time-stamping this)
New futzing, and this time it sounds like an opening. I was semi-trying not to open in a minor key, but this is what’s coming out. Very majestic, very Romantic. I think I’m going to go with this for a while. Maybe the gentle Allegro_A theme can serve as the contrasting B theme for this opening.

11:40
It’s now a Moderato, not an Allegro. I’m beginning to puzzle out the possibilities of this very stark theme. Do not be fooled. I am only to measure 14. Kevin tried to distract me, and I countered by puzzling him with what I’ve written.

11:57
Lunch time.

1:00
Lunch, then a walk by the creek in flawless sunshine. I kept hoping that further ideas for the stark theme would pop into my head. Hoping, not working. Instead, the fragile second theme from the Andante/Elegy keeps nagging at me. Still, I think what I shall do for another couple of hours, before the hot tub claims me and I have to cook supper, is to develop chunks of variations that I can use later.

For both the Andante and now the Moderato, I have two separate files. One is the piece itself; the other is an “ideas” file where I can play around and put out garbage without worrying about having to reclaim or undo what I’ve done. I generally don’t delete anything from the ideas file; stuff just piles up. Often I’m able to go back and snag some of the detritus for other stuff. Such is the Way.

1:50
Holy smokes. The B theme has appeared. (I tried the original Allegro_A theme to see if it would work, but it didn’t. It will have to wait until the Cello Sonata No. 2.) This new theme is simple and lovely, a complete contrast to the stark A theme, which is as it should be. The relative keys are not classically correct (A minor to F major, instead of E major), but it’s too pretty to mess with. (I tried taking it down the notch, but it didn’t work, and F is such a bright and pretty key that I’m leaving it alone.)

2:32
It’s very odd not being able to interrupt myself with email. The B theme is easy to extend and sustain the pretty quality, but there has to be more to it than a Hallmark sensibility. Plus, I have to herd it towards the development section, and then where will we be?

Saturday, October 16

11:20
After a long and interesting night, I am circling back around to look at this work. I listened to the two fragmentary movements repeatedly last night, and was always impressed with what I heard. I think I’ve fixed the bare spots in the Elegy, and the opening Moderato is very solid. At the moment I find I am transfixed by the Moderato B-theme. It is pure and delicate, simple sweetness, and a perfect contrast to the opening. The next question is whether it can hold up its end of the conversation.

2:47
Short nap, a little lunch, a little Lichtenbergian distraction playing a neat card game with Kevin and Craig. Back to work, approaching the development section of the Moderato. This is where the Hallmark theme has to pull its weight. There’s no demarcation of the development in the classical sense; we just kind of blend into it before we know it.

I worry that once again all this is not very developed, but Stephen asked for about a 12-minute piece, which means that I have to get the ideas out there quickly and then develop them rather immediately.

4:37
Knocking off for the day, and by extension, for the weekend , after getting a nice little notch cut out of the development. Not set in stone by any means, but enough to get me through the door.

I think what I need to do next is go to the Ideas file and just play around with development ideas and have lots to choose from.

Here it is so far, the Moderato. (And the score.)

One thought on “Cello sonata, take 4

  1. I know how fragile the creative process is and that saying too much while any piece is in development is risky, but I do want to say to you that something grand is happening here. Hang onto that place within yourself and keeping going.

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