Cello sonata. Again.

I’ve been not composing. At first it was the backwash of the first movement, that ‘turning of the tide’ I’ve written about before. Then it was the hectic time we call ‘GHP interviews.’ Now it’s ‘being sick doesn’t help and I can’t remember the great music I dreamed under the influence of medication.’

Still, I’ve marked it on my calendar to get back to work tomorrow night on the second movement, and today I decided that the eftest thing to do is to write the last eight measures, since I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to say there. Then I can work my way backward to the beginning.

Also, since I have about four minutes in the first movement, and the last movement is likely to be that long, I can plan for the middle movement to be about three. Since it’s going to be an adagio, something slow, that eight measures could be a pretty good chunk to be going on with.

Yep, that’s my plan, all right.


I opened two new files last night, one labeled “ii. adagio,” and the other, of course, “ii. adagio ideas.” I threw some notes at the screen, but nothing definitive emerged.

This is the second movement of the cello sonata. I’ve already started the third, of course, but I’m pretty sure I need to look at bridging the headlong rush at the end of the Moderato to the gentle, flowing relief of the Andante.

I know what I want: the piano providing some kind of transparent, crystalline structure through which the cello wanders like a ghost, ending in the sludge at the lowest register, grinding to a halt. I keep thinking that the cello’s harmonics are the sound I need, but Finale doesn’t play them back so I’d be flying blind as it were.

Still, I’ve begun.

Cello Sonata No. 1: I. Moderato

I think the first movement of the Cello Sonata No. 1 is finished.

I. Moderato score [pdf] | mp3

Comments? Suggestions? I’m going to let it percolate for a few days before sending it to Stephen.

update, 1/19/11: There was one measure that was really bugging me. If you listened to this yesterday, it probably bugged you, too. I have fixed it. This movement is now finished. Now let’s find out what its dedicatee thinks about it.

I’m working here…

And lo! on the fourth day of enforced vacation, I finally turn to the cello sonata.

I’m forcing myself to be happy with the development as it stands. I have stitched it to the recapitulation and rounded that off to head into a coda. So now all I have to do is plaster over the joint leading into the recap, and to figure out how to stick the lead-in to the recap onto the end as a coda. Simple enough.

First, however, lunch. Then errands, during which I’ll listen obsessively to what I’ve got in the van. I’ll report back here later.

update: At the end of the day, I had finished off the joint and gotten the coda where I wanted it. I have a very solid idea of what to do to finish the whole thing up. I should have it done by Monday.

2011 Proposed Efforts, part 1

Let’s talk about my Proposed Efforts for 2011. Some of them are rollovers from 2010. A couple are new.

First, the list:

  • finish the cello sonata
  • write a good short story
  • play with the 24-Hour Challenge again
  • continue painting
  • create my new age album, Stars on Snow
  • create the westpoint sculpture

Since I have today and tomorrow before 2011 actually begins, I’ll break this up into a couple of posts. More blogging for me, more reading for you.

Finish the cello sonata

This is a new goal, but actually it’s cheating. Of course I’m going to finish the cello sonata. However, what I’ve written so far does not satisfy me. In the first movement, the two themes are good, but my approach to the development is more strophic than I think is appropriate. I want to double back and really break those two themes up into their basic elements and use those to play with the listener’s perceptions. As for the third movement, I really like the first part, but that “stopping for a pretty interlude” thing is threatening to become a crutch. Why do I keep doing that?

All of this, especially idea of reworking of the development in the first movement, is making my stomach hurt.

Write a good short story

A carryover. Nothing to be said until I actually start working on it. Sharp observers may have noted that I did not rollover my goal from last year of starting A Perfect Life. I’m going to leave that one to the universe. If it happens, it happens. First I have to clean off my desk.

Play with the 24-Hour Challenge again

Another rollover, but a worthy one. After I finish the cello sonata I have no more projects (other than the new age album), so it will be fun to do this again. Last time, I actually came up with a great deal of usable material; it will be like storing up nuts for the winter.

Continue painting

Of course. It’s more like “pick up my brushes again,” but still.

To be continued…

Cello sonata, take 10

I’ve been working on the development section of the Moderato and have actually been making real progress. You may recall that I set aside several sessions to generate crap in a separate “ideas” file. Remind me that this is a very effective strategy: I have been able to use about a third of the material I generated.

However, there are still some issues with what I have so far. First of all, it seems repetitive and not organic. This may be due to the fact that I’ve lifted material from the ideas file and stitched it together, and my ear can’t not hear the seams. I keep listening for ways to modify those transitions, and I’ve made some changes, but on the whole it still sounds clunky to me.

The other problem is that the further I venture, the less good the recapitulation I’ve already written sounds. It finally dawned on me why that is. There’s nothing wrong with the recap. The problem is that the majority of the material I generated for the ideas file is in the same general key as the opening of the piece. The whole point of the development section is to lead the listener far afield so that when we hit the recap, it sounds like coming home again. How can we come home if we never left?

So my next session is going to explore moving some of the current development into other keys. You will probably hear the weeping, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth, not to mention the tearing of the sackcloth, from your house.

Cello sonata, take 9

I got back to work on the Moderato last night, and I thought this was interesting enough to write about. Your mileage may vary.

You may recall that last week I spent a couple of sessions just generating crap for the development session. I churned out variations of the two themes without regard to quality or how (or even whether) they could be used. I think I need to do some more of that, possibly tonight, but last night I thought I would evaluate what I’ve done so far.

I took my music Moleskine (where I sketch out harmonic ideas when necessary) and listed the sections of the Idea file that I thought were interesting/valid. For example, I’d write, “97-99, a gentler variation of the B theme; sounds like it might come near the end.” I ended up with about ten of these segments that had possibilities.

One in particular sounded like it might make a good lead-in to the recapitulation, so I opened up that file, moved what I had already written over by a couple of blank measure, and stuck the fragment in. Lo! it worked. And then another fragment, which I had marked as “nearly atonal, possibly a lead-in to the lead-in,” I stitched onto that one. And then, I stitched that to the lead-in to the recap that I had already written, and lo! it worked. So now I have a fake-out that jumps into a pretty wild variation before plunging back into the recapitulation.

It might be too powerful, i.e., the recap itself might sound a bit weak after so much sturm und drang, but on the other hand the main theme sneaks up on you, and you realize a bit slowly that you’re hearing it again for the first time.

More work is required.

Cello sonata, take 8

I promise that if nothing interesting happens in the next session, I’ll find something else to write about until I have a breakthrough.

Last night I was good to my word and worked solidly in the Idea file all night. I wrote about 70 measures of mostly unusable material. So that was good. I will do the same tonight.

I regard it as problematic that I keep hearing Brahms’ Cello Sonata No. 2 in my head rather than mine.

Cello sonata, take 7

I forced myself to work on the sonata last night, trying to get some feel for the development. I should have made myself sketch without any attempt of polishing, but I fell for the oldest trick in the book: “Hey, this sounds kind of good. I’ll plug it in and see how it works.”

The answer? Not so good. I have little tiny spurts of development that make no coherent thread. Again, some interesting possibilities, but it’s just chunks.

Tonight, forced march of improvising development. No polish. No clear addition to the piece itself. Onward!