The premiere of What Happened went very well Thursday night. We got a good audience of appreciative music lovers who seemed to find the piece a bit puzzling (appropriate, since I find it a bit puzzling myself) and provocative. Best was the second movement, entitled Congregation, in which three rich chorale textures in overlapping tempos converge in an explosion, followed by quiet chaos. The whole piece explores situations like this: seemingly predictable passages somehow end up heading in distant, ephemeral directions. The score of the second movement carries these lines from Daniel Defoe (1701):

Wherever God erects a house of prayer,
The Devil always builds a chapel there;
And “˜twill be found, upon examination,
The latter has the largest congregation.

After the performance, a group of us headed out for drinks and great conversation, followed by unbelievable ice cream cones at 1 am — each one sculpted into a lovely abstract design.

This premiere came about because of a conversation I had last fall with two of the musicians. After a performance of electronic music they were involved in, we were chatting about their careers, and they mentioned they were performing in Paris in May. I asked them if they would like to premiere a new piece there, they were delighted, et voilà! I got this tax-deductible trip out of the conversation.

Now that the concert is past, I am walking all over, taking in the sights of the city. It’s my fourth time here, but my first extended visit in 20 years. My hotel is on the block where Hemingway and Descartes spent many fruitful years. In fact, I spent some downtime this afternoon in Luxembourg Gardens, where the starving Hemingway would stroll around with a baby carriage, waiting until the police were looking in the other direction so he could pounce on an unsuspecting pigeon, throttle it, then stuff it under the blankets for a cheap meal.

As I walk the streets, the architecture is tremendous, the sunlight is intoxicating and the smells from the pâtisseries are irresistible. It’s easy to forget to keep an eye out for the occasional crème du chien on the sidewalks.

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