I’ve just about finished my fifth quartet, so now I’m taking a couple of weeks off from it to begin sketching Cool Night, the third installment of my Schumann Trilogy. I love doing this – getting a piece just about done, then setting it aside for a while to work on something else. When I come back to the quartet in August, I will be ruthless. Time away gives me the distance I need to make sure I haven’t become so familiar with every aspect of the piece that I’ve lost sight of the parts that don’t quite fit.

Writing Cool Night is a bit of an adventure for me. One of the characters is voiced by two people – a tenor and an actor. I’ve always known this would be the case, from when I first conceived of the Trilogy, but I was never sure why I needed a singer and an actor, or how exactly they would share the text.

Now I’m discovering how to make it happen, phrase by phrase. It’s a strange puzzle, to be sure. Just to give a sense of what I’m up against, here’s an excerpt of the text, a dialogue between Florestan and Eusebius over Robert Schumann’s deathbed:

F: When the dance concludes, I will remove my mask and reveal who I really am.

E: Who you are! You will remove one mask and find another.

F: That may be so. But the mask will come off, and then another, and another.

E: You have more masks than time.

F: Yes, I have more masks than time. But they will come off, not to reveal, but to revel in the removal. I will be verb, not noun. I will be action. I will be masks removing, one by one.

E: You will be masks removing. You will be me.

F: You? No, we are not the same. I am verb, you are noun.

E: I am noun, you are verb. But we are the same. We shed the chrysalis, only to find another.

F: And another.

E: And another. Together, we are half as much.

F: Yes, together, we are half as much. And yet, apart, we are nothing. We hear nothing in the cool night.

To make things stranger, although Cool Night is the third part of the trilogy, I’m sketching it first. Don’t know why, just seems like the right thing to do.

Of course, if it turns out to be the wrong thing to do, I can always start over. About the only thing I love more than starting a new piece is starting over.

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