Waking up in a midtown hotel and ordering room service because I can’t stumble out of a door in the morning without a hearty breakfast. Today we record my fourth quartet. Daedalus has performed the piece three times — Washington, Winston-Salem, Philadelphia – I’ve made a few editorial adjustments – including the elimination of 12 measures – and now we’re ready to sit in a studio all day and into the night if necessary to see if Judy Sherman can make this thing stick to an astonishingly long series of digits.
Speaking of cuts. Tomorrow I’ll have my first rehearsal of my fifth quartet with Emerson. Saturday I looked at the piece for the first time since September, and decided one passage in the last movement had to go. I cut two minutes, wrote a five-bar transition, and emailed PDFs of the changes to the quartet. Eugene Drucker emailed back asking if I was sure I wanted to make the cut because he had found the passage persuasive, which left me second-guessing myself. Or I guess third-guessing, at this point.
So somehow between now and tomorrow morning — during today’s recording session? — I’m going to have to make an executive decision. It would be much easier to not be neurotic, but oh well. Better plan on ordering room service again tomorrow.
Here’s the issue. The passage in question is fine as far as it goes, but it’s very different from the rest of the piece. In the context of the 30-minute composition, that will make it a focal point of sorts for the listener. That’s a good thing, in some cases, but in this case I’m afraid that perceiving this passage as a focal point will throw the rest of the piece out of kilter. And yet, as Eugene has pointed out, the passage in question is pretty stimulating, so it’s a shame to let it go.
As a friend of mine used to say, these kinds of edits are like cutting off fingers.
Tomorrow afternoon, I fly back to NC for dress rehearsals of Genealogie, The Chamber Version. The orchestral version won’t be premiered until next fall, so this is a bit of a sneak preview. Ransom Wilson will conduct the nu ensemble, with actor Steven LaCosse, soprano Elizabeth Rose, mezzo Janine Hawley and tenor Glenn Siebert.
Genealogie weaves texts from Robert and Clara Schumann’s Marriage Diary with Eugenie Schumann’s Memoirs and a 1921 New York Times article by critic Richard Aldrich about the Schumann children. The tone of the music reflects the character of the main protagonist, Robert and Clara’s youngest daughter Eugenie, with whom I was really taken. Though a German woman living at the height of Expressionism, she tells the hard story of her family without a trace of self-pity.
The music for Genealogie has a lot of chug-chug minimalism, which I don’t think I’ve used before – or at least I don’t recall a piece of mine that has it – which helps distance the narrative from a woe-is-me tone. Over the chug-chug, the melodic lines have a Schumannesque (Robert, that is) lyricism. Metrically, I’ve created an odd mix, what I imagine Schumann might have done with the Cubist-influenced meters of the early 20th century (Eugenie’s Memoirs were composed around the same time as the Times article – 1920-24).
The entire piece – about sixteen minutes long — uses a single harmony – a minor-seventh chord, which is a sound I experience as the height of self-effacing mildness – in hundreds of permutations.
And here is my breakfast. Later.