Still plowing my way through the events of the first half of 2010, well after most of the dust has settled. Now it’s time to tackle my May residency at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, right on the edge of San Bernadino National Forest.
This one also comes with a substantial backstory. But I’m sick of backstories, so I’m cutting straight to May.
Flew into John Wayne Airport, got my rental car and embarked. I’ve already told the story of my surreal arguments with GPS Lady – I know I had said some harsh things to her, but I think she may have been overreacting a bit when she sent me down a dirt road marked “Trespassers Will Be Executed.”
The Idyllwild Symphony was giving the premiere of my Figments and Fragments, Part One of my Schumann Trilogy. Imagine Robert Schumann strapped to a bed in a 19th-century madhouse and you have a good insight into how the piece works. It begins and ends in paralysis – the first paralysis is blissful, the last one is terrified. Between are a series of character pieces loosely reflecting some of Schumann’s musical interests. The character pieces are interrupted by increasingly irrational passages, until the material is overwhelmed in the coda.
A side note – I had intended to write a trilogy of pieces on Schumann’s life, but I ended up writing a trilogy on his death, despite my desire to avoid doing just that. As I’ve discovered many times before, my music likes to make a fool of my intentions.
Another side note – on June 8th, my then-dormant blog got a flood of visits – almost 3000 in one day – from Germany. I did a double-take when I saw the numbers; then I realized it was Schumann’s 200th birthday, and the Germans were checking out what I had to say about Bobby Cobbler. Now there’s a country that strongly identifies with its composers.
The premiere at Idyllwild was very nicely done, and the following evening at REDCAT was even better. Listening live made me realize that a sonic kernel introduced at the outset of the piece – an intertwining of piano, clarinet and vibe – needed to be a little bit more prominent in its recurrences throughout the piece. It was getting buried by its surroundings, and it really had a lot to do with the developing intrigue of the music, so I had to clean up some of the scoring around it. I was in luck with this piece: after those initial two performances, two more are scheduled in Salt Lake City and Boise in the fall, so I had the opportunity to make some refinements. Have I ever mentioned how much I like buffing up a piece after the premiere? Of course I have.
In keeping with my unique competence (read: incompetence) at getting around, I showed up late for the REDCAT performance, planting my butt in my seat just as they were setting up for my piece, having missed the opening work. I have an excuse: a road I was planning to use was shut down for shooting an action sequence for a TV series. As a result, the audience was treated to the unusual sight of Composer Bowing With Jacket Still On:
One more photo, me with Peter Askim, a conductor I hope to see more of in the future. He’s a very intense and likeable guy, personally and on the podium.