I have never run a marathon. I’m not exactly built to run marathons. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the importance of exercise, or that I don’t partake in it (although I often have to force myself to do it), but it’s just not something I’m made for. So when I use running a marathon as an analogy for conducting De Materie I am not exactly speaking from experience. I do imagine, however, that this is what running a marathong must be like…if a marathon started with a 3 mile sprint. This is a HARD piece, particularly the first movement, which Louis himself admits is problematic. The bulk of the difficulties, however, are not technical but about endurance. 100 minutes of intense music takes a lot out of one.

This is the toughest thing I’ve ever done as a conductor, and I’m loving every minute of it. I can understand now why people actually run marathons. There is something intensely satisfying about being in the middle of a huge project and seeing it to completion. As rehearsals progress I find myself actually thinking ahead to the next BIG project (up until now I’ve been thinking that Great Noise Ensemble’s 2011-12 season would be smaller and more intimate. Now I’m thinking that we need another really big, buzz-worthy production to follow this one; although I suppose I should wait until after Sunday, and how it goes, to make that decision). It’s a little crazy, a bit punishing, but intensely satisfying.

Last night I picked Louis Andriessen up at the airport and went on to dinner with him, Great Noise’s Executive Director and my department chair at Peabody. A splendid time was had by all. Louis continues to live up to his reputation for gracefulness and generosity, and thanked us and congratulated us for taking on what is, apparently, a very rare project. Tonight will be the first rehearsal at which he will be in attendance, and, needless to say, I’m a bit nervous. But, as the finish line to this marathon comes closer in sight, I can’t help but feel both relief and a pinge of sadness (I anticipate a feeling to overtake me Sunday night similar to that of the last day of summer camp).

SO…if you’re in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. (or not; this is a RARE complete performance of De Materie, after all) come check us out Sunday at 6:30 at the National Gallery of Art. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

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