Saturday, October 19, 2019

Loss of process

It's a common question: Erling, how do you go about writing music, what's the process, and my standard pat answer has become just that, a well-rehearsed bit about how there is no process, how I do just about everything, sometimes sketching, sometimes improvising, direct-to-score, piano-vocal score thence arranged, on planes and trains and in the basement, hot and humid or cold and dry, oftentimes late at night, tired, during the drugged-out being of oh-so-tired, and oftentimes prodded by an external force, often a deadline, or a feeling to just to be done with it, sometimes a new sound, a new instrument.

All this is true, but what has become the most common in my golden age, is to improvise a bit, usually at the piano, often with the text - did I mention I write a lot of operas? - and scribble down something until I get tired of having to drag the heavy pencil across the page, and I realize that every mark I make on paper is one that has to be re-made in the computer, so I soon fire up the laptop and just start doing it all there.  Which is maybe a little bad, since the music I write depends so much on the tools I use, and the computer feeds my laziness.  The above are all the paper scribblings that exist for Chapter 6 of She Who Is Alive, about 15 minutes of music. The final score, in the version that Earplay and West Edge Opera presented, is about 100 pages.

Almost always I have to make the requisite piano-vocal score after the fact.  It's so tedious to do it, and one that feels so bad when death is rushing toward one so quickly, and which one feels could almost surely be automated once they get the mall robots to stop falling in the central water features and the automated cars to stop killing pedestrians and learning to drive in the snow. Even better would be for them to automate the whole process: the robots composing, playing, listening and then writing the review for us to scan the next morning bleary-eyed, up too late watching Roma Citta Aperta. 

Laura's day

Another voyeuristic dream: Laura Bohn enflamed, sodden of a sad care, too bright, too dark, to the strains of Brett Dean's One of a Kind,  

Friday, October 11, 2019

Faust, a fist

Happened across this recording of the Faust concert I played in back in 1994. I had no idea such a recording existed - it's an interesting trip back.

Jeff Hunt's very hip Table of the Elements label had released my soundtrack of The Bed You Sleep In the year previous, had given a copy to Faust who for some reason loved it, and when he set up their tour, he pulled me in. They showed me a few luckily-simple keyboard bits and along the way secured a piano. It seems that they asked around for an old piano and one of the locals involved in the show had a roommate out of town who owned such a piano, so they manhandled it out of the apartment and onto the stage at the Great American Music Hall, but not before Jean-Herve cut through most of the important structural bits with a chain saw.

If I had thought about this in detail at the time, I should have been more concerned about the release of the no-longer-potential energy that the eighteen or so tons of tension had bottled up - had the piano decided, in its weakened state, to so release it. But at the time I was more immediately concerned about him hitting my hands with the sledgehammer he was using on the keys while I played. For many years I kept some of the broken bits: keys, hammers.  It's interesting to see the complexity of the piano mechanism as it flies past.

The next day we recorded Rien. That's me at the piano - not the same piano - and I'm pretty sure nothing I played that day ended up in the final release. Which is somehow appropriate given the title.

Faust – San Francisco, May 1994 from Tyler Hubby on Vimeo.
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