Saturday, September 5, 2020

She Who Is Alive, as it goes

The Pigeon Cooing

On nights when I cannot sleep, I think often of puzzles, like this: no matter how large the number, the no closer one is to infinity.  When we believed in heaven and hell and the sins that brought us to one or the other, we knew that, no matter how adamantly we strove toward perfection, we never approached it. It is in this light that I see my latest endeavor, to finish the opera on which I have been working these last several years - She Who Is Alive - fast approaching the three-hour mark with no end in sight. 

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.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

New York

We feel a watchful eye attending and protecting us. We place ourselves hopefully in the hands of an unseen yet benevolent power, a power who cares about each road crossed, each passing cloud, the safety of the vessels that carry us.

But sometimes, during the night, we dream that we lose our way, and that the eye is looking elsewhere, allowing those beings less compassionate to interfere with us unhindered.  We awaken troubled, our heart racing, a headache thudding dully. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

She’s all states, and all princes, I, Nothing else is.

Lutosławski follows the Empress through the Callètte Veneziane, sounding footsteps into the dark. Don't look behind you!  Into the 12mm of fish's eye growing out of this stony path, the straps that clutch. But then the sun rises over the Basilica of St Mark, whose palindromic architecture was reflected in dear Stravinsky's Canticum Sacrum, whose grave bears my tears. And, waking me from my dream, I am comforted by the Pulcinelle, crowned by flashes of the cameras of the paparazzi.

Princes do but play us; compared to this, All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy. Thou, sun, art half as happy as we, In that the world’s contracted thus. Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be To warm the world, that’s done in warming us. Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Klagenfurter Ensemble

I'm thinking now of a most unforgettable moment in 2001, descending into Klagenfurt airport, a Tyrolean Air flight attendant in a dirndl leaning over, me noticing a photograph in the newspaper held by the passenger in the next row forward - a woman's mouth covered in blood! I'm fascinated, what could this be? But then I look at the caption, and it is my name. Soon we descend, and down the stairs to the tarmac, with the beautiful mountains of Carinthia all around, I meet Gerhard. "Maestro!", he says, and sweeps me into the Liegl-Garge, where I meet for the first time so many who have remained my friends over the years: Alexei Kornienko and Elena Denisova, Thomas Woschitz, Mariko Wakita, Josef "Pepi" Oberauer.

The performances of that opera - die Nacht wird kommen - was the first time I ever experienced eleven curtain calls with standing ovations, and when I realized there was something very special about Gerhard, and the Klagenfurter Ensemble and the audience it had developed who seek theatrical adventure.  When Gerhard asked me to write something again, I said yes without hesitation, and then yes again after that: YKCYC with the crazy wonderful VADA-ettes, and Rattensturm with the brilliant Peter Wagner, and more standing ovations, and in between many pilgrimages to the Lindwurm with the Empress, and Schnitzels, and hiking with the Lehners in the aforementioned beautiful mountains, where we stopped for a little wine, and driving through Slovenia and Italy for even more wine - oh, and that migraine!

I'm thinking now about how the Talltones Extended were so nervous that the great Maestro Erling Wold would be angry with them for changing the perfect jewel-like music I had written for YKCYC and of course I was not, but rather was so delighted in the way they played it that it kept me warm and happy as I walked back home through the cold and snow and the Christkindlmarkt. And the Rats! - who soldiered through the rhythms and made something so powerful that I saw many reduced to tears when the lights went down, crying over the agonies of the long-ago and almost forgotten war.

Writing this, I too find my eyes wet, remembering much that has come into my life through KE, how it opened up many opportunities - as I'm sure it has for others. There are many people I have met and worked with at KE that I have gone on to do art with all over, and who have become important to me. The operas I have done at KE have had a continuing life, getting better and better, and finding their way out to all parts of the world. It's very special, this place you have created: a beacon lighting the way to artistic delight and power and glory.
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