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Some intriguing conversations this weekend with a certain far-flung conductor (a wunderkind of some intimidating intellectual heft), about the possibilities of making The Rivers of Bowery into a larger work. This has come up before, and even at the the premiere itself, voices for whom I have only respect and deference were chorusing that they heard a larger work in there.

At the first stirrings of the idea back in February, I wondered if perhaps I hadn’t missed the mark with the piece. As it was, this was a terrific opportunity to premiere a new work at the CBDNA Conference in NY—it was only that BB‘s sole restriction for the project was the length. Thus, the daunting challenge of a three-minute piece—which, I’m here to tell you, is considerably more difficult to wrestle with than the longer, more movement-lengthed fare.

Time is a composer’s friend—it’s elbow-room in a piece. Take away the space, and you are left with no room for error. Structurally, time affords repetition, without which, generally, there is no form. (I hear GT‘s voice echoing that particular lesson in my head, thanks George!) So without repetition, likely not available for such a time restriction, the material has to be stripped down and lean, and at least for me, the form comprised of one larger gesture, rather than many smaller ones. This was my goal with ThROB (JB coined that acronym, and I give him all credit and blame), at least. Much of the piece is basically one chord, and the structure, one large hairpin (opening on the right-hand side, of course)—all as simple as I could muster. As the time requirements for that piece were essentially all I thought about for months, my initial reaction to calls for a longer work were guarded, and probably a little defensive.

But my ego has calmed down with time, and now I totally understand what everyone is saying—it’s not that it doesn’t work as an overture, it’s that the material itself is chunky enough to be worthy of much deeper exploration, and that I take as a huge compliment.

And I do very much like what I did in that piece. In fact, I think it’s some of the more engaging material I’ve come up with in a while—so much so that the idea of working with it more thoroughly in a larger piece, with more development and breadth, is really attractive. Here’s the thing though: I’m not sure it’s just a larger work. Rather, the more I’ve thought about it, I think it’s meant to be a much larger work. 3 movements maybe, perhaps 20′ or so in length. And as such, it’s a more-thorough dalliance with Howl specifically, and the Beats in general…

I’d ask the loyal notebook readers (oh yes, I know who you are) to engage in the debate and weigh in, but sadly sports fans, there is no recording of the piece online yet. Don’t change that Bat Channel though—an excellent commercial recording is in the can (just not yet edited), and there are some terrific upcoming live performances we just might be able to pillage. Until then, we suss out the situation, send out the feelers, and see who might be interested in joining such a project.

So now, after much thought and ego-checking over the last few months, I’m completely intrigued by the whole prospect. Martha would croon that this idea is A Good Thing, but I’d say it’s got the makings of Huge. Stay tuned.

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