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Stravinsky divided by Britten equals

It used to be that any awkward void of time in a day was filled by making entries in this online notebook. Now that we have a toddler, there is no longer that particular issue (surprise!). Something gives, and lately that’s been this page.

Why–nothing important has happened in the last couple of months, has it?

In any case, did you know? Apparently everything I’ve ever composed has already been written by Benjamin Britten. As JM pointed out not too long ago – no one is exactly original, and where Mr. Stravisnky is most often the culprit, I’ve recently discovered that my Igor thefts are dwarfed by my cribbing off of a certain Type-A Brit who wrote all that music I’ve been obsessed with decades. Imagine that.

I’ve found that I have this category of musical works that are so beloved, so engraved in my brain, that I don’t actually need to listen to them anymore to get enjoyment from them…I just simply need to think about them. Barber’s Knoxville, say, or the Reich Tehillim. Recordings, too, like Paul Simon’s Graceland, or this Chick Corea oldie/goodie. But most of them, seriously, most of them, are Britten.

Peter Grimes. Turn of the Screw. The Dirge from Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. And of course, Young Person’s Guide. A few weeks ago I had the compositional thought of emulating a certain part of YPG, and so was inspired to stage a re-listening w/score. This hearing, after however many years of not actually physically listening to the piece, reduced to me a puddle of tears at my desk. Seriously, there is absolutely nothing better than the end of that piece, and it’s not just because I am a sucker for the 2 against 3 (I am). And I suppose because I had given myself the distance, for the first time I noticed something obvious about that fugue descant over the Purcell chorale at the end: it’s just WAY simpler than I ever realized it was. I mean, it’s just one line. Doubled all over the place. [Smitten Sigh.] Too good, Ben. Too. Good.

This experience also provided the epiphany that I’m basically trying to re-write the end of Young Person’s Guide … in every single piece. And it doesn’t stop there. I was just listening to the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, and holy cow if I don’t voice my triads exactly like that, all the time…

Huh. I will see your Stealing Stravinsky, and raise you One Blatent Britten.

On a business note, after travels to Tallahassee (The Florida State University Chamber Wind’s fantastic premiere of the Concertino with Eva Amsler as flute soloist and Richard Clary conducting), Williamstown, MA – site of The Newman Compound™ – and where Steve Bodner’s Williams College Symphonic Winds blew the roof off Chapin Hall with their premiere of My Hands Are a City, and Bellingham WA where I enjoyed a fully-fun residency at Western Washington University, working with Chris Bianco‘s terrific wind ensemble and the really impressive Western composition students, it’s now off to Chicago for a day or so at the Midwest Clinic. I look forward to seeing old friends and new faces this week at the Hilton.

And I promise not to wear my skinny tie.

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One Comment

  1. Robert Paterson

    Jonathan, I totally hear you re. not having those pockets of time anymore to update your blog. It seems like glacial periods pass between my postings now, except between the last two, which were – shockingly – a day apart. BTW: you don’t sound like Britten, you sound like you. Even Britten sounds like someone else. Hell – just about everyone sounds like someone else if you strip away their musical personality. If you push me, I will go into details here. :-) Maybe over at Kate’s Joint. (Man… when is that every going to happen?)

    Posted on 22-Feb-09 at 12:00 AM | Permalink

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