Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad
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A Composer's Journal Entries: February 22 - March 3, 2014.
Saturday, February 22
Filling in lines, inner voices, piano bass, flute motives and melodies. The outline is there but the piece wants more cohesion, more imitation between the instruments. And more sparkle, for the laughter - radiant brilliance, like the sun on snow.
First to fill in the music already written - then the overview will emerge. When standing in the overview, suspended above all the musical ideas and notes - the overall form becomes clear, and then the rest falls into place. For now: hard work, craftsmanship - and patience.
Have hardly had time to write; life has intervened more than I would have wished, various tasks and obligations far from music and creativity. And I am too tired now, after a long day, to do more than scribble words in this notebook.
Yet even as I write these words the piece continues inwardly, writing itself. As though angels have already sung it in another realm ... Are singing it ...
Monday, February 24
Filled in most of poems I and II - time to start working on the Dance. Once the piece is entirely sketched out I can rethink the overall form, if needed.
Trying to bring a bit of Heaven to Earth. Meanwhile, I am facing many pages of manuscript paper scribbled over with notes - some without stems, arrows everywhere because I ran out of room on the page; melodies and motives strewn across the sheets of manuscript paper in pencil, some waiting for rhythms, others stranded on half empty pages with arrows pointing to their destination on another page. Even so, I am beginning to live the piece, know it, to understand its wisdom and logic. This might seem like an odd statement since I am the composer - but when the ideas come in so quickly, they must leave our consciousness just as quickly as they came, in order to make room for new motives and melodies. Otherwise, it is like trying to hold a handful of sand while gathering more...
In this piece, as in many others I have written, I am trying to somehow capture the transparency of the ideas and sounds as they are initially presented to me inwardly - that first flow of ideas and tones in their rare beauty and simplicity, fragility, and purity.
Even adding one tone to a chord, or baseline, or inner voice, can ruin, wreck - destroy the transparency. And when that happens, it is always a shock, as though one has suddenly and inexplicably fallen into mud ... or back to Earth from a higher realm...
Tuesday, February 25
Today gray, melancholy.
Tangled with the tango a bit earlier. The manilla folder for this piece is now quite thick; put a paper clip around my sketches for the first two poems while I work on the Dance. The Dance will be different in feeling from the other sections; still haven't decided whether to use material from the first two poems in the Dance section of this piece. To do so would help tie the sections, and therefore the piece, together. But also might dilute my ideas for the Dance, for this final section called Dance.
Time to plunge in.
Wednesday, February 26
Did a bit of work on the Dance last night. Today, took out a pen and a ruler, blank manuscript paper and a bottle of whiteout; will start copying out the music for poems I. and II. into a main finished score.
Thursday, February 27
Have been copying my sketches into a main score.
After writing so many cycles in a row: the Unsung Songs, Images, Visions, I find this flute piece a very different approach to writing. I am used to the broader brush strokes of the cycles, where few ideas are used for each piece, where all the separate pieces are a part of a greater whole. This piece for flute and piano seems more like the rum fruit cake people pass around at Christmas: dense ... Dense with ideas, motives, and melodies, countersubject, inner lines ... And yet I am trying to keep it as transparent as glass, sunlight ...
Friday, February 28
Continuing to copy out the music for the first two poems into a main score. Here are the poems again for those of you who missed my earlier Journal entries:
Laughter in the woods,
Distant and carefree-
Through the leaves,
Against the deep green,
Of the forest floor-
As though two worlds met,
Both perceived for an instant...
The two poems were written as separate entities, but they overlap in the music.
Now so many little notes covering the blank pages, each tone with its own story and future, and history ... running everywhere across the pages ...
More than halfway through copying out the music for the first two poems into a finished score.
Decided late last night to give the flute a long cadenza before the Dance begins - at least a page or so in length. Possibly with just a bit of quiet piano here and there. The solo flute would introduce the solitary dancer of the third poem; the cadenza could also represent the lone dancer before the tango begins.
In a hidden glade,
A solitary dancer.
Will write the flute cadenza soon, on some snowy, bitter cold night when it is too wintery for an evening stroll.
Meanwhile, the finished score is starting to fill its new manilla folder.
Saturday, March 1
At Windgarth House, in Sheldrake. Carolyn and the children are upstairs; M. and I downstairs, the flames blazing cheerily in the stove. Everyone is asleep. Took a short walk down the road and then to the lake. Mild, unlike the weather in town, in Ithaca. No wind, no moon; the stars brilliant and unwavering the night sky. Esther has left her dining room light on; clear Christmas lights strung outside are also on, along her house. One solar light on our dock, a bright pinpoint of light from the downstairs front windows - we must have forgotten to take it in for the winter. A few glimmers of red or clear lights from across the lake - and everything silent, silent save for the distant call of one lone goose. Silence. The winery fields stretch into infinity, lost in the sky ...
Finished copying out the score for the first two poems earlier today; wrote a flute cadenza to introduce the Dance. The finished score of this piece I am calling Glimpses is easily two-thirds copied out.
But tonight, here at Windgarth, all else is forgotten - save the waves and the lake, the hills and the fields, the silence. As though the world itself has suddenly stepped into a deep meditation ...
Monday, March 3
Returned to Ithaca earlier today. Copied the flute cadenza into the finished score. Put the pages of my sketches for the Dance in chronological order and on the music rack; looked over the motives and themes. After I catch up on various tasks and chores will begin writing, filling in my sketches.