Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad
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Monday, November 12
Finally finished XXVI tonight, the final pages of bells, and copied it all into the main score. Will start working on the last pages of VIII tonight - at least throw a glance at the sketches. A rainy warm night, a bit of Indian Summer; worked in the gardens today, tidying up for winter. Leaves were everywhere, in the wind, on the ground, constant motion and scurrying around, like thin weightless squirrels. I still can hear the final bell section, and if I close my eyes can see the sketches and score... Not an easy passage for the pianist, even I can barely read it off the page, black notes everywhere, large chords in both hands, a small forest of notes and stems ...
Tuesday, November 13
Finishing up sketching out the last pages of VIII. Tomorrow will copy it out into the main score. Got stuck on the last page of my sketch of VIII, which is basically an extended coda. Have been trying to decide for two days whether to write this section with half notes as the main beat, in 2/2, 3/2 etc. - or stay with quarter notes as the main beat. From the musician and performer's point of view - my decision would make a considerable psychological and musical difference. At the moment I see pros and cons for each and cannot decide. Another quandary: should the intensity of this piece continue relentlessly to the end, build steadily - if so, the inner lines must reflect this, carrying both the burden and joy of it. Or should there be a respite of sorts before the final line(s) of the piece? Until this is resolved I cannot create the inner lines. Time to put the score away and look with fresh eyes and hear with fresh ears tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 14
Looked over my sketches for the last pages of VIII earlier today: changed a few notes, added a few notes, subtracted a few notes, but mainly left it the way I had written it. Still deciding what instrument takes which lines, voices etc. as I copy it out into the main score. Have finally arrived at the last page, and hope to finish it tonight. The sketch is just notes and stems scribbled in pencil everywhere across the manuscript paper...
Still deciding whether to have the intensity build continuously and relentlessly in these final pages - or to write in short respites here and there... Until this issue is decided, I cannot finish writing the inner voices.
Thursday, November 15
Went to the piano first thing today and finished sketching out the final page of VIII, so I could copy it into the main score. Added a few flute lines, and inner lines in the strings; changed a few meters, using 2/2 instead of 4/4 etc. to help the musicians understand how to interpret these last pages more clearly. Ended with the piano holding and the strings fading. Spent a happy hour or two copying it all out into the main score. This one piece of the cycle is twenty-two pages long. It is done. All that is left is one more complicated ending, to XVII - and then to finish writing VII, Rain.
I am exhausted. If I tally up the most complicated pieces in this cycle, VIII, XXVI, XVII and V: those four alone are more than eighty pages of score... Another decision: to tackle XVII right away and try to musically balance the Earth - or finish VII which is brief and simply written, more in the haiku style. William's poem for XVII is:
Autumn sees the sun
And earth keels into balance...
Moment of accord.
The Earth eventually will need to be balanced, and I might as well face the task tonight... I will save the easier and simpler, Rain, for last.
Monday, November 19
A warm, sunny day, in the low fifties - fallen or falling leaves wherever you look. The last pages of XVII are coming nicely; I am staying with my initial idea of accented key centers, eventually ending the piece with an "A" Major chord. As I have written before in this Journal , the natural laws of our planet Earth manifest the harmonic series, and the lower partials of the harmonic series outline tonality. Since I am portraying Hurley's poems in this cycle, and his poems speak of the Earth or Nature - I have bowed to tonality more than usual. In fact, this entire cycle is more based in tonality or pseudo tonality than any other pieces I have written, save the tonal tunes, the songs I wrote so many years ago, for my singer Louise McConnell... The twelve tone rows I began with has been abandoned more than used in this cycle, Songs of the Earth.
Tuesday, November 20
Finished copying the last notes of XVII into the main score; the piano part to this piece is also very difficult, more difficult than I had intended. Actually possibly harder to read off the page than to physically play, sharps and flats and chords and notes strewn everywhere, in all directions. Decided to end with solo piano, a very long cadenza... As I read through XVII earlier tonight, I found some passages to be heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Others might not feel this way, of course. But that I found them so exquisite perhaps means that in some way those passages are truly a reflection of my own individual soul...
All that remains to be written is VII, Rain, which is still merely a bare sketch in both my mind and on paper.