Sketching out 'Glimpses' for Flute and Piano: 1/20/2014

Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad

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Sketching out 'Glimpses' for Flute and Piano: 1/20/2014

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Monday, January 20

Snow earlier in the day, light, and fluffy, driven by an aggressive winter wind. Bitter cold tonight, a polar vortex of some sort bringing below zero weather while the world sleeps. Warm in the house, isolated drafts here and there. In this weather, the house becomes a haven of cheer and comfort, a refuge - whereas at other times I feel as though the walls are transparent, the boundaries between inside and outside almost cease to exist. But tonight the house is very opaque, the walls fortified against the cold, trapping and holding the warmth as the snow continues to drift in the lamplight, in the wind...

Sheets of manuscript paper accumulate on the piano rack, covered with scattered notes, bar lines, and phrase marks - sketches, outlines of musical ideas. As in the Unsung Songs, this new piece seems to be appearing all at once, simultaneously, together as a whole, as one Idea with many moving parts. Once again I am seeing the overview - and will fill in the details later.

I had never worked this way until the Songs of the Earth, and now I wonder if this new relationship with myself and writing music is the result of age and experience - or of something else as yet elusive and unnamable.

As with my clairvoyance, I am shown what I am shown, and have no personal control over the subject, the amount, the scope, or the timing of what I see - or in this case, hear.

Most of what is still unwritten seems deeply buried in the Heart - I can feel it there, almost see it, but cannot as yet hear it.

Friday, January 24

Bitter cold again tonight. Wednesday morning was - degrees below zero here in town - small crystals of ice formed in the air, giving the appearance of a delicate snow shower floating in the wind... Took a short walk in the bracing clear air of winter earlier tonight, and thought about the first movement of the flute piece, the laughter heard in the woods. On my return, a bit of flute melody appeared to my mind and I went to the piano, scribbling down motives - playful motives, reflecting the silvery bursts of happy laughter... Possibly I will bring these motives back throughout the movement/section - sometimes more complicated, sometimes longer or shorter, as it would be with laughter that is spontaneous and carefree, echoing through the quiet of the woods, the sunlight through the leaves... The shared joy or friends or acquaintances, or lovers, in the distance, for the moment hidden from view, like the birds singing... Wrote, sketched out a few variations, sometimes only stems and squiggles on the page - sometimes words/ideas I can later translate into music, into notes and sounds and harmonies... Notes I can easily fill in later... For now, I am more listening as attentively as I can to the transparent sounds that now surround and fill me, trying not to interfere with that inner creation, that process of creation, careful not to shatter that inner unfolding vista that will be this piece for flute and piano ...

So far I am fluctuating between using the twelve tone row I drew up some weeks ago - and the whole tone scale. As I grow older, the rules of twelve tone often requires too much thought and time and patience, the ideas and the music come into being too quickly for me to organize them into the twelve tone form/method - especially in a piece of this sort, which should sound spontaneous and free... Tonight the melodies and harmonies arose in me before I could consult the row - demanding their existence in spite of my initial intentions...

After some days of hardly writing at all, suddenly a wealth of ideas and melodies, sounds and harmonies. As I write these words in my small notebook, I feel surrounded by the musical phrases and harmonies, they are filling the entire downstairs of the house, like fragrances, perfumes ... Everywhere... And in this mysterious way the piece is being written, almost done. Later I will find the notes, harmonies, and rhythms and write them down ...

Saturday, January 25

Filled in notes for the first movement; started hearing the end of the Dance of Movement III. Took out a blank sheet of MS paper and jotted down a few words to myself, a few note stems for a line or so of music, with accents written above or below the empty stems. The solitary dancer in the forest of Movement III will have a wonderful time dancing, and I can almost see the dance end. The flute will keep the feeling of this dance gentle, transparent, even if the piano part eventually becomes driving and sonorous. At times, in this piece I am calling Glimpses, the flute will soar, and at other times speak quietly or even perhaps momentarily sob - but the very nature of the instrument will shine through all the notes and dynamics, phrasings, and rhythms, with its particular clarity and purity, innocence... Goodness... That combination of power and gentleness and clarity that a fine choir can often achieve...

Sunday, January 26

I'm using leftover xeroxed sheets of empty manuscript paper scored for orchestra, most likely from Chansons du Monde. The manilla folder they are in was marked "scrap paper", but now has "For Flute and Piano" written on the front in black ink. Many sheets now have notes scribbled on them, motives, melodies, harmonies, and phrases...

In truth, this is the favorite part of my work as a composer, when all is still intangible, just beginning... unfinished and limitless, infinite possibility...
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