Still Filling in the Sketches for "Glimpses": 2/13/2014

Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad

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Still Filling in the Sketches for "Glimpses": 2/13/2014

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Image: The falls down the street from us.

Thursday, February 13

Some days since I have written in this small notebook, or written any music. We have had more below zero weather, the polar vortex we are caught in continues. Walked down the street to the falls one sunny afternoon. The vast waterfall and stream iced over, water flowing beneath the ice - the power of the falls now muted and fairly invisible behind its mask of snow and ice. Long, thin ice crystals everywhere throughout the gorge, hanging from ledges and crannies ... Children in bright clothes were sledding in the woods near the entrance to the gorge, enjoying their day off from school, laughing and tumbling down the hill ... as the vast silent and unmoving white gorge stood watching.

Today another snow storm. Even now, approaching midnight, the snow continues to fall in the lamplight. The roads have not been plowed today, only a few courageous cars have passed our house. Instead, the sound of voices walking or sledding somewhere, on visits to friends or returning home.

Next week should be warmer, and then it will be easier to write music. The corner of the living room where the piano stands can get very cold when the wind is strong and temperatures are hovering around zero - then I wrap myself in a blanket, and must rearrange myself and the blanket in order to bring up a blank page, or to reach the top lines of new blank pages. When so aware of my physical body and the physical world, the ideas come slowly - or not at all.

Tonight barely any wind, so perhaps will go to the piano and write some pages of flute music... in the peace and silence of the falling snow, in the bitter cold of February ...

1 am...

Wrote a few pages of music for the first poem - with imitation between the flute and piano, passing motives and phrases and harmonies back and forth between the two instruments. Laughter in the woods ... sunlight ... a beautiful summer’s afternoon ... As though I am there ...

Friday, February 14

Mid 30s, the snow is already beginning to melt; icicles dripping and falling to earth with either a crash or a thud, depending on where they land. A good ten inches of new light, fluffy snow piled high all around town. Sun.

Wrote several pages; found a new motive, a new theme - more than enough material now for everything but the Dance. Will continue sketching out pages later tonight. Hearing some of the piano part, will write it down later. For now, enough to write the flute notes down on the manuscript paper as fast as I can, before they are reabsorbed back into wherever they came from. At the moment, I can barely write fast enough to catch them ... An endless, changing supply of pitches and rhythms and melodies flying across my mind, across the empty page...

At these times I feel somewhat like a traffic cop at a very busy intersection - telling one melody to go there, one arpeggio to go there, one motive to go there, in that direction ... A flood of ideas, sounds, chords ... Music everywhere...

Sunday, February 16

Sketched out most of everything save the Dance. A light snow falling, mirroring the small notes covering blank pages of manuscript paper. Expanded new motives and themes, bringing the piece to the Dance. It truly is a journey ... More than enough material to work with at this point, if anything the overflow could form its own new piece...

Monday, February 17

Bright sun, reflecting off the snow. Back to the beginning, time to fill in my sketches. A quiet, simple beginning. Then sunlight and laughter.

It has begun.

11:30 pm...

Still filling in my sketches. Today, as I worked with the various motives and melodies, was suddenly filled with the awareness - and this is difficult to describe in words - the deep awareness and surprise that other composers had not already used these motives and melodies, created them, in the past. The possibilities open to the composer are infinite, but if viewed in a different way - they are not. Composers in the Western world have twelve notes to choose from, that is all. With all the music that has been written throughout the history of music, it does seem astonishing that new motives and melodies can emerge - and yet they easily do...

This realization led me to thinking about the birds and their fixed songs. Those pitches and rhythms are, in a way, the bird’s very identity, a song or call that distinguishes them from all the other myriad sentient beings on the planet we call Earth. The birds practice and perfect their songs to the best of their abilities, we all have heard them do this ... And now I wonder if their given song is also their Code, their Creed, their Gospel - if somehow encoded into their song are all the Teachings and all the Mysteries ... Just as in any given mathematical number we could find all the other numbers - in one musical pitch all other tones...

Or perhaps the birds’ calls, their songs, express and hold simply the Joy of Being, of being alive here on Earth, surrounded by the myriad songs of other sentient beings ... The Joy of making Music, alone, solo - in chorus - or in symphony with all other beings ... And of course, songs for communication, and now I wonder if tempo and inflection have their own meanings for birds, if the tempo - or even key - of their song or call can vary, depending on the emotion and meaning to be conveyed...

Tuesday, February 18

Spent a pleasant hour or so filling in my sketches, adding bass lines, flute lines, piano chords, inner lines - and then suddenly came to a halt over one flute note.

At times like this, I try to remind myself that this piece called Glimpses will contain thousands of notes; one note will not ruin a piece. Even so, even as I write these words in my notebook, I hear that flute melody playing continuously, inwardly - either trying to resolve itself, or insisting that it is fine and happy just the way I wrote it, that I should leave it the way it is.

Time to dress for dinner; M. Is away in N.Y.C. and a friend and I are going out. Undoubtedly this little melody will follow me to and throughout our meal, and then greet me again on my return home.

The piece really never leaves me - not until I have finished writing it, and not even then. Just as I hear snatches of Brahms or Rachmaninov or Beethoven - symphonies, operas, sonatas, from all the composers, at odd times, knowing they have been inwardly playing without my knowledge continuously ... stored in the soul itself...
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