Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad
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Image: 'The Point' in Sheldrake, N.Y., down the road from Windgarth.
Monday, February 21
A message from Mark Gould today:
Hello Dear Laurie!
I hope all is going well with 'Realms of Light'.
Composition comes slowly at the moment, but have been sketching parts of a String Quartet, which surprises me as being neither tonal nor atonal...
The Piano Trio eludes me, but I think I may have the beginnings of a row that will work how I want.
It occurred to me that I have not heard or seen your music... I intend to correct that omission in March, and would like to know where I can get scores from. And... whilst we are on the topic of your music, I thought it would be good for my inspiration to write some 'variations' on one of the rows from one of your works... Any row at all, it would be nice to present something to you, as a thank you for our conversations...
I am reading 'Schoenberg' by Charles Rosen, which I've not read before - a very interesting book that gets at the heart of some of the *musical* issues behind twelve-tone music, but without bombarding the reader with diagrams (I smile at this a little, as it has resonances with our discussion on architecture and twelve-tone music in general).
In the meantime,
all the best wishes to you and all around you,
Tuesday, February 26
Still trying to find string players for the concerts coming up in the spring - and for the run-through rehearsal March 24th. Taped Laura’s flute score to Images together last night - it took over an hour. Will get the string scores taped hopefully tonight. The composer’s work is never done.
The sad thing is that I could have written most of the solo harp piece for Myra in that amount of time. Not to mention the amount of time spent trying to track down string players.
It has been snowing all afternoon & soon I had better get out the snow shovel. The grapevine branches outside my window already have sporadic and growing patches of snow and ice here & there. The vines twining into beautiful patterns, especially at night, when they are backlit from the garden lights, the windows frosted over ... The roofs of the neighbors’ houses already have a few inches of snow, although the roads are still passable. Looking down onto the winter garden, through the grape arbor... That special transformation only steadily falling snow can bring ...
Thursday, February 27
Hello dear Mark! Thank you for your e-mails - I am way behind in 'A Composer's Journal'! Am still struggling here physically, it seems just endless...
Here are my comments - which I finally got to tonight. Hoping my responses lead to new discussion ...
Alas my music publisher died and his company went down with him. I have not yet looked for a new one - so if you wish scores, I will have to send them to you.
I can e-mail you a row if you wish, and I would enjoy seeing how you use it. Much like the keyboardists of Mozart and Beethoven's day, improvising on someone else's theme ...
Wishing you the very best on all your endeavors!!!!
Friday, March 7
Found a violinist and viola player for the Images concert and recording; they are both fine players. The run-through rehearsal is set for March 24th, at 8 p.m. - so I can hear what I have written and make any needed changes to the score. Myra and I will rehearse a few days earlier, and she will leave her harp at my house until after the rehearsal.
It took hours to tape all the scores together; the viola parts are in an envelope on the back porch, waiting to be picked up. I mailed the violinist his score. To save rehearsal time, the individual parts have at least one other instrument’s line in their score. Unfortunately this also means the individual scores are longer, and we might need page turners at the concert. I am also having trouble convincing Myra that some of the Images should use two harps.
Now if I can just stay on my feet until then, and illness free. M. returns from South Africa Monday, after two weeks away.
After the Images cycle is performed and recorded, I would like to perform and record the Songs. This will involve more instrumentalists and two singers. Maybe next winter or spring. The problem is one of financial backing; there are so few grants available to composers. I might have to try to raise the money in other ways, i.e. personal friends and donors ... If I had more physical strength, I could give piano concerts to raise the money - but that is out of the question now. I am also hoping to find players to record the string Quintet. Some players in the old group have agreed to record it, but I am missing at least one player, possibly two. My original plan was to put the Quintet and Images on the same CD. I also had hoped to make a CD of just piano music - but that will also have to wait until I get back on my feet. The Piano Quintet as well. Sometimes I think these pieces will get there premieres in another realm ... Not to mention Chansons and Trois Prieres ... Tonight I feel so ----- weary. For a composer not to hear their work performed is very, very difficult. This is not so easy to describe - but it is an emptiness and a disappointment beyond words.
Saturday, March 8
Went to the piano and sketched out a few themes and motives, for a solo harp piece for Myra. At least half the piece is written. I do not mean this literally; but most of the piece will fall into place very smoothly now. I can see and hear it inwardly ...
Undoubtedly I have been inwardly writing it all these months, without my knowing it. It will be similar to the harp part in Sailboats, one of the songs in the Songs cycle. Listening to Myra read through her score of Sailboats was unforgettable: I have never heard anything like that emerge from a harp. I am hoping I can do the same in this piece. Now to pick a title ... The Waves. Except that title has already been taken.
Sunday, March 16
Back from Windgarth. Picked up stray branches that had fallen on the lawns; a stiff north wind today. Went down to the dock - geese were all lined up along the shore, for perhaps a half mile in each direction. As I finished my outdoor chores, suddenly they all flew into two lines on the lake; they must be going north soon. Not today - but soon. Finished painting the molding upstairs, a window, some kitchen cabinets ... By the time we left, the geese were back on shore ... As we were leaving, Larry asked if we wanted to go to dinner together next week. Said we would call him.
The run-through rehearsal for Images is set for the evening of March 24th. Myra will come on the 22nd, to rehearse with me privately. Laura wasn’t free for the 24th ; Joyce Catalfano said she would stand in for the rehearsal. Joyce and I gave many concerts when we were younger; she taught out of state for many years and is now back in Ithaca. Just a beautiful player. When I am stronger, perhaps we will give some concerts ...
Sunday, March 23
Windgarth was beautiful today; cold, sunny. Finished painting the cabinets in the kitchen. Put the paint away. M. washed curtains.
Taped a copy of the flute score together tonight, for Joyce. She’ll pick it up tomorrow. Myra and I worked together yesterday, read through all the Images. She left her harp in the living room, like a beautiful sculpture ... I’ve already found a few mistakes in the score; flats left out, wrong clefs in the viola ... The usual.
Monday, March 24
The first rehearsal of Images went better than expected. But still fairly nightmarish. Really, one wonders if the music will ever emerge. I just kept thinking back to the early rehearsals of the String Quintet - those were absolutely horrifying. M. came down after all the musicians left and said it was just breathtaking to open the front door and hear my music in the living room; according to M. - there is hope. They played for two hours and we got through all the pieces once. Bill, the violinist, stayed to hear Dance and turned pages for Myra; that Image is a trio for harp, flute and viola; he stayed after a full day of teaching, and it was already 10 p.m.; that gave me hope.