Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad
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Monday, September 29
A beautiful grey day, cool. My new aide came and went, did chores, kept me company. I am finally listening to the CD of the premiere of Images from this past June. My initial intent was to only make a studio recording, but Robert Spear asked if he could record the concert. Now I am grateful that he recorded that night. Trying to make decisions: should I release this live recording of the concert, or the studio recording only. The premiere was not note perfect - on the other hand it has a special energy that a studio recording often does not have.
I am not yet ready to edit the studio recording. But I have listened to it. There will only be a few edits, remarkable for a cycle that is a bit over forty minutes long.
A Feather is almost celestial; it does sound as though I am standing between realms in this cycle. Interlude is perhaps the most transparent. I had forgotten that Elegy was originally written as an Image, that the original version was for flute, harp and viola - and later I added violin. It was first performed in concert as a string quintet, then performed and recorded for flute and harp as a postlude to the Visions cycle - but I think this is my favorite instrumentation: flute, harp and violin and viola.
In the concert recording some of the tempos are a bit off, some of the strings’ double stops a bit out of tune here and there - but on the whole just a beautiful recording. The double stops slightly out of tune does not really do much harm: these are fairies and other small creatures from other realms, they might play a bit out of tune in any case. I still could barely walk or sit up for the studio recording session, and could not coach the players the way I would have wanted to. In any case, the overall impression of the studio recording is also excellent, mainly how I would wish it. Which is the main reason these recordings were made: i.e. for future musicians who might play these scores, so that they will know more-or-less how I would like these pieces played.
Next: make copies of Spear’s recording of the concert, to send out with the scores. Make changes in the score. I have done nothing since the concert except try to recover from the surgeries. There is always something to do, that never changes.
Downloaded a CD label maker program from the internet and have been trying to figure it out. Diana does not have time to design the graphics for this CD. Fortunately a panel of helpers comes with the program, and I have been e-mailing them steadily - the labels won’t print up. They wrote back that this has never happened with any other customer. I am praying that they can figure it out. For graphics I used photographs of clouds that I took the other week, on an outing with JF. The most remarkable clouds I have perhaps ever seen, an entire sky full of them ...
Tuesday, September 30
My harpist Myra Kovary called, she is in town and leaves tomorrow. We went out for dinner and she said I should release the concert recording: the musicians were so overjoyed that I was well enough to be there, they played so well etc. So at the moment at least, I am thinking of releasing both the concert and studio recordings of Images.
Went on cdbaby’s website today and signed up Images. Filled out all the information, paid the fees. Checked my account page and thousands of people have already downloaded tracks from Visions and Early Songs. I receive a penny for each download; I have earned about forty dollars. Tonight at dinner I told Myra, and we agreed that money was not as important as the fact that people are listening to the music. Well, if we thought otherwise, we would not be classical musicians in America in this century.
If I decide to release the concert recording I will post it on cdbaby fairly soon. First I have to figure out this label maker. Ordered jewel cases, they should arrive by the end of the week. I will produce the CD cases myself to send out to musicians with the scores, to radio stations, to friends. But a professional company will produce the recording, with my graphics, to sell to the public. With everyone downloading tracks, I am beginning to think that one day CDs will be outmoded, a vanished race. Go the way of the LP ... I would like to think that people still put music on to listen to as they work around the house or have dinner - or even listen to music when guests come to visit, listen with attention, as if at a concert. Or has all that changed, forever ....
Wednesday, October 1
Wrote Robert Spear and thanked him for the recording of the concert. When I am feeling better I would like to at least read through the Piano Quintet; I also want to record the String Quintet, he might have suggestions for string players. And we still need to make changes in that score. Often I wonder if it is possible to catch up on all that needs to be done and all that I wish to do ... When I can sit at the piano again, what pieces will I write? I haven’t even given it a conscious thought.
The label maker company has still not figured out my problem.
Thursday, October 2
I figured out the problem with the CD label program myself and fixed it late last night. I also found a way to import the bar code. Now I am trying to see if there is a way to rotate the front/inside pages so I can print them in a way that they can then be folded as an insert. So far have not found a way to do this; wrote the program company for help. All the graphics are done, just this last snag. Made copies of the CD last night and put the labels on the discs, to send out to friends and musicians etc. Next: make changes to the scores, so I can send the scores out with the CDs. Then listen to the studio recording and choose takes for the final version. Wrote Al, to see when we could edit.
M. thinks I should only put one version of Images out into the world, and that I need to decide between them.
The vacation is finally over. Fully recovered or not, it is time to get back to work.
Al responded and I will try to meet with him next week. Listened to the unedited studio recording again tonight - very few changes are needed. Still cannot decide which version to release.
Will enjoy working with Al again. I first worked with Al more than twenty or so years ago, with my singer Louise McConnell. The deep ties that are forged between a musician and fellow musicians, musicians and the repairmen and builders who work on their instruments, musicians and the recording studio personnel: these relationships cannot be accurately described or even explained. Music is perhaps the most spiritual of all the arts ... And the most intangible.
On the more tangible side of music, changes still need to be made in the scores and individual parts, and then they must be Xeroxed and sent out. Address the envelopes, write letters to enclose. Find a ride to the post office. Send them off all over the world, not knowing if they are ever performed or not, or who will perform them. Once I received a letter from a singer in Scandinavia, with questions about the score - the singer enclosed a newspaper clipping in Danish, a review of my songs from her last concert. Sometimes a friend will say they saw a review of my music in the New York Times, or they heard my music on WQXR; or a radio station in Europe will ask permission to air something I wrote. The scores travel across the globe like released birds or balloons or lost kites - disappearing from view only to land somewhere one day, who knows where ... or in what condition ...
Sunday, October 5
Brought all the Images scores and instrumental parts to correct; a disorganized pile about six inches high. And scissors, empty manuscript paper, a small bottle of white out and one glue stick. Just a mountain of paper to go through.
It will take me days to make the corrections. I will be working off my rehearsal copy and checking it against the parts the musicians used in the concert. Then to correct the main score and original parts, so they can be Xeroxed up and sent out to musicians.
Monday, October 6
Worked on corrections to the score and parts for hours today; two are done. Not the harp parts, Myra will help me with the harp corrections, on Friday. Hopefully we will work over dinner, after her rehearsal at Ithaca College.
Wednesday, October 8
Stayed up until dawn finishing up the corrections for Images last night. Myra wrote: we will do the harp corrections Friday night, over dinner.
Finished making twenty or so copies of the Images concert earlier tonight, with labels and inserts - and in the new clear crystal CD cases I ordered last week. It took me three days; conquered the label maker program, found blank labels for $1 a pack at the Dollar Store here in town. Printed up enough labels for forty or so discs. Bought a paper cutter and heavy paper for the inserts and back.
After this: where? Record the String Quintet, or the Song Cycle, the Piano Quintet - or finish the orchestration to Chansons and Trois Prieres - or start writing new music. If the last, for what instruments, in what style, what forms etc. With that question I feel as though I am finally facing the sea and open horizon ...
One question to myself keeps returning: “Which project would bring more Light to the world ...?”
What does the world most need, how does my small life fit in? I ponder these questions in the solitude and silence of the night, with only a few crickets and the sound of the falls for company. And I come to the conclusion that living our lives to the best of our abilities is all any of us can do, from ordinary day to ordinary day, ordinary rooms in ordinary houses that perhaps countless and nameless others have used, throughout the passage time - and will use in the future. Ordinary lives made extraordinary by effort, by our intentions and striving, our reflection and perseverance. By doing the work life puts before us. And tonight I know that there are infinite ways to live a Good life, as infinite as the possibilities given to me as a composer or writer, or painter ...