Last year

OK, so I’m off to a bad start on my New Year’s resolution. No blog article last week, despite good intentions, so I’ll have to resolve again to blog more often. Here’s something for the second week of the year.

Since it was my habit in the past to end a year by summarizing it, I shall make that today’s topic.

Compositionally, it was another dud year, though I started off 2015 with hopes of making it a year of focusing on composition. Only one piece was finished, though, and even that isn’t technically finished as I have been doing some revising and polishing of it over the past week or so, and plan to do a bit more before I’m done. But I actually wrote quite a bit more than that; it’s just that most of what was written ended up being withdrawn or unfinished.

Let me start by listing some of the unfinished work. Early in the year I finished a draft of a piece for viola and percussion quartet, but it never made it into being finalized. Even though there was some good stuff in it, it didn’t seem to me that it worked well for the instrumentation I chose, and I’m not sure I can articulate the reason. Also, even though it was written with the intention that it be a standalone piece, on reflection it didn’t satisfy in that form, but needed to be a movement in some kind of suite yet to be determined. For those reasons (plus the fact that there’s no particular urgency that I finish it since it was not a commissioned piece), I decided to let it sit idle for a while until I have leisure to figure out exactly what kind of piece it is.

There was also another uncommissioned piece that never got very far. This started with the idea of doing something in variation form; I haven’t done this in quite a long time and for some reason the idea just intrigued me. So I spent a week or so working up a theme for clarinet, violin, and piano, and managed to sketch a couple of variations before inspiration flagged. Again, with no deadline to meet, there seemed to be no necessity that the piece continue, but it’s something I may return to later.

There were a few other little things too, but the only piece that managed to get finished was a 10-minute work for bass clarinet (with low C) and electronic media written for Kelly Rogers Niiyama, my colleague at ISU, with the title Dark Flow. At some point soon I’m going to have to work up a program note explaining that title, but I don’t want to take the time just now, so for the time being here is a Wikipedia article explaining the phenomenon. Or if you prefer, here is an xkcd cartoon.

I’ll say more about Dark Flow later, maybe in my next article. But it’s late and I’m tired so it can keep for a little while.

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