No. 2!

Yup, the second commission piece has been finished and sent. And no, it’s not Sam’s slide guitar piece (have a feeling that one’s going to creep on at a snail’s pace until the last minute, then be such a horrible travesty that I’ll need to promise to write him something nice later this year to compensate!), it’s the song for bass-baritone for Charles Turner which I started having a bash at the other night at 2 in the morning with not-terribly-satisfactory results.

Well, today I sat down with the version that was ‘merely embarrassing’ and tinkered about with it and began to see how it might be resuscitated into something that was actually halfway decent. Mostly this involved messing about with the rhythm, stretching things, inserting pauses, corrupting the basic structure of the poem a little so it was a bit less tum-ti-tum (I have a longstanding issue with rhymed poetry that I’ve been struggling to get over for aaages). It was still lacking a certain something though, and occasional notes were a little hard to pitch without an additional reference point, so I was thinking about a piano accompaniment (Charles has a tame pianist and his request was for an ‘unaccompanied or lightly accompanied’ song) and how to keep that supportive and interesting but unobtrusive. And while I was doing this, I remembered talking to Stuart Russell on the weekend about Howard Skempton’s piano pieces. Many of these are extremely slim in texture and very beautiful. Often just held chords. So I nicked Skempton’s idea and created an accompaniment out of a series of pianissimo 2-note chords. Each chord is held up until the point of changing to the next chord, which with the longer phrases will probably mean that some of these will die away before the next chord is reached. Which then gave me another idea: What about sympathetic resonance?

So I waved at Twitter and Twitter waved back (thanks, Jenni!) with marvellous info about sympathetic resonance. It’s hard to tell if it will actually work with what I’ve written – there’s a lot of open 5ths or 3rds in the piano part which aren’t actually doubling the note being sung, but it may, so I’ve put it into the score and we’ll see what happens with the recording. Unfortunately I don’t have a real piano, only a digital one, which suits most purposes but, alas, not arcane acoustic effects.

Oh, and the text? That’s by Robert Herrick, the 17th century English poet. It’s a tiny poem called ‘To FORTUNE’:

Tumble me down, and I will sit
Upon my ruins, smiling yet ;
Tear me to tatters, yet I’ll be
Patient in my necessity.
Laugh at my scraps of clothes, and shun
Me, as a fear’d infection ;
Yet, scare-crow-like, I’ll walk as one
Neglecting thy derision.

So that’s the big news of the day. I haven’t got back to Sam’s piece at all today, although last night I bought the AC-7 Core app for my iPad, which is supposed to let me control Logic as if from a mixer board, using the touchscreen.I thought this might help with getting smoother changes in volume and other automation data but of course as I’ve spent all day in Finale and at the piano prodding at ‘real notes’ it hasn’t had a play yet. Tomorrow… tomorrow.

So what’s next? I’m not sure. Shana’s going to send me part two of her lovely miniature treatise on writing for the lever harp, which will contain the mysteries of how to use the octatonic scale on it, which should be fun, so I should try to start thinking octatonically again for that – it’s been a while! I’m also thinking I should maybe build on the brief foray into miniature pianism from today and tackle the piano piece. Hmm. Or I could just see what I feel like in the morning…

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