A 365-Day Project

"We Are All Mozart"

A project to create
new works and change
the perception of the
music of our time.

Mantra Canon score pages Dennis

previous   November 16, 2006   next

An unexpected pause, yes. I sat down to write three days ago and had no ideas. The ideas were in the hands, not the head. Do you know that feeling? The mind fails to be interesting or clever, and the feel of wood or stone or metal or dirt has heft and meaning. Maybe it's the weather. The temperature right now at nearly eleven at night is sixty-six degrees, incomprehensibly warm for November in Vermont. Folks get speedbones, looking for things to fix. This is wrong, this is wrong... keeps echoing through the sultry wind. So the leaking toilet got its guts replaced, the wall behind the stove was torn down to ready it for cabinets, the stove hood was installed, and we shopped for granite and marble. The saws were singing and the hammers swinging, and feeling and smelling the slabs of granite and marble and slate was deeply rewarding. We wanted the Verde Antique from Vermont, but so little is left that full-sized slabs can't even be cut anymore.

So tonight is catching up on a few thoughts that weren't driven away by physical work.

* * *

You know that these commentaries can be verbal explosions of fury over the sheer impotence of new nonpop marketing and presentation. Just when it seems I've winged back a good snowdrift, someone else's writings turn up. Seth Gordon's blog was new to me, and so when I read this one there was nothing but howl & sputter in the room. If only just one of these commentaries had been so incisive. Go read it and warm up that engine of change.

* * *

Today the decision was made: Progress on the We Are All Mozart project is going so slowly that it's time for a real wacky measure. WAAM is going to eBay! In the next few days the first posting offering 50 Measures of Great Music! Be part of a groundbreaking new wave! Bring new classical music back into your life! Get goosebumps again! Get music written just for you, your friends, your family… be part of We Are All Mozart! So there. Spread the word.

* * *

It's not December yet, so a re-launch into my nonpop-is-a-good-word harangue can't happen. Oh, but it aches. First it was super-fluffy Arts Journal that lamented the presentation of new nonpop, and then Greg Sandow thinks, Eureka! I have found it! Welcome to the present, Greg. Where was I? Oh yes, nonpop. Then Frank Oteri has a hissy fit over songs, to which several folks respond (myself among them). He wants to debate why 'nonpop' can't catch on. I'm ready, December or not! Bring it on! (Frank uses 'dotorg' music for a laugh, but the point is taken.)

* * *

Carlos Carillo was in touch after five years. Carlos contributed the novel Legado de los Carpatos to my Bathory opera website. Carlos has come into some good fortune with the production of two plays, one tightly based on his novel. He sent along some photos which will be posted there soon. In the other good news department, one of the prime encouragers of the We Are All Mozart project is Carson Cooman, and he has just had released Small Bear, Large Telescope, a collection of his compositions on Zimbel Records. More congratulations in order.

* * *

Announcement of future planning department: If you're in Vermont and interested, please let me know. Late 2007 through early 2008 will be the first Vermont Improvisation Festival, a nonpop event. It is being coordinated by composer William Harris.

* * *

A little serious business. Since the Beethoven concert a few weeks ago, there's been something strange going on with my mental processes. Though I knew the piece, I could no longer follow its narrative. It seemed repetitive, and not just that second movement. All these little bits kept running over & over, a little higher, lower, longer, shorter. It felt like this linear sonic creation had no substance. Of course it does, but it felt -- and this was so gut-level that its explanation seems infantile -- full of holes, promise not fulfilled, tease without touch. To make sure it wasn't a reaction to just that composition, I played several other older pieces. Nothing. Nothing more than a three-minute song stretched out with fragmentary redundancy. Here's the thing. Even Wagner (Tristan was playing on the radio in the car) left me with an impression of flaccidness, a get-on-with-it impatience welling up in my psyche.

What has happened? I have lost my apprehension of narrative. Attempting to read a novel left the same impression. Short stories had spark. Back to the music, then, and songs had spark. Miniatures had even more. There was no exteroception, but the story could not come in -- there was proprioceptive adaptation. It could not become part of me.

That is a shock. Is this an artifact of age? Experience? Intolerance? Or is it a positive change, one of new growth and searching, where the past is so well absorbed that, like tire treads in snow, the mind is clotted full until some of it can be expelled again, or until new ground is reached?

Or maybe it's more than that, and maybe that more is what I hope for. How does one create a piece? Plan it? Imagine it? Yes, this 'where do you get your notes' ground has been discussed here several times, but that's not the question. Rather, given a hyperspace of infinite time and infinite musicians and infinite audiences, what music would I create? With no obstructions, no arguments, nothing but the compositional equivalent of heaven, what would I compose? It could be a trick question, mon semblable, mon frère, as Rabelais believed only the boring would get to heaven and the interesting folks -- villains and drunkards and poets -- would be in hell. Perhaps hell is art's place. But just for a suspended moment of time, with every door open ... what would there be to compose?

That, perhaps, is why the narratives make no sense. They have lost context in a post-acoustic world. There. I've said it. Acoustic music, however much it may be part of me, is a vanishing wisp of smoke from the electroacoustic fire of nonpop. It's almost as if a human-machine hybrid musician interests me more than the drooling muscle-contorting instrumentalists. No, not the vocalists. That's inside the body. The rest, the faith fails. Each advance of electronics -- just look at this (or this, if that link is gone) -- becomes much more thrilling than the efforts at control and tuning and expression and counting in acoustic performance. Make no mistake: acoustic performance is marvelous. But the music becomes such a small part of the event. It's a gathering of people engaged in a ritual. That Beethoven, conductor and stick, musicians and scratchboards and plumbing and hammers. Toot, whistle, plunk and boom.

Even that dismissal does not explain the loss of narrative. Over the past few days, paint and wood and saw and wiring in hand, I tried to imagine a story to tell, one in words. It was fragmentary and empty, as if all the stories had been told. All I want to do is touch that granite, have it here, feel the grain, watch the colors change under the polished surface. Build the cabinet. Grout the tile, wait through the warm weather and then the oncoming snow until spring. The dormancy of winter is within me, and though it feel like spring, the body knows better. For the pale below the mental soil, the throbbing sun and warming vernal rain will be its own narrative. I wait.

Warm November storm

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