A 365-Day Project
"We Are All Mozart"
A project to create
Being creative sucks the creativity right out of you.
The past day has been taken by making tomato sauce and finishing a new piece for guitars. Tomato sauce first. The killer frost came and the broadest leaves fell, but the tighter plants survived until last night. I gathered tomatoes all day, and trimmed them of bad spots and the occasional bird pecks and slug bites, and sent them (the tomatoes, not the slugs) through the Victor strainer to create a lovely pinkish-red purée. Two gallons of purée eventually boiled down to about three quarts of sauce, filling the house with that dank but stimulating tomato smell. We had small vegetable gardens this year -- tomatoes, a few peppers, squash, pumpkins, beans, and lots of herbs and flowers. After last year's hungry woodchuck family that destroyed our entire winter crop, we gave up the vegetables, and this year the woodchucks left.
Instead, we have skunks. I like skunks, but do avoid trying to pet them, even when they've made it through the cat door for a kibble feast. They're harmless to the garden, the horses don't care, the cats are two too wise, and so they trot en famille across the street and back rummaging through whatever (other than kibbles) it is skunks like -- insects and sometimes mice. They're our backup mousers.
But ain't nobody likes moles, and boy do we got moles this year. They arrived this year and our vast natural lawn looks like a frozen ocean, waves of ground rising and falling about the byzantine tunnels the moles have made. Apparently they taste as ugly as they look. The cats and skunks let them tunnel endlessly. They don't eat bulbs or roots, and the worst we'll lose are grubs and japanese beetle larvae and maybe some earthworms. They make mole killers. We don't use them, these nasty little contraptions that go above the tunnels and trigger when a mole goes chewing by, spitting nails straight down into the ground -- and into the mole. No, we don't have those.
The score I finished earlier -- a few hours late for the birthday boy, Larry Polansky, the music a gift from an ensemble he'd guided -- was for four guitars. Not so bad, except that it's also for one performer. If you don't know Larry Polansky's music, you've missed the work of a diverse and brilliant composer. His painfully dull website doesn't give a clue to the variety and color of his work. Good starting places are Lonesome Road: The Crawford Variations, a set of fifty-one variations for piano that spans more than an hour, B'rey'sheet: Cantillation Study #1, an exquisite piece for voice (his wife and gamelan expert Jody Diamond) and computers, released on The Theory of Impossible Melody (gone now, but available in mp3 format), and numerous numerically diabolical canons such as the Four-Voice Canons.
Larry is also a fanatical guitarist and player of just about any instrument even closely related -- I've heard him play guitars of all sorts (including electric, which he used in premiering my own Highbirds (Prime): In Memoriam Iannis Xenakis), mandolin and mandocello -- and has (I am told) an enviable personal collection. What better than to create a set of short pieces that includes many of the guitars played by Larry at the same time? Yes, there would have to be compromises. He'd hold one and pluck the others.You get it. There is a score to In My Room (subtitled "five personal pleasures for Larry Polansky on his birthday") and of course an electronic demo.
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Would you buy a copy of all the scores to the We Are All Mozart project? Together with a recording of the electronic pieces? All the individual scores are available for download, as are mp3s of the electronic compositions, but I am considering a signed, bound copy of the whole set. If you're interested, please contact me and I'll put you on an announcement list.
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I promised the journal from our residency in Nodar. Here is the sixth installment. Please write to me if you want a copy of the full journal in PDF format with photos.
Tuesday, April 17, Later
Lunch was roasted zucchini filled with cheese and tomato and herbs, along with green and black olives, soft cheese on bread, and wine. After lunch, we did the wash--in the outdoor tub, rubbing each item with blue soap on the worn granite surface, and rinsing it in the water that flows into it crystal clear even though streams of thin green algae grow along the rock sides (probably from the nitrogen in the soap)--and set it to drying on a rack on the back porch. (Two days later Martina, one of the middle-aged women, accidentally pulled the plug, emptying the entire cistern into Luis and Manuela's front yard.)
The familiar drive to Parada followed for some dinner supplies. Stevie headed into the Pinto Market while I waited, and a ball of hay incongruously walked up the street. A slender woman's body protruded below. How could she see? The same lower body soon returned, and with a smiling face above that could have been seventy. It seems that carrying hay, bags of supplies, and feed grasses on one's head was not uncommon.
After returning, we did some more work on the project, caught up on names and places for the final document, and soon dinner was ready--cauliflower and pasta, salad, pork chops (like the chicken wings, not for me), bread and wine ... with a dessert of ricotta cheesecake with a crunchy crust and chocolate chips.
Dinner is over now, and dishes done. Cleanup is a collaborative effort, with the washing swapping from person to person each night in an unspoken volunteer circle. Now everyone else is watching Pinocchio, the classic version from the 1950s or 60s; it's a story I've never cared for so I'm sitting this one out, and am trying to work on the bread women song instead--but the Pinocchio sound is turned up so loud and its music is so bad that I'm going to bed.
Wednesday, April 18
It was a fitful night. Stevie rubbed my sore rib muscles with Tiger Balm, but I was so restless that I was soon entirely covered in it, including my face. At least its aroma helped put me to sleep. After this morning's coffee, we each worked on projects quietly, and at midday Stevie and I traveled to Castro Daire for supplies--food for all of us and some bungees for Aaron. The drive out took us once again past the terraced hills--this time there appeared a donkey carrying supplies with three sheep and the farmer encouraging them with a stick-- and past the Intermarché, which was closed for the next ninety minutes for siesta.
Castro Daire is growing. There are new buildings, cobbled streets being re-laid, and schoolchildren everywhere. We passed through the centrum, and saw a big building for "saúda"-- which, having seen the word saúda on welcome signs, guessed it might mean "welcome center." No. It was a clinic. The word has two different origins, and one form happens to coincide with both "welcome" and "health." (I should have stopped; moments later, a single sneeze put my back into rib muscles into spasms.) Next heading was to follow the signs for tourismo rural to, perhaps, locate a rural tourism center. After finding ourselves on a road as small as Parada's, we realized this was the directional sign to a rural touristic site instead of an information center. It was a lovely town, and we drove up through its tight roads, turning around and winding back down through to the center of Castro Daire, where we stopped in a small café for some Sagres cerveza and sumol, an orange drink similar to Orangina.
Intermarché was open now, and we worked on our list of vegetables, bread-making supplies, and Aaron's bungees. The bungees were the easiest to find. There were no sun-dried tomatoes, but most everything else was there, including whole-wheat flour ... the latter in the health food section. The impossible product turned out to be raisins. Raisins weren't near the baking goods, nor with the condiments (though there were citrons), nor with the nuts or dried fruits, nor with jams or in the fresh fruit section, nor even by the olives and bulk beans. Since we didn't know the word for "raisin" in Portuguese, I headed for the breakfast cereals, where certainly there would be raisin bran and I could crib the word from the ingredients and ask. There wasn't any raisin bran. Plain bran, cherry bran, prune bran, even chocolate bran (yes, Kellogg's makes chocolate bran), but no raisin bran. No raisins in the muesli, none in the energy bars, none in the chocolate bars (which were next to the cereal). Raisins were dried grapes, yes? And grapes were everywhere in Portugal, yes? But no. Grapes were to be used for wine and port, not for some gastronomic frivolity. We left with a full cart and rode home in bright sunlight and light breezes. Back in Nodar, Stevie brought the goods inside while I tried to turn the Nissan Micro around ... with Aaron's help and twenty-plus rockings back and forth, it was aimed outward and parked at the end of the street.
I went back to work on the bread song, now developing into a short rondo-variation, and everyone else was head-down in front of their laptops for the remainder of the afternoon. Manuela prepared another wonderful dinner, offering beef in tomato sauce, rice, salad, bread and wine, and we talked about music (Aaron claims to be a fan of Steely Dan), eventually both of us lighting on Carl Stone's Shing Kee--which we feel is among the finest electroacoustic compositions in the repertoire. To me, it forms one of the bookends of electroacoustics, with Steve Reich's It's Gonna Rain on the distant end. Dessert was crêpes, nutella and strawberries.
We were supposed to interview a woman about song tonight, but time keeps slipping away, and it is now rescheduled for tomorrow morning. I'm not sure if our communication is poor or Portugal time is simply different, but the schedule slips somewhat every day as people fall in and out of being available. In either case, all the interviews and gathering of documentation (including a complete family history that Rui is bringing, and the genealogy that Cristina did of Nodar) will be finished by Sunday, when we begin the final project work. With an extra does of ibuprofen, I finished the bread song variations and slept well.
Thursday, April 19
Stevie was up early to make bread, with raisins--Luis had some they bought in Lisbon, and it turns out that sun-dried tomatoes were already in the pantry--and cinnamon. I did some more work, and soon the rest of the household was awake to enjoy the bread and coffee. The interview has slipped again, this time to the afternoon.
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