Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas!


There is a moment every year
on the night before Christmas Eve -
after I have written and sent the last message
to the distant, the remembered, not present,
and the last Christmas cards have arrived.
I have finished the rounds,
to give and collect the presents.

There is a moment of emptiness, then -
as I look at the mess in the kitchen,
after I have sent that most heartfelt greeting
out in the cold, to faraway homes -
when I have no more reason to post anything online,
and I close the door for all except the close family
until the holy day has passed,
and I allow myself to wonder:
how are they? has anything changed?
will they remember me?

where, and when, and why -
and who - have we been, these few days?

If I happen to make it in time -
the time for candles and carols, for food and gifts -
this is how it will be on Christmas Eve:

There will be a clean table in the kitchen,
with a clean, mangled linen cloth,
red, blue, white or natural in colour,
and on the blue sideboard -
clad in bright red cotton print
with tiny flowers, fir and pear trees,
partridges, deer and holly,
I have put the holiday plates and bowls,
the gaudy, gold-rimmed Santa set of china.

The living-room is guarded by a glimmering fake fir,
which is guarded by a black and lively cat,
whom I have to watch,
so he won't climb and fell the fir tree,
or try to bite the lights -
or pick a fight with all the lovely garlands!

In many windows are electric Advent lights,
but in the garden, I think nothing here will shine at all.
Of course the neighbours have those garden chains
with tiny lamps in every bush and tree,
and welcome many relatives and friends
with flaming fire and guiding torches in the snow.
I think my visitors will be very few this year...

So maybe I will have a few spare moments;
a minute, or an hour - maybe two,
when I will think of you, and wonder -
without the stress and noise
from some conflicting modes of celebration,
without confusion, and quite sane
but with some little sadness left
from such uncertainty and weakness that I sense -
well, hear my thoughts:
what do you want? what do you need?
what did you hope for,
and what did you get this year?

To write these things down gave me guilty feelings.
Why count just what one gets? Why ask about it?
Is this in fact my own sad point of view: what can I gain?

Surely we are told, that Christmas means to give?
Should I then preach unselfishness to you instead,
as if you are like a little selfish child
who takes the right to love and property for granted
and does not see what others need?

Is it more appropriate to ask:
what did you do for others, now, this very year?
did you give out in abundance; offered freely?
did you give them anything at all -
the poor, the hungry, prisoners, and patients?

No! As I trust you, and your love for others,
I must never ask if you have done enough.
Yes! Sure. You give. You give for nothing.
And so do I. We do. It is called love.

Love is not a business with a binding contract,
not a competition with fair rules,
and not a fun game with one single winner.

Love is not an art, or an abstraction -
it is just the best that we can do!

Merry Christmas - to all of you!

4 December 2006.
Maria Ljungdahl.

A little adventure with two trumpets and a vase

Well, today's adventure was a reminder that it's never easy to be me! I went to Stockholm by train, to pick up my son's trumpet, which has been fixed (a stuck tuning slide). I brought my own newly purchased vintage trumpet, to get an evaluation of the worn parts (mainly the valves), and some instructions for the care and maintenance. In the shop, I asked at the counter if I could speak to their trumpet expert, and was advised to walk over to the repairs department. No problem, as I immediately found the guy I had met on my first visit, last week, but when I started to talk and gesticulate to help him understand what I wanted, I knocked over a big vase - which I suppose was a part of the Christmas decoration of the shop - and it fell down some steps, and spilled its water over the shop floor. (I believe my unruly backpack was to blame - I am not that clumsy!)

Ah, well. They had to wipe the floor and move some cardboard boxes with new instruments, while I tried to figure out how to put the damned vase right again, including the flowers. It was an extremely unsteady construction, with a glass vase sitting inside a big old brass instrument bell, only supported by a small terracotta pot...

I wasn't so embarrassed or discouraged by this as one could expect. At least, it was possible to laugh about it, and nothing was broken (except a flower), but I am sure they will remember me!! Next time, I will wait on the doorstep before I enter, and shout "Hello? Any flower vases around, or can I come in?"

After this, I managed to listen to and almost remember what the trumpet guy told me about cleaning, drying and oiling brass instruments, so there's still hope, I think!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chincha-Chancha Cooroo or The Weaver’s Wedding

This is what Cedric wrote in another forum about the premiere of Bernard Hughes' opera "Chincha-Chancha Cooroo or The Weaver’s Wedding" with the young opera company W 11 in London:
You missed a rip-roaring success this evening. Bernard Hughes' children's opera is a multi-layered treat. Beautifully paced and directed with opportunities for every single member of the huge cast (80+ children) to do their bit. Bernard provided patter songs, duets, comic choruses, introspective solos, big set pieces and a neat orchestral interlude between the two acts (was Bernard inspired by a joint outing to see Berg's Lulu a year ago, I was wondering?).

Despite the story's Bengali origins and setting, the score steadfastly avoided any concessions to Bollywood beyond a tabla and a brief episode where a pizzicato cello stood in for a sitar. The music communicated in very singable but by no means predictable terms with remarkably resourceful use of a small group of nine instruments. The closing, roof-raising chorus proceeded majestically in 7/4 with the instrumental ensemble adding a thoroughly rousing contribution.

What was notable throughout was Bernard's clear determination to give each character (and there were six main characters and several subsidiary parts) something individual to sing. Bernard's librettist, William Radice, clearly knows how to inject wit, fantasy, drama and occasional pathos into the simplest of tales. The start, in which the Storyteller is loudly and hilariously rubbished by members of the cast planted in the audience who then get drawn into the story as it unfolds is an inspired opening.

On a more personal note, the stage action managed to include a quick cricket lesson for the hero, something which must have carried particular poignancy for the composer, given Bernard's devotion to the game and his assiduous following of England's unfortunate progress in the Ashes.

The production, choreography, sets and costumes as well as the cast and players all did Bernard's work proud. I think it would be fair to say that for Bernard and his librettist, Christmas has come very early this year.

[ written by Cedric Peachey, 09 Dec 2006]

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sibelius event in Stockholm

I was there! But I sat so close to the windows to the right, so I am not visible in this photo, or any of these.

[photo published with permission from Claes B Nilsson at]

Friday, October 27, 2006

An Old Poem

An Autumn Idyll

The earth and sky are all
Awash with gray,
And the soughing rain in the trees
Fills all the world with sound,
Dripping from the eaves,
Dripping from brittle leaves as
Green bleeds away to flame
And dust.

We lie, limbs entwined,
Stilled by sweetness and
Roisterous silence, as the
Milky sky unburdens and
Begs to sing us asleep.

The window is beaded with
Silver and diamonds,
As the raindrops tap to be let in
Where it is warm.
And one by one, the scarlet leaves drop,
Till the lawn is a great mosaic,
Seething with prophetic fire
Under a pewter sky.

And we breathe as one,
And our lips touch,
And we drowse into life together.

©R.A. Moulds, 1995

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New poem

Gold is wherever you look -
up the treetops, down in the moss.
Be glad; enjoy your fortune
while you can feel and see it -
this luck won't stay forever with us.

These are the days
when the aspen shines
more brightly than the sun.

These leaves are the lights;
the aspen trees the guides
on your path to winter.

No more green;
no need for shade.

These last weeks of the mushroom season
bright chanterelles have grown -
after the rain, the wind, the unpleasantness -
in unexpected places, in aromatic abundance.

Recall when all is dark, cold, hidden:
rustling light; fragrant gold.

© Maria Ljungdahl 2006

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Music a Remedy

Many and sundry are the means which philosophers and physicians have prescribed to exhilarate a sorrowful heart, to divert those fixed and intent cares and meditations, which in this malady so much offend; but in my judgment none so present, none so powerful, none so apposite as a cup of strong drink, mirth, music, and merry company...Many other properties Cassiodorus...reckons up of this our divine music, not only to expel the greatest griefs, but 'it doth extenuate fears and furies, appeaseth cruelty, abateth heaviness, and to such as are watchful it causeth quiet rest; it takes away spleen and hatred,' be it instrumental, vocal, with strings, wind, quae a spiritu, sine manuum dexteritate gubernetur, etc.; it cures all irksomeness and heaviness of the soul.

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy

Monday, October 16, 2006

Closed Road


When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies.

When music sounds, out of the water rise
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes,
Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face,
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place.

When music sounds, all that I was I am
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came;
While from Time's woods break into distant song
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along.

Walter de la Mare, Motley and Other Poems (1918)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Popular Taste

Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thirled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about "a new Silas Weekly" or "a new Lavinia Fitch" exactly as they talked about "a new brick" or "a new hairbrush". They never said "a new book by" whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like.

Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


It's an odd thing, but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with the teller but with you. They don't want to have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed.

Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Musical servants

Now we are back with some reports of what people have been working on over the summer, and how they plan to serve music best in the near future!

Cedric and Bernard will have works performed at the All Ears Festival. Tim is also involved in this, so he has this to say:
"The London Forum Composers Group All Ears Festival starts on 16th September and continues to October 6th. It is a celebration not only of the variety of music performed by London composers but also the organisation's own 10th anniversary. The music is wide ranging including our very own Cedric Peachey and Bernard Hughes among many others as well as members of the Portsmouth District Composers Alliance. On Saturday 30th September there are three events starting at 2.30 at The Warehouse. A copy of the flier with full information can be found on my website. If you are interested in joining the Forum Composers Group drop me a line. Just 20 quid a year, small beer really."
Tim has recently published a second movement in his work for violin, percussion and strings.

Here is Bernard's report:
"Latest news is that my children' opera Chincha-Chancha Cooroo is finally finished (in vocal score at least) and goes into rehearsal in a couple of weeks ahead of its performance in December by W11 Opera. The extract of The Death of Balder, performed by the BBC Singers in June, will be broadcast of Radio 3 some time in the autumn (and be available for a week online). The complete piece is due to be recorded by the Singers in January. Over the summer my Missa Sancti Michaelis was sung at both Norwich and Coventry Cathedrals, and at long last my Nonsense Songs for children’s choir have been published by Wild Woods Music. What next: who knows?"
Fung has been involved in many composing projects, including a sound installation outside the South Bank Centre, and a concert with his orchestration of music by the Icelandic group Sigur Ros.

Maria has explored the strange network of music and people at MySpace, and also started to convert things from some old cassette tapes with old compositions and performances into mp3 format, with the intent of using some bits of it for the presentation of her music at a composer/band profile page. This has inspired to some ideas of using old and new recorded music and sampled sounds for EAM compositions.

Andrew has organised a concert & garden party to celebrate the addition of a newly built music studio in his garden at Muckleberry Cottage.

Michael has composed several new tunes for piano and/or jazz ensemble, arranged some new material for his quintet, and published a revised final version of one of his older jazz tunes.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Playing for laughs

Perhaps opera needs comedy to be properly serious…

In one scene, two girls are being abandoned by their lovers, who are going, so the girls think, to war. In fact, it is part of a bet about whether the girls will be faithful in the face of temptation. But as the boys sail into the sunset, the girls launch into a farewell song of such shivering sincerity and sadness, that the boisterous tone of japery is utterly subverted, and the audience is moved – as much by the beautifully judged change of dramatic register as the perfectly weighted phrases of the song.

Singing with the girls, apparently joining in their sorrow but actually the instigator of the wager is an older man, whose drooping bass-line shows that, for all his weary cynicism, he is momentarily captured by the girls’ emotions.

Over a hundred and fifty years after Mozart’s Cosī fan tutte, another absurd, and absurdly affecting, operatic scene. A feckless young man has married the bearded lady from the fair, purely for notoriety. He is bringing her home in a carriage, already tiring of her prattle merely hours after their wedding. He steps out of the sedan to be confronted by his former, abandoned, lover. They instantly fall into song together, as they always did – but he is summoned by his imperiously demanding new wife. Who was that? she asks. A milkmaid I owed some money, he replies, knowing his hurtful remark will be overheard.

And the crowd – the paparazzi – gathers round, calling for the bearded lady to remove her mask and show them her hairy face. With pompous ceremony she does – the music echoing her foolishness, and the foolishness of the crowd: a shabby mock-grandeur that is the essence of bathos.

But at this moment of total ridiculousness the audience is aware of the young man’s being caught between two women, one offering love, the other fame. Although of his own making, we feel for him in his dilemma. As the strutting freak he has married laps up her adulation, a moment which is set up to be broad comedy, becomes tinged with a genuine, and surprising, sadness.

As Stravinsky began work on The Rake’s Progress in 1948 he asked his publisher to send him the full score of Mozart’s Cosī fan tutte, which, according to Robert Craft, he studied at great length.

Friday, July 07, 2006


If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you’ll abort it if you do. Be patient and you’ll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
(said by Lazarus Long, the main character in Robert A. Heinlein's novel Time Enough for Love)
More quotes.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Significance of Extra-musical Documentation

We all have our pet issues, don't we? My perennial sermon seems to be the inadvisability of imposing too much "text" on musical compositions. A recent statement in "The Gramophone" by Michael Tanner addresses this problem, with particular regard to a certain Slavic composer:

It's hoped that endless scrutiny of documents will tell us which movements are ironic, which victories that his symphonies apparently achieve are designedly pyrrhic, tell us, in fact, what the music itself fails to achieve.

Now, this is not to say that I necessarily agree with Mr. Tanner's complete view of the composer in question, but that last phrase deftly illustrates the hazards I see in applying too much extra-musical information, i.e., knowledge that does not proceed from the music itself. Do we fall into the trap of believing that a work is significant because we are told so, or because, after hearing it, we perceive it to be so? This blog entry is not meant to be an assessment of Shostakovich, and I am not at all certain I agree with Mr. Tanner's larger assessment [see "The Gramophone," July 2006 issue]. But, as always, there are larger points to be made, and greater concepts to be realized.

Monday, June 26, 2006

"Seek the wisdom of your elders, my son!"

Kyle Gann (and some readers of his blog) at PostClassic writes about old composers commenting on scores by young composers they have never met before:
"Ever since that day I have been dubious of hit-and-run assessments by Great Men, even when I myself am the great man. A composer recently asked to have a lesson with me, and I replied that, while I am always happy to look at someone's music, "a lesson" is something I feel capable of giving only the fourth or fifth time I see a student, after I've gotten an idea what they're trying to achieve in piece after piece, and have had a chance to observe what is holding them back or subverting their intentions. The inept feature that sticks out and ruins a young composer's otherwise suave piece might be the only original thing in it; it may be that they should keep the flaw and lose all the suavity they learned from other people's music, but it would take some depth of observation before I'd chance recommending that."
So, what do you all think our young colleagues at the forum are seeking, when they post links to their scores and ask for comments: Instant advice, or, advanced insights?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The First Thread of a Pattern

I first experimented with writing music when I was around fourteen or so. As with most young people, especially the ones we've lately seen at Sibelius Music, I was a bit ambitious, and did many things that exceeded my grasp. However, an interesting that illustrates a great difference between the youth I was and the youth we often see today, as well as a pattern that has continued into my twilight [sic] as follows:

A friend mentioned my compositions to our choral instructor in high school. She asked to see some of my things, and after a quick look at some choral pieces, she posed the fatal question..."Would you like the chorus to try some of them out?"

My answer? "No, thank you."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Artists and desire

"I've worked with a lot of artists, Em, and they all have a need that cannot be met by another human being."
In Madeleine L'Engle's novel Certain Women, which I am reading this summer (and can't recommend as one of her best!), the younger actress Emma is onboard the old and famous actor David Wheaton's big yacht, somewhere among the islands on the Pacific Northwest coast (near Vancouver, I think). David is her father, and he is very ill, probably dying. Together with friends and relatives, they talk about his life -- and his many wives...

Friday, June 16, 2006

When lyrics touch greatness

In the Still of the Night

-- Cole Porter --

In the still of the night
As I gaze from my window
At the moon in its flight
My thoughts all stray to you.

In the still of the night
While the world is in slumber,
Oh, the times without number,
Darling, when I say to you

"Do you love me as I love you?
Are you my life-to-be, my dream come true?"
Or will this dream of mine
Fade out of sight

Like the moon growing dim
On the rim of the hill
In the chill still of the night?

Why is this great writing?
Because it touches the heart? So do many bad poems.
Because the rhyming is effortlessly supple? So are most of Sondheim's works, yet few are as fine as this example.
Because the words are wonderfully singable? So are Barry Manilow's.
It is that word ''chill'' that makes this a lyric of genius. It catches on to the key word of the title, ''still'' and changes the whole lyric. A still, moonlight night. A lonely middle-aged man looking out of a window and wondering if the lover asleep in his bed will want to see him again. And he's cold. Like he will be the next day when lover boy isn't there. Brilliant.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Collective intelligence

"In the last year or two the trend has been to remove the scent of people, so as to come as close as possible to simulating the appearance of content emerging out of the Web as if it were speaking to us as a supernatural oracle. This is where the use of the Internet crosses the line into delusion."- Jaron Lanier, in "Digital Maoism: The Hazards Of The New Online Collectivism", published in Edge.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A real woman feels no need to publish her works?

Just as it is generally assumed that professionalism represents a status and identity to be aspired to, especially by the middle class, so most practitioners of Western music history assume that composers view publication as a universally desirable goal. But given the fact that women historically have had fewer pieces published than men, we might start to wonder about the assumptions behind that statement. Why has it been assumed desirable to publish? Why does a composer publish music? Might there be reasons why a composer might not wish to publish? What are the larger implications of such a choice? Are women problematized through ideological conflicts arising from publication?
- Marcia J. Citron: Gender and the Musical Canon (1993), p. 108.
Reading on in the chapter, I find that Citron makes the common analogy between creating works of art and raising children, and that she assumes only mothers, not fathers, can feel insecure and concerned about sending their "babies" out in the big bad world, and thus are more naturally controlling personalities, reluctant to show their efforts to anybody outside their circle of family and friends -- people the artist/writer/composer knows and can trust -- since "women may feel more comfortable conceiving a work for a knowable context" (p.111). Publication is like sending your children out in the unknown, it is also in part like the loss of a family member, the grown child who moves out of the house to live on his own; a "loss of control that engenders anxiety" (p.112). This possible anxiety of separation Citron says can be a problem both to male and female composers, but she suspects the "social conditioning" (conditions?) make it easier for a man to let a work of his enter the public's consciousness, as that is expected and encouraged practice in the world of professionalism, where his activities are supposed to belong.

Maybe we can conclude that at least in the past, women may have been both discouraged from and genuinely uninterested in sharing information about their personal, intellectual, artistical, practical and spiritual experiences with the whole wide world -- today, that equals the www, or internet.

I played my first composition for an audience of mostly unknown people when I was seven or eight years old. I sent my first book manuscript to big publishing companies when I was eleven. I published stories and opinions in a school paper I was editor for when I was 13. I have never held the view that my work is only for my near and dear to enjoy, or felt that the risk of attracting ridicule and critique from perfect strangers could make the enterprise of performance or publishing less appealing.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Wits are never happy people. The anguish that has scraped their nerves and left them raw to every flicker of life is the base of wit—for the raw nerve reacts at once without any agent, the reaction is direct, with no integumentary obstacles. Wit is the cry of pain, the true word that pierces the heart. If it does not pierce, then it is not true wit. True wit should break a good man's heart.

—Dawn Powell

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Amazing Prescience of Ages Past

"You may set it down as a truth which admits of few exceptions, that those who ask your opinion really want your praise, and will be contented with nothing else."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Birds as composers

As I was shovelling earth in my garden today I listened, as I always do, to the Brandenburg playing all around me. Two Blackbirds were doing a double solo spot worthy of JSB in its rhythmic energy and lightning repartee. A squeaky Dunnock tried to sing his little ditty at the same time, while in the backgound the Great Tits intoned their two-note chorale - "tea-cher, tea-cher''. At odd moments the cuckoo droned in the distance with that incredibly irritating song which is so evocative of Spring.

What struck me, amidst this polyphonic free-for all, was that Blackbird One was actually singing the William Tell Overture. Not the galloping bit, the spacious horn theme at the opening. Now, I just wonder if that yodelling phrase was passed down through generations of Blackbirds from a bird living outside Rossini's window - you never know. He would never have told. I wouldn't.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


[As] far as any geologist has yet gone down into the world, it is found to consist of nothing but surface stratified on surface. To its axis, the world being nothing but superinduced superficies. By vast pains we mine into the pyramid; by horrible gropings we come to the central room; with joy we espy the sarcophagus; but we lift the lid—and no body is there!—appallingly vacant as vast is the soul of a man!

—Herman Melville, Pierre

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More on Inherent Meaning

I recently read Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. At the end of the book the following passages sum up the problems with textual interpretation:

For the more I studied, the more I saw that reading a text necessarily involves interpreting a text. I suppose when I started my studies I had a rather unsophisticated view of reading: that the point of reading a text is simply to let the text "speak for itself," to uncover the meaning inherent in its words. The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and texts do not speak for themselves. If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says. But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean...The only way to make sense of a text is to read it, and the only way to read it is by putting it in other words, and the only way to put it in other words is by having other words to put it into, and the only way you have other words to put it into is that you have a life, and the only way to have a life is by being filled with desires, longings, needs, wants, beliefs, perspectives, worldviews, opinions, likes, dislikes—and all the other things that make human beings human. And so to read a text is, necessarily, to change a text.

This may not appear to have much to do with music, but considering our on-again, off-again discussions of inherent meaning, there is a definite correlation at work.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why are we celebrating Mozart, but not Schumann?

Norman Lebrecht comments the lack of interest in a Schumann anniversary:
Let's not be naive about this. Jowly Robert Schumann with his hangdog eyes is never going to sell as many marzipan boxes as the Wolf Gang, nor does any of his music fall as easily on the ear as the Amadeus soundtrack or the special-offer i-Tunes site. Where Mozart mints money, Schumann hints at suicide.
I wonder if this is a correct analysis. Maybe the market strategy for selling music to a mass audience can't count on success if the ads are centred on unpleasant facts in a composer's life - or his death. But, aren't celebrity scandals and unhappiness the very things that the public is interested in hearing more about? Are we admiring WAM today at the anniversary celebrating of his short life for the pleasantness of it - a short but happy and successful life in music - or are we secretly or openly admiring his dark sides, and are relieved that we are not sick and unhappy creative geniuses like WAM? Or, if I may introduce a little blasphemy: is he (and other "great artists", like Robert Schumann) worshipped as our musical saviour, who sacrificed himself?

Jessica Duchen has written an article in The Independent with some interesting new facts and opinions about Robert and Clara Schumann.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Composer news, March 2006

RAM is expecting a cd issue some time in the Summer with Danza: El que bailó con el Diablo (Dance: He who danced with the Devil) in its string orchestra arrangement.

MaLj's piece Di Mini Shed is programmed (but not confirmed, it depends on rehearsal time available) for a lunch recital on Wednesday 15 March at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, to be played (and recorded) by the saxophonist Ben Donnelly and his friends.

MWM has finally, after working on it for 12 months, (almost) finished a polished and well engraved version of his piano sonata sonate rouge. He is looking for a suitable pianist to perform it. It has to be a musician with experience of both classical and jazz piano techniques.

Cedric's setting of Into My Heart An Air That Kills (A.E. Housman) was performed by the tenor Nicholas Watts and the pianist James Longford at a concert on 25th February 2006 in Portsmouth, UK. As has been reported earlier, his Fugal Fantasia for Clarinet Septet will be performed on March 18th 2006 by Southwark Consorts of Winds .

Pat is working on and studying transcriptions of organ works by Froberger and other old masters, which has inspired him to start on a fantasia exploring the same ideas as a Froberger piece.

Jordi's arrangement for descant recorder and piano of Himno de Riego (José María de Reart y Copons) is planned to be performed in April, in Barcelona, by Paul Koutnik and Sabine F.

JJ has written a piano piece with the title snowflake realms.

Andrew is expecting a cd issue with his songs from German music theatre compositions. One of the songs is Silbermond.

Tim - ?

Bernard is still working on his children's opera (for December) and The Death of Balder for the BBC Singers (11 June in London). Missa Sancti Michaelis is getting its second outing on Saturday 25 March at the Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, Middlesex, UK.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Encoded Messaging

I am currently reading Don Quixote (or should it be Don Quijote?) after years of knowing only excerpts and criticism. Reading it in full (in the translation by Edith Grossman) has made me think, once again, about the age-old issue of encoded messaging or meaning in art vs. the personal interpretation of the reader/viewer/listener. Auerbach has mentioned the book's "continuous gaiety," but I have, so far, found nothing of the kind. Comedy, yes, but is Don Quixote meant to be a wildly comic book (or, more pointedly, did Cervantes mean for it to be so?) or does this depend on the reader? Obviously, some critics have found "gaiety," but others have noted the work's insistent darkness. Nabokov said

Both parts of Don Quixote form a veritable encyclopedia of cruelty. From that viewpoint it is one of the most bitter and barbarous books ever written.

Of course, Nabokov then goes on to say that its cruelty is "artistic," but "artistic cruelty" is markedly far from "continuous gaiety."

So, who is perceiving Cervantes' encoded meaning correctly? Those of us who find the adventures of "the Knight of the Sorrowful Face" overwhelmingly sad, or those who find a whirlwind of comedy and...yes, I'll say it again..."gaiety"? Or is the secret, perhaps, that the work's open-armed acceptance of differing interpretations is a characteristic that makes it a cornerstone of literature, and one of the greatest books ever written?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Wouldn't it be wonderful if our opinions and tastes were driven and formed by true and logical internal impulses rather than the desire to appear a certain way to others? I have begun to distrust the opinions of many because of their obvious wishes to appear sophisticated, intellectual, or in a more vernacular vein, "cool." Perhaps the old adage about keeping one's opinions to one's self has less to do with not wanting to hear what others have to say and more to do with simply not trusting others to deliver their opinions for the right reasons.

Perhaps this explains my irritation with endless discussions of which composers someone likes or dislikes, or the delusion that lists of "interests" truly tell anything about the person who compiled them.

Or perhaps I'm simply sleepy.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sunday sermon

(Photo of MaLj, by Lena Linn)

In this silent weekend when the SibMus forum (and the publishing site) has been down for a long period, other communication has filled the air, and occupied my mind. I received blog comments by email to a post that has now vanished, and other signs that individual taste and thinking are alive. Hardly surprising, the grandchildren preferred cookies and sandwiches to the pasta & antipasto smorgasbord I served at a birthday party.

After the blizzard, it is still cold, but sunny. I am listening to the music of the dishwasher. The cups and plates of the best set, that must not go in the machine, are already clean and dry. I am reading "Jude the Obscure" by Thomas Hardy, and wondering how much intellectual and artistic efforts are really "hopeless causes" (if I use the phrase correctly)?

Friday, January 13, 2006


"Conformity is the inspiration of much second-rate virtue. If we keep near a certain humble level of morality and achievement, our neighbors are willing to let us slip through life unchallenged. Those who anticipate the opinions and decisions of society must expect to be found guilty of many sins."

—Sarah Orne Jewett, A Country Doctor

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


"Do you know that I have understood something lately better than I ever did before,—it is that success and happiness are not things of chance with us, but of choice. I can see how we might so easily have had a dull summer here. Of course it is our own fault if the events of our lives are hindrances; it is we who make them bad or good. Sometimes it is a conscious choice, but oftener unconscious. I suppose we educate ourselves for taking the best of life or the worst, do not you?"

— Sarah Orne Jewett, Deephaven

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dying - The end of a two-part invention

I am reading Madeleine L'Engle's "Crosswicks Journal" books. The fourth one in the series (I read them in the wrong order), "Two-Part Invention", is mostly about her marriage to the actor Hugh Franklin. She starts the book with some funny stories and theatre gossip from New York in the '40s; then a bit about their years as general store owners in the Connecticut countryside; but the rest of the book is a depressing and painfully detailed description of how her husband of forty years is dying in cancer, while she tries to understand where God is when good people are punished for sins they have not committed (she is assuming cancer is caused by environmental pollution and "synthetic" life). But even in this dark book she says wonderful things about music and writing, like in "Circle of Quiet" (the first book in the series):
"As soon as Bion, our baby, was in nursery school, I dropped out of the group of mothers who occasionally gathered together to drink coffee and gossip. This was writing time. Nobody else needed writing time. And I felt that I was looked at askance because I spent so much time at the typewriter and yet couldn't sell what I wrote. I certainly wasn't pulling my weight financially.

"In my journal I wrote: 'There is a gap in understanding between me and our friends and acquaintances. I can't quite understand a life without books and study and music and pictures and a driving passion. And they, on the other hand, can't understand why I have to write, why I am a writer. When, for instance, I say to someone that I have to get home to work, the assumption is that I mean housecleaning or ironing, not writing a book. I'm very kindly permitted to be a writer but not to take time in pursuing my trade. Nor can they understand the importance of music, or why an hour spent with a Mozart sonata at the piano is not wasted time but time spent on a real value. Or really listening, without talking, to music. Or going for a walk simply to see the beauty around me, or the real importance of a view from a window.' "

– Madeleine L'Engle, Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (1988)