Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Composition 103 + 169 - an insider review

A long time ago I knew that October 11 would be the day that I would don a green outfit, cape, hat and a zorro mask and make my way through Composition 103 for 7 trumpets. I had performed the piece almost a year earlier, so I knew what I was getting myself into. This time, I was better prepared for the constant meter changes, position changes, and mute changes. At least I hoped that I was. Deep down, I was afraid that I wasn't. And although I had a vague idea of where this music lived as a complete being, I wasn't sure that I personally had found it's life.

All of that was on my mind as I drove to New York city last Wednesday for the first rehearsal. I don't really remember the drive down very much. I left early so that I had plenty of time. I don't recall taking advantage of it to do anything great. Actually, strangely enough, I wanted to stop in Middletown to eat and catch a breather, but I missed the exits. Then, I stopped in New Haven trying to find this raw vegan restaurant, even though I don't know where in New Haven it is. I got stuck in traffic on the way to New Haven.

I forgot to write down the address of the rehearsal space, I only had the directions. Luckily Nate was early and he was standing out in front of it. Luckily I did not leave the area to get a drink, because a tow truck showed up and began preparing to take my car away. I ran across the street and hopped into the car, laughing. It turns out that almost the entire West side is for commercial vehicles only until 6pm. I returned and parked the car right in front of the rehearsal space and watched it until rehearsal.

The first rehearsal was sort of riding a bike after having not done so for 10 years. I know what that is like because I went that long not riding a bike once. Everything was familiar but on shaky ground. We gradually got our bearings together. The other trumpet players really helped me to grasp the method of conducting all the measures with the extra 16th. This was my real eureka moment. Once I got the hang of that I could focus on feeling the music.

I left the rehearsal feeling ok. Not great, just ok. I went and got some food and then connected up with my old friend Jessica at a karaoke night in Brooklyn. I got to meet her boyfriend and some of her other friends. I sang "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper and "Sweet Emotion" by Aerosmith. Afterwards, I headed to my motel in Nyack. It was my first time on the Palisades Parkway. I'd love to see it in the daytime.

The next day I went to a vegetarian Caribbean place (my favorite food) in Spring Valley. I was really trying to get off the beaten path and explore new areas. Spring Valley was ok. It sort of reminded me of that movie "Be Kind Rewind" with Jack Black and Mos Def (I can't remember where that took place - Hackensack?)

Afterwards I drove into the city, bought a suit, some ties, and a belt (for a wedding) and headed to rehearsal. For me personally, the rehearsal went much better than the first. I walked out feeling really confident. Back to Boston, and to work.

The day of the gig I drove down to New Haven to pick up Taylor. Then we picked Tim up in Washington Heights and finally we were off. We discussed the usual topics, politics and music. Not that I am the most interested in discussing politics, but I can contribute. Tim and I were discussing post-modernism and an image came into my mind that has humorously stayed there. I tried to find it on youtube but I didn't see it. It's the scene in Coming to America where Eddie Murphy's characters joyously yells, "Yes! Fuck you too!" in response to his neighbors yelling "Fuck you!" at him because he is practically serenading the neighborhood.

So we got to the gig and had a short rehearsal with Anthony conducting. His conducting cleared things up for me even more. At this point I was feeling fairly confident. So on to my sentiments on the performance: Overall I think we did a fantastic job. The inner logic of the composition was able to shine forth on at least some level. The bullfight theme is perfect for the work because there is certainly a feeling of man going up against something large and perhaps barely making it through, but making it through with a feeling of victory. We didn't really do the movements this time, but I hope that they will come back in the future. Because I can see better now how the movements go together with the music. Anthony told that he was (for the future) working on 3D strategies, but I think he's already approached that with this piece.

Composition 169 for brass quintet is very different from 103. It has a more homophonic feeling, with many of the parts playing the same stuttered, challenging rhythms together. The discipline of holding these parts together is impressive. Not only that, I am impressed by the discipline of the composer, to develop it slowly. This piece is golem like, evoking the images of our historical mythic tales. Particularly I found myself thinking of Promethus, bringing fire to man.

It was a great time, a bit too much like a vacation. I wish more of my life could be like last weekend. Not that I don't appreciate what I have here, I'm just saying.

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