I'm working this month with Opera Southwest, playing piano for their rehearsal process. Our endeavor is Bless Me, Ultima, a new opera by Héctor Armienta; the source novel is a classic of New Mexican literature. Since I have more experience in the trenches with music theater, the question often presents itself: do we really need to sing *everything*? Wouldn't it make sense to talk through some of this setup business, making our introductions, getting people from room to room, and save the singing for when the pitchforks and torches come out? But having my hands and ears inside this new work, feeling my way through it with a crew of professionals who live and breathe in this style, I'm starting to realize that singing everything is the whole game of it. That's the challenge. We're not starting from naturalism and dovetailing with artifice—we're starting from artifice and striving toward naturalism. The one's bread, the other's the jam. It's a question of ratios.
Anyway, as with music theater, I like the intensity of the process. And more than music theater, I like the demands this playing makes on my concentration. Rolling through a whole act of music with the singers, no stopping, no sitting and reading a novel through long scenes of spoken exposition about witches (though a person can only admire Cyd Charisse's waxen stare in the movie version), with all the changes and shifts of the score, that's a good challenge.
Because people make too many sports metaphors about concert performance and not enough about opera, here's one: in rehearsal, the conductor is the pitcher, and the répétiteur (my job) is the catcher. Between the two, you've got to try and control the diamond.
I've been neglecting this space, in favor of my highly occasional newsletter, and more particularly in favor of playing a hell of a lot of piano since roughly September 2016. It turns out that when one can sight read, is polite and punctual, one's time becomes worth something. Being paid to play more has been rewarding, and not just financially. In composer-world one is generally asking everyone for favors all the time; it's nice to be doing musical work for others in service of their ideas for a change.
I find myself less and less in composer-world. Today it occurred to me, out of the blue, to remove the list of compositions from my website. Pen-and-paper notated composition work has been the heart of my creative effort for twenty years. Or, at least I thought it was the heart. Really it's been someplace else for almost ten of those years now. So, I didn't remove the workslist in preparation for a major change in direction; actually I believe the change happened long ago. I'm still writing formal compositions, when people ask me to, but when I get up in the morning and have an hour or two to work on personal projects, that's not where I go. So: I removed the workslist simply because it no longer contained the work of which I'm most proud. That would be the recorded music and the performances over the last several years. Those links are still up. Recordings of my formal compositions are still on my Soundcloud. And I'm still available for commissions. But if you're meeting me for the first time, that's not the music I most want you to hear. That would be the stuff on my Bandcamp, and on GWB's. And the stuff that's still coming.
I've been mixing the new GWB album, the one with Ross Gallagher from last summer, with local mastermind Drake Hardin. I can't wait to share this music. We dug deep, that week in August.
I would tell you about Christmas, but I wrote a song about it, and I don't want to spoil the surprise.
There's more to talk about from the last year, and I hope I'll get to it soon. In the meantime, there's the present. Still walking. In the meantime: Bartók's Contrasts. The Ravel Violin Sonata. A brand new opera. Long walks. PANCRACE. John McPhee's structure diagrams. Appreciating the afternoons.
10 Best of 2014
January: Wyoming and the Open
February: New Mexico and the Holes
Notes on The Accounts