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Boston (Part I)

from Sunday, June24th of the year2007.

I write this from Boston; it is the most gorgeous day here and I just had a run through the Boston Common, which really does remind me a lot of Hyde Park. Last year, when I was traveling back-and-forth to hyde-parkjpg.jpgLondon every six weeks or so, I would always overshoot my arrival time and end up killing a few hours on a park bench in Hyde Park, reading whatever I thought was the book that everybody in London was reading. For about six months, it appeared as if everybody was reading We Need To Talk About Kevin, and for good reason, because it’s great and completely chilling.

Last night was the first performance of Wish You Were Here, and it went very well. The rehearsal was great; Symphony Hall in Boston is one of the world’s great acoustic spaces. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the piece develops over four performances; I have never had four consecutive performances of any piece, so, it’s an exciting first for me. Keith Lockhart, by the way, was so on top of this score, and when he conducts it, he is really selling it. It’s a pleasure to watch him go for it.

The Boston Globe has decided to engage me slightly with this whole Website Brouhaha (scroll down to previous posts to see what I’m talking about). Check out this RSS Feed and you can see more about it. What’s odd about their commentary is that whenever they quote me, they elide through anything funny. For instance, I originally wrote, “Their ass may have Jimmy”; they quoted me thus: “[They] might have Jimmy [Levine],” which is not funny. Fortunately, they printed the full text on their blog (linked above), but still, on this morning’s post, which contained no commentary on the music, which I suppose is fine, I had written a self-deprecating remark about my own titles, which they elided through. Can you not write ass in print? shrimp_cocktail.jpgCome on, girl, I’m trying for something between Charm School, February House, and Unzipped; the least you can do is meet me halfway! Thanks for coming, though; announce yourself next time and Felix and I will send a shrimp cocktail to your ass.

(In totally parenthetical news, has anybody else noticed that iTunes automatically stars out the word “cum” even if it’s in Latin? Half of my Palestrina collection is the Expurgated Edition).

I have always felt so touched when listeners ““ and even/especially critics – engage with music on a musical level ““ I recall a piece that Jeremy Eichler (formerly of the [New York]Times, now at the [Boston] Globe) wrote about my Elements of Style cycle; he performed a very nice close-analysis of one passage, and a bunch of people called me up after reading the article and then seeing the show, saying how much they appreciated having had somebody “listen” to the piece in print. picture-2.pngReviews, of course, usually take into consideration a lot of the social factors surrounding a piece, and, in the case of the Boston Pops, it is interesting because they seem to be an institution in transition; whatever intricate work I do figuring out how the clarinet needs to repeat this one thing against this other bassoon thing is easily lost in the seismic hubbub of the Boston Orchestral Drama. It was still, though, a pleasure to write, and a pleasure to hear. See picture, above, of the hard trumpet lick; I am really making the trumpets work for it in this piece, and they are soldiering along wonderfully; I always feel guilty because my music banks on strategic repetition which can sometimes be really annoying to play. Such are the small details and compromises that make it so hard to be a composer, though.

01_birthday_cake.jpgSo often, being a young composer (Keith Lockhart added a year to my age last night! My friends heckled him but they were Unamplified), any attention you get is about the fact of that: the fact of having done such and such a thing at such and such an age, rather than the actual notes on the page and how well they go with each other; this is the fundamental battle on a daily level (notes-rhythms-spacings). The other stuff ““ websites, blogs, age, etc., is fun but secondary.

In any case, I had a great time last night, and I was really happy that a lot of people came up to me afterwards and said how much they had enjoyed it; I am so shy about approaching composers after their concerts. I’m looking forward to tonight’s installment; tomorrow is off, and then we recommence on Tuesday.