Monday, June 15, 2015

Geographical Preludes: some comments on the comments

Rereading the comments in the score of my Geographical Preludes has made me aware that a few further comments are necessary, even corrections. But first, here are the locations of the various towns:

Alpharetta, Georgia
Birmingham, Alabama
Buena Vista, Georgia
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Damariscotta, Maine
Fairfield, Connecticut
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Hadley, Massachusetts
Homerville, Georgia
Janesville, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Middletown, Connecticut
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Montpelier, Vermont
New Haven, Connecticut
New York, New York
   (or as Chris Johnson puts it, the great state of
Pelham, Alabama
Rochester, New York
South Bristol, Maine
Titusville, Florida
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Waleska, Georgia
Wallingford, Connecticut
West Palm Beach, Florida
Westfield, Massachusetts
Westport, Connecticut
Wiscasset, Maine
Woodbury, Vermont

In Part ONE I mention sketches for seven more of these preludes. In actuality there are many more than seven. I’ve been working off and on for years on the Metter Prelude (see below), but it is difficult to bring to conclusion. There are some other sketches that are in pretty good shape and might get finished, but actually I have other compositional fish to fry at this point, and I’m not sure there will be many more of these pieces. This particular compositional vein seems mined out, or close to it.

My admiration for the Chopin preludes has only grown in the last twelve years. I have always loved them, but they seem more and more one-of-a-kind, more and more original, more and more enigmatic. They are so familiar that sometimes one must work to recapture their freshness. (Scrupulously noting the original pedal markings is a big help.) Appreciating their emotional complexity is also useful. Morbidity, for example, is an emotional state that few composers have attempted, but the A minor prelude is my candidate for the most morbid piece ever written.

I mention in Part TWO that many of these preludes are based on recycled materials. These are by no means my only “ecological” compositions, in this sense. A Book of Pieces for the Harpsichord, for example, is entirely based on old sketches, and I am currently writing some short pieces for piano-four-hands that repurpose some of my juvenilia.

Part THREE suggests a future that will not happen. My brother, who was to have showed me the various places my father worked, died unexpectedly earlier this year. We talked repeatedly about the trip, but it kept getting postponed, usually because of his health. My mother died suddenly in 2003, at the age of 89, so I can’t ask her about any of Daddy’s work locations either. My only sister is also deceased, so whatever hints she might have offered are not going to be forthcoming. And my wife Phyllis, who accompanied me on so many trips to so many of these places, (where Daddy worked and where made sketch after sketch) is also deceased.

I could look up town records in the places I know of where my father worked — in the score I mention Arab, Dothan, Okeechobee, Hinesville and Wiggins — but it wouldn’t be the same as soaking up my brother’s inimitable, jocular banter about these little spots on the map. So I don’t think the Dothan Quickstep, the Okeechobee Waltz, etc., will ever be written.

Similarly, as I mentioned above, I have many, many sketches for other Geo Ps, but I don’t think they will become full-fledged Geographical Preludes. A few of them might become miscellaneous ones (in the manner of the Chopin Prelude in C# minor, opus 45), or parts of larger, as yet unimagined works. But a second set of these pieces, on the scale of the first, is not in the cards.

As I said earlier in today’s blog, at the top of the list of possible future pieces in this vein is the Metter Prelude (sketched in Metter, Georgia, not too far from Savannah and county seat of Candler County). It is well along and I am determined to finish it. The problem is — it has now been in the works for fifteen years, and I have to reconstruct my train of thought. Any composer knows this is a tricky task, but as I say, I am determined.

I stand by Part FOUR.

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