This morning was productive as I formatted the clarinet part for my Sonata for Clarinet and Piano and finished the first movement of Guatemaya. In formatting the clarinet part, I discovered one more note that was out of range that I missed while working on the score. This exemplifies why I feel that is so important to work on the parts before declaring the score finished. This one note (beginning of rubato section of movement 2) caused me to move about three measures up an octave in order to preserve the intended line. At the same time, it added a nice variety in register that was not present before, so it was a blessing in disguise.
The "Porta Barrios" movement of "Guatemaya" turned out to be just under 2 minutes. The movement interchanges the short motivic ideas with the rolled notes derived from the more lyrical theme. Thinking about this movement got me thinking about what I feel is a problem with much contemporary music. I feel that the good music has a balance between good craftmanship and, for the lack of a better description, has "memorable" quality. Good craftmanship is present in most contemporary music, but one of the things I feel is a problem is that many composers loose their sense of proportion. They get so carried away with the craft that their ear just doesn't tell them when it is time to change to a contrasting idea or end what they have done. The "memorable" quality is often lacking because they loose sight of the principals of Gestalt Psychology, which have documented how the human brain remembers. I strongly encourage everyone to read John Winsor's book "Breaking the Sound Barrier: An argument for Mainstream Literary Music". He has an excellent discussion of this approach. Because "Porta Barrios" uses short motivic ideas to create variety, I use the lyrical line as way of creating unity. The are many well-crafted variations of the motivic ideas, most of which the listener will not be aware of. What the listener will perceive, however, is a sense that things a similar, but not exactly alike. I feel that the movement has a good sense of proportion and after the ideas were developed, it was time to stop and move on to a contrasting movement.
I am awaiting feedback from Meggie Aube regarding the practicality of performing sections of this movement. I have written for marimba before, but because I am not a percussionist, I am concerned that I will write something that could be made easier without loosing the effect I am aiming for. I heard a radio announcer introduce a clarinet concerto by Louis Spohr by saying he was not a clarinetist but a violinist and wrote the piece as if he was writing for violin. This caused clarinetists to stretch their technique. I am all for composer's and musicians collaborating to expand the capabilities of and instrument. Yet I think it is irresponsible for a composer to write whatever they want and let the performers figure out how to make it work, especially if there is another way to write something and achieve the same goal. I remember the brass players of the Lancaster Symphony complaining a few years back about playing a piece that was selected for their Composer's Award Concert that was page after page of extremely high tessitura. Yes, the notes are on the instrument, but brass players need to rest. Just because a computer can play it, doesn't mean that people can. So my advice is to check with several musicians to see if they all have the same opinion. If they do, maybe the composer needs to re-examine how to create the effect he/she is looking for.
To see and hear what is discussed, go to http://www.cooppress.net/guatemayablog.html