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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Orchestrating Tesla's Pigeon, Part 2

I took the day off today. Matt and I ran errands and visited Philly Electric Wheels to try out one of their new electric bikes I've been eyeing up to replace my old clunky 68-pound eZip*. I would like to get back into commuting on two wheels (hopefully without being physically attacked or hit by a car) because I am quite possibly the most unfit able-bodied person on the planet. Like, I test-rode the bike -- an electric pedal assist bike -- for maybe two blocks and back, and now my quads hurt. What.

This week has reminded me why I procrastinate so heavily before working on a composition. It takes over everything. I lost five pounds in five days because I forgot to eat and my brain was burning fuel overtime. I forgot how to interact with people. I slept poorly, woke early, and went straight from my bed to my office like a zombie. I neglected my husband. I let some of my plants die. I didn't do any housework.

Instead, I threw together a 55-page orchestral score. Thank god for Sibelius keyboard shortcuts; even as good as I am with them, the wrist on my mouse hand is sore. Yesterday I tried to take a break. Do something else! my body screamed at me. You cannot sustain this level of focus! What I ended up doing was cutting some 100lb paper to 10 by 13 inches in order to eventually print parts on them, and after about an hour of guillotining, I went back to working on the score.

Today I finally tore myself away, and now I don't want to go back for a while. But I'm seeing my teacher on Thursday, so I'm sure that will suck me back in to endless tweaking and formatting, and I'll have ECU tendonitis before you know it.

Speaking of Tesla, tomorrow I have to get up at the crack of dawn and drive myself and my long-suffering husband to the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan for the inaugural Tesla Memorial Conference. Tesla's star sure is on the rise, and it's neat that I'm apparently a part of that. I'm giving a short talk at the 5:00PM session, but I'll be hanging around all day. Hey, maybe they'll let me go in his old room.

Oh, by the way, there are some moments in the orchestration which I am REALLY REALLY happy about. The Wagnerian harmonies in song VII are going to sound so freaking boss on brass, and song VI was basically written for harp; I barely had to make any adjustments (although those adjustments took forever, because I had to remember how harp pedaling works).

Of course, the *real* reason I'm working this hard is because I'm procrastinating Ayn. Sigh.

* The Fast4Ward Edge, if you're interested. This would be the most expensive bike I've ever owned by a factor of 5.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Orchestrating Tesla's Pigeon

I've been talking idly about arranging Tesla's Pigeon for orchestra for a long time. Ever since writing it, I've clearly known which instruments are supposed to be playing each line. Maybe this has something to do with what a crap pianist I am; even when I'm writing for piano, I'm not really writing for piano.

Anyway, I started by sitting down this weekend with this awesome score of the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition that I found in my room. I have no idea how it got there -- did someone give it to me? Did I buy it one day knowing I'd need it? At any rate, I pulled it out along with the piano score, only to discover that BY GOD these Eulenburg geniuses have included the original piano in the orchestral score for reference. Modern convenience. So great. Thank you, whatever unseen force put this score on my shelf.

The solstice is past, and I can feel my body and brain slowly turning toward the spring and seeing light at the end of a seasonally depressed tunnel. It's been a nasty slump this winter. The one "good" thing about depression is that it sometimes precipitates very intense emotional reactions -- to music, for example. So long as I'm not out in public or trying to drive straight, I appreciate them. I listened to Pictures at an Exhibition by myself with my handy Eulenburg Edition score on Sunday, and by the time I walked past the Great Gate of Kiev, I had completely lost it. I was literally sobbing. Sobbing! I mean, sure, I love that piece. I played it with QYO back in the day, and most of the pieces I played in my mid-teens made a huge impression. But: heaving sobs ... I haven't had that happen during a piece since I accidentally caught the Alpine Symphony on NPR back in 2008. Funnily enough, I played that with QYO too. Probably something to be said about that.

God, Ravel is good.

My hope is that I will have it orchestrated by the time school starts next week, and that the Curtis Orchestra will read it this semester. With Jess Lennick on pipes, naturally. I've made a cracking start: all the main stuff has been parceled out to the appropriate instruments, and now I just have to embroider. Oh, and create parts, I guess. Ugh.

I am heading to bed with this Eulenberg score. It's even a convenient bed-reading size. Such a fan.