For two months in the summer of 1989 I was a Composer Fellow guest of the Boston Symphony at their summer home in Tanglewood, in Western Massechussetts. I had made an application but expected it to be rejected as usual, but I learned that Milton Babbitt stood up for me with the recommendation that "He's that crazy guy trying to do contemporary music in San Francisco." It's not the only time that my being called "crazy" was meant as a positive recommendation. Ollie Knussen was running the Contemporary Music program. I wrote a fair amount of music, shmoozed, ate, slept, and sweltered in the record high heat wave. I lived in Koussevitsky's mansion Serenak, in the room overlloking the garden behind the kitchen; my girlfriend Cathy Yaklich flew out to visit me for a week. It was the best two months of my life. I have ever since felt closer to Boston than San Francisco, which tolerates me only as a cab driver.
I wrote the Three Purgatory Sonatas at Tanglewood, the time of my life most corresponding to Paradise. Here are the pieces that I completed or conducted that summer at Tanglewood:
OH OMBRE, VANE ("Oh, Vane Shades") Quartet after Dante
First Purgatory Sonata
for Two Clarinets, Viola, and Guitar
The copying of this 1988 work was completed at Tanglewood.
THE CAVERNS OF THE SACRED RIVER, Concerto after Coleridge
for String Orchestra with Percussion
The copying of this 1988 work was also completed at Tanglewood.
LA TURBA CHE RIMASE LI ("The Throng That There Remained")
Second Purgatory Sonata
Trio for Viola, Harp, and Percussion
MA PER QUEL POCO ("But Through That Glimpse")
Third Purgatory Sonata
Chamber Concerto for Octet
This piece was written to a request made by Ollie Knussen for a work to be written in one week. Sections of the piece were read in a workshop at Tanglewood.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CINDERELLA Song Cycle #1
for Mezzo soprano and Four Instruments
This piece was written for a Liederabend that Ollie Knussen requested we hold as a good-bye to that summer's Composer-In-Residence, Hans Werner Henze. This is one of the works Henze mentions on Page 458 of his autobiography, "Bohemian Fifths." The poems to be set for the Liederabend had to be OKed by Henze. I came prepared with the fours poems by Donald Mitchell, hoping for exactly this opportunity.
After reading them, Henze said they were "Perfect." Only the first song was sung at the Liederabend, with a Phillis Curtain Fellow singing the female voice part, and myself on the piano.
NOTE: The World Premiere of this piece was choreographed by Gary Palmer.
To see the video of this dance performance CLICK HERE.
ONE WINTER SPARROW
for Soprano, Treble Voices, and Piano
This choral song, to a text by W.S. Merwin about a bird in the snow who sees a cat, was written on a very, very hot day.
THE LANTERN IN THE CRYPT
for Double String Orchestra
This piece was orchestrated from a short piano piece written in an accessible style in September 1985. It was given with a stupid limerick as a peace offering to Leonard Bernstein, who said simply "Thank you for your gift," but from his remark about THE CHILDERMASS I don't think he liked my music very much. Of the latter piece he said "There's so much pain," which of course is wrong. I well remember thinking of making the reply "But it sounds heroic." Perhaps I was mistaken to think it would be better for me to remain silent, but no one who knows me or of my passion for Expressionist music could reasonably think I accepted his remark.
THE CHILDERMASS, Chamber Concerto after Wyndham Lewis
This work was written well before I went to Tanglewood, but it was the piece selected for performance there. I was given two full rehearsals in the Shed, and honor that even conducting fellows don't normally get. What I didn't know was that these rehearsals were being broadcast all over the campus! Fortunately they went well...
There was also a one-page left-hand rendering of a simple tonal piece called STEADFASTNESS, dedicated to Leon and Cathy Fleischer. Leon expressed sincere enjoyment of the piece.
Posted June 20, 2011. Updated 7/8/2011.