I finished Piano Concerto for Dave in good time, a couple of weeks ago. Also I decided to call it Home Stretch. There are a few reasons for this, but mostly I wanted to give Dave something that had to do with fast cars, which he is obsessed with. You should see that guy when he walks by a ’67 Jaguar or something on the street. It’s actually kind of scary.
The main concept behind Home Stretch was that it would be one long, gradual acceleration, in three main sections. What I didn’t realize initially was that I’d never written that big a chunk of uninterrupted music before (it’s about 18 minutes). Shy and Mighty, even though it’s about an hour, is divided into more or less discreet tracks, none of which is more than 10 minutes. So it required lots of effort and a good deal of fiddling and adjusting proportions to make Home Stretch feel right.
Here’s a preview of the first section. The strings hold everything down with very long, sustained chords with slight pulsation, which I wanted to sound like an idling engine heard from a distance of several blocks. I fooled around with a few different ways of notating pulsation in a static chord, but here’s the one Aaron liked best:
For the past couple of weeks I’ve also been working on an honest-to-goodness professional graphic design gig. The Yale Symphony hired me to do their publicity for the last concert of the year. Here’s the standard letter-sized poster (click for full size):
Since the program consists of late Brahms and early Mahler, I wanted to do something that didn’t show them both on equal footing. Brahms was so firmly entrenched in the culture of German music by the end of the 19th century, when Mahler was working on his first symphony, that the “anxiety of influence” felt by the younger composer must have been overwhelming. Mahler responded to it by combining his influences with a hyper-romantic, almost hallucinogenic worldview, which is what makes his symphonies thrilling and original, yet ties them to the German tradition. So Mahler is represented on the poster as almost despairing, having cast aside his glasses— the instrument he uses to view the world— while Brahms is the stern, immovable monument which must be confronted.
In reality, though, those are my glasses— it’s a secret double meaning!