Monday, August 11, 2014

The Seventh Eb Flat Quartet, Opus 35, for Steve Hicken

So what is my music mean what does?  In the case of the Eb  quartet, it composed for Steve Hicken,  a man whose music sounds nothing like my own.  Or does it really?

Steve's music,  to say the least,  is atonal,  where mine is decidedly not.  Surely this would do major damage to whatever features they hold in common.  But in fact there are many subterranean features that are under the surface, which point rather directly to an affinity of choices,  which both  pairs  of music share in common.  It might help to know that we have both criticized  each other's music for over a decade,  while other voices have lain by the wayside.  One can honestly say,  the other holds a place in the consciousness of the other which is unique,  in a different way,  from every other voice in the cacophony of detail that it elaborates.

In this, E flat quartet has a set of choices which can only be said to rely on  away of hearing.  It can also be said that he, personally, was near to this subject,  being that he was in Tallahassee, Florida. Thus while musical details are important,  other details  came to matter at least as much.  So now I will attempt to detail a few of the choices which mold this shape,  which I have not done before.  these choices undergird the musical structure of piece,  in some very intricate ways.

In the E flat quartet there are five movements,  though one of them is in a two movement  form that divides in half.  First movement is  opening with a theme which if you don't know what is modeled directly after the Ninth Symphony of  Beethoven,  this is an extreme measure,  one that says this is an important work,  whether or not it will be carried out or not,  is another question.  But there is also something very American about this theme,  as well,  specifically something southern.  and  that southern sensibility,  traits through the work.  and this is the first detailed that points to why the   dedicatee  is part of this,  because if you know Steve you will tell immediately that he is  Southern. but this is hardly worth mentioning,  if there were not deeper connections that this.

First it is worth noting that the primary theme drips  out to subsidiary themes,  a wide opening stands,  and every narrow intricate form of dance.  They are both related to the primary theme,  though in different ways.  but both of these themes are very American in nature,  one of them is a dance which has an American theme to it.  this was intentional,  as if to say while the root of the composition is Germanic,  or Austrian if you prefer,  the face of the composition is decidedly not.

The second movement is what could be called to be a perverse kind of dance, with the center piece which if you don't recognize it is Dies Irae,  joining Berlioz, Rachmaninoff,  Sans-Sans, among others. What makes it different is the scattering of themes around it,  a general scattering which is common  to this piece of music,  though not to my music as a whole.  This splay around the outside are a welter of themes,  each one of them related to all of the others.  then only finally does Dies Irae come in to focus, as a firm standard,  with all of the pieces consuming.  their was a piece of Steve Hickens music,  some years before,  which had the same intricate pieces around a central theme, which I had wanted to set in my own variations,  but there had not been the form,  or mastery,  to do this, until I said down these notes.

The third movement is in two very distinct halves.  One of them is a slow movement composed almost exclusively of single  chords,  the second half is composed  of  triplet induced frenzy which overtakes each  chord,  and is very quick in tempo.  This second half is easy to explain how it came to be,  easy Steve was working on the very same thing,  but I was disappointed because it did not do nearly enough with the cords,  so  I sent him back,  written in a couple of days,  what I had meant by chords that were broken.  I think at this point in our friendship,  though of course I could not be sure,  he knew that this composer from for across the fields,  was doing things that in their own  tonal way were doing some of the same things.

The fourth group  was a very  specific idea,  that all a man,  on the beach,   throwing rocks in to  the beachhead.  He was wondering where the storm was going,  though he knew it wasn't destined for him. of course the man was Steve Hicken, on the beach of Tallahassee,  a place I knew from the days after the 2000 election.  It was not easy which was our first topic of conversation,  to say the least.  I do not think,  no I know,  that leaders of the liberal movement did not realize that it was Tallahassee,  not Washington DC,  where things were happening.

The last movement was in fact written first,  because I knew where this was taking us,  because the proto-storm system had stopped in the water and then reformed,  on the other side of a break in the pattern of clouds.  at that moment I saw someone standing on the beach staring at the clouds,   knowing that  they were bound elsewhere. The face was drawn,  not for his own pain,  but to the pain of people he did know,  but were somewhere under the clouds.

Eventually, and I mean very eventually,  Steve was able to write what I regard as his finest work to date,  as usually the case it took him a very long time,  but the result was  excellent,  in my opinion.  and I hope it will be played many times to his credit.  so that, they say,  is why there is so much of a atonal piece of music,  in the middle of a very tonal piece of music.  so when people are discussing total versus a  atonal,  realize that there are other differences which are more important.