Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Roots, Trunk and Branches

A composer's catalog ought to be straightforward, just a list of pieces, just the facts, Ma'am.  And for a small handful of composers with only a small handful of pieces (e.g. Ruggles, Varese, Webern, Evangelisti), a straightforward list works fine, whether chronological, alphabetical, classified, or graded for performance difficulty, like beef graded for tenderness.  

But not all catalog are so neat and compact, and not all pieces in catalogs were made equal or made even in the same order of magnitude and purpose.  Eventually a talented and/or lucky composer will have his South Pacific  (paraphrasing composer Ron Kuivila), the hit, or the ambitious, large-scale work intended for travel and —perhaps — destined for war horse status, but many of us will have many more, smaller pieces of less scope and ambition but made,  perhaps,  with just as much art, craft, and care as the big ones.  Add to this the backlog of juvenalia, incidental, and occasional works, some of which should stay cheerfully buried in a box in the back corner of Mom's guestroom closet, some of which was only intended for one-off usage, but others of which still carry sparks that might help recharge new work or even deserve an on-going performance life.  

In my own case, as I probably write 20 or more of these minor pieces for each attempt at a South Pacific, it would be nice to have a catalog format that more readily reflected this hierachy of roots, trunk, and branches.

(Here, incidentally, are scores to two recent branches, or even just twigs, from my catalog:  The Long March, a prose score for four melodicas, worked out during a music workshop with young people, and Written Off As A Scoundrel (& I Haven't Even Met The Wife), a small study for piano.)


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