beauty…beholder and a possible guest speaking gig in Hawaii

So i keep in regular contact with one of my old high school friends, Kate, who currently teaches music history at the University of Hawaii. We ended up talking about my wind ensemble piece, beauty…beholder, since that project has occupied all of my free time these past couple of weeks as i’m in final manuscript mode and pretty much ready to give it to Matt before i leave for vacation, and this has spurned a tentative plan for me to talk about it for one of her classes in Hawaii.

I have some mixed feelings about how the music turned out for a few reasons. First, the piece is a strange hybrid of me and not me. The principal concept of the piece required me to write musical material that was supposed to sound like someone else. Originally the piece was going to be pretty much a very simple and slow chorale, non-minimalist, as its primary musical material to help set up for the Shock Moment at the end of the piece (involving the ringing of a mobile phone in the audience at the end of the piece’s climax). The idea i had in my head was to make it like the slow-moving parts of The Unanswered Question or for it to have the same sort of personality as Adagio for Strings. Don’t get me wrong, i love that music, but it’s not the sort of thing that I generally associate with my own musical voice, at least not exactly. But once i started writing it, it started to take a mind of its own and some very characteristic Mendel things crept into the piece, particularly rhythmically, and the result is something that definitely sounds like me, but also not me, and i don’t have a good sense right now whether or not the strength of the material is therefore diluted because of that split personality.

Secondly, the music suffers a little from the product of being the first large ensemble piece that i’ve composed (rather than arranged) in about nine or so years. It took much longer than it should have to get this piece going to the point where as recent as a couple of weeks ago i was starting to get worried that i wouldn’t finish the piece by the deadline. The piece thus feels a little bit rushed and is in need of tweaking that i don’t have time to do right now. Hopefully i’ll get a chance to revise it next summer or fall.

But while the execution of the compositional aspects of the piece may be a little below my standard, the motivation behind the piece and its thesis is very important to me, enough that I’m thinking of scripting and storyboarding a video project to talk about it not just in the context of the piece but its wider application to the classical music community as a whole.

In any case, while we were talking about it, Kate put forth the suggestion that I take a trip sometime this spring to give a presentation about it in her Music and Ethics class. My spring is fairly busy, but i think it would be good on my resumé and be a great experience to help flesh out the thesis of the piece and aid in its musical revision and accompanying video presentation that i want to put together. Plus there’s the added bonus of seeing her and her husband again in Hawaii, as it’s been a few years since i’ve seen them and more since i’ve been to Hawaii.

I’d probably get an honorarium from UH to pay for travel – although it wouldn’t be much, it’s better than nothing. The tricky part is scheduling – i have my nienteForte concert on April 22nd and the Tulane Spring Concert Band concert is on the 24th. UH’s last day of classes is the following Wednesday which Kate was going to use for final review, and since she was envisioning it being a two-day class seminar-like thing, that would mean i would have to do it on Friday/Monday which could be super tight if my parents are still in town, plus I don’t know what tickets would be like during that time since that’s prime Jazz Fest time. On the other hand, earlier could be a bit tricky since i’ll have dress rehearsals and last minute prep for the upcoming concerts.

I’m sure i can make it work – i just need to have some foresight in planning, not just because of those conerts but also because at that time i’ll probably be deep in the throes of creative brainstorming for Hermiston’s marching band show in addition to whatever Galaxy Interactive might throw at me, and on top of that i may also be trying to work on a commission for the Portland Percussion Group for PASIC that would be due in July/August if that negotiation works out.

and oh yeah, i might be writing a piece for the Portland Percussion Group for their application to PASIC in 2013. More news on that soon.

Mendel Lee

I'm a composer, musician, and music educator residing in New Orleans, LA.

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