Retreat to the desert

November 9, 2008

This weekend I am able to be in Palm Springs for a composing weekend. No dogs, no husband, no books and music and videos and other activities I do to avoid composing. Earl Kim used to tell us that he would rearrange the books in his bookcases in order to avoid getting to work. Yesterday, I got to work right away, although I felt residual stress all day. Today I was awoken by violent winds, winds that seemed to blow away the remaining stress, along with all the fallen palm fronds and branches all over town.

The rain and winds have cleaned a very dirty southern California and we’re all glad. Some sustained rain is needed for a very dry state.

My new piano piece is now two minutes long and starts very much like the Beethoven “Waldstein” sonata — repeated chords — but not as intense as Stockhausen’s Klavierstuck Nr IX (see below). My initial impetus is to avoid counterpoint and melody and favor harmony and rhythm. This is not so hard as I am able to tap into my past as a rhythm guitarist for a whole slew of bands I played in in high school and college: US Blues, Cobblestone Road, Triad, The Yahara River Valley Boys, and Contraband. What fun! But this time I have a LOT more notes at my disposal, and I’m not limited to arm strumming or finger picking on 6 strings. I have 88 keys. I’m following the old French school where melody rides atop harmony, I am avoiding the Italian alternative where melody is supported by harmony.

I’ve been staying at Casa Rubin — Ronnie goes for walks, and suns by the pool and I work. Later in the day we go see a movie and have a lovely dinner out. She stays up and reads, I crash only to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get to work.

The desert is effective in degaussing the electrostatic magnetic charge one builds up living in the city.

*smells the desert air*

Klavierstuck Nr. IX by Karlheinz Stockhausen, performed by Michail Goleminov

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad Wood November 9, 2008 at 1:12 pm

I’m a bit shocked to realize how familiar that Stockhausen is. The late film composer Nathan Van Cleave gave me the LP box set of the pieces, performed by Alois Kontarsky, which I guess he had gotten automatically through NARAS, and handed them to me saying “I don’t dig this”.

It’s no Waldstein, but it was fun to hear it again. That will hold me for a few more years 😉

BTW technical quibble: Although you are speaking figuratively to begin with, “degaussing” pertains to removing remnant magnetic fields, not electric ones.

Brad Wood November 9, 2008 at 1:29 pm

I see the set of piano pieces is out on CD as well. I had meant to mention the hilarious liner notes about Kontarsky’s food and beverage consumption during the recording sessions period, written by Stockhausen. Evidently they are preserved in the CD notes, according to Amazon reviewer Gaetano.

Roger Bourland November 10, 2008 at 7:31 am

I agree about Nr.IX. Catchy, but I don’t need to hear it too often.

I remember those program notes about what kind of mineral water Kontarsky drank before the recording session. I actually have fond memories of that set. I used to check it out from the library and was always tempted to not return it, but I did. Good to know I can buy it legally now.

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