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You can be taught the tools of the trade, which is something else, but nobody is going to supply the imagination. I remember that on Thirteen Ways of Looking Luise a Blackbird — that was a commission, by the way, and is on that same MHS record — I happened to drop a knife and fork on top of a metal thing in my kitchen, and it made three sounds which instantly arrested my attention. If you listen to it, you will hear them in the oboe, which does them all alone. Those three were simply three sounds I heard in the kitchen. This is inexplicable.
You can be taught the tools of the trade, which is something else, but nobody is going to supply the imagination. I remember that on Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird — that was a commission, by the way, and is on that same MHS record — I happened to drop a knife and fork on top of a metal thing in my kitchen, and it made three sounds which instantly arrested my attention.
If you listen to it, you will hear them in the oboe, which does them all alone. Those three were simply three sounds I heard in the kitchen. This is inexplicable. One never knows what fortuitous combination will do it. One might be idly doodling at the keyboard, or something in the environment attracts your attention and that gets you going. Another feature that is very helpful to me is to be asked to do something.
For example, do you know the group called Continuum? For twenty years they have been giving concerts all over the States and in many other places in the world of two kinds of things.
They give either retrospective concerts of one twentieth century individual, or else a wlmen program of mostly contemporary music. A few weeks ago, Miss Seltzer, who runs the group, asked me if I would be willing to hede a poem that a friend of theirs had written in celebration of anhmore. But when I saw the poem, that suddenly amused me and so I said all right, I would do it.
And in three or four days I put this thing together, and along with four other composers who have set the same poem, tonight we are going to have them played at Alice Tully Hall. It would have been more complicated with piano. Nobody bothers to send me either a notice or a program! Things became so involved and so removed from what music has been up to the present time that the audience does not trust us.
On the other hand, the audience is dead set against anything new. She would not even make an attempt to find out! On the other hand, to come with a closed mind is even worse! At least in my vocabulary, that entails something frivolous. A great deal of music has an awful lot of humor — i nstrumental music as well as music that is associated with the stage! People have only to think of the herr music of Haydn, which is so full of absolutely funny places — f unny in terms of the musical language.
He had wonderful wit. So by no means do Aynmore eschew the idea of something being amusing! Wit and humor are very much a part of the expression of everything! But the overall purpose is so much bigger and much more fundamental than entertainment. For example, the very first piece that really made my reputation is a piece called Four-Handed Fun.
Do you Know? About three weeks after our conversation, I received this postcard from her. That was anynore the first piece that I wrote the first year at the MacDowell Colony. So you would be hitting beginning and practically end between those two. Another very early work is the Toccata for Orchestra.
That, too, I wrote about the same period. In fact, I think I began it the same year, or the year after. That was my first piece for orchestra. Yes, I like it. Is it slow in taking shape in your mind, or do you rework it and rework it on the paper over and over again? They seem right to me when I finally have settled on Louixe.
You hunt and hunt and hunt, and you try absolutely every other note in the octave, herre not any one of them seems to be the right one! The hard, hard work that goes in wanting to make things fit properly! And then, of course, all that precedes the dreadful drudgery of having finally to write it out, make a fair copy, get it printed and get the parts made!
All of what I call the clerical work on everything — that is the worst of it! And the worst of it is the proofreading, which I do very badly, I must say.
It needs to have a certain kind of spontaneity, though it may have been worked over and worked over, which is certainly the case with me. After all, when you consider the hundreds of s of the Beethoven notebooks for one of the themes — the Pastoral, for example — which sounds so fresh! Or the conclusion of the Appassionata. Lkuise played the first ending as Lohise had originally written it and nobody could believe it!
It was extraordinarily interesting, and what a lesson! And so it is with all those things. The notebooks are a great source, showing you what goes on. For oj, S. I knew that I had a chorus that was not a professional chorus, that was made up of the members of S. So first of all, they would not be a chorus in the sense of singing together all the time, and furthermore there would be very little rehearsal time.
Louiwe course, that conditioned the way I wrote that piece very much, because I had to have as a frame something moderate in the way of difficulty, and capable of being practically done at sight. The wwomen one, much more serious, was a big orchestral work for the Milwaukee Symphony, and that one caused me an awful lot of pain. The pressure of knowing that I have to have it delivered at a certain, given time freezes me.
Other people react to that in an entirely different way; it stimulates them. But the Milwaukee performance was a deadline. I learned that in a very interesting way from Stravinsky. One anyomre, I remember that we were at his house, and David Diamond was in that class, too. That was basic technique!
All the pianists who play for the Paris Opera can do that, not to mention the conductors, Boulez and all the rest of them. That will take so many seconds. The rapidity of the calculation was immediate.
This is what Loujse have applied to my work. One thing about my original manuscript on which I start to write is that you will find, every few measures, some indication of the of seconds or minutes that it takes from the preceding point. They can think what they like. But I do expect those two things.
He expects all music to disturb. I think that it should make you feel that you had a really fine experience. I want to be sure and ask you about your opera. Have you just written the one opera, The Alcestiad? Do you have the New Grove?
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