back at SFO. again.

Every other week for the past month and a half, I’ve been spending my night here at San Francisco International Airport waiting for the red eye flight back home to Philadelphia. As I have been doing for just about two years, every other week or so, interrupted by flights to other places. But it does give me an occasional opportunity to blog, something I’ve had less and less time and interest for lately. It’s been much easier to use Twitter and Facebook. Actually, mostly Twitter, which can pass content directly to Facebook.

But since I’m here at SFO. Again. Waiting for a 9:45 flight that is already delayed a bit since there’s not yet any plane sitting here in front of me at Gate 26. I figure it’s a good time to go over what I’m working on right now, music-wise. You’ll notice over time that I haven’t been writing that much about topics besides my own music. Not that I haven’t been busy with fibroid-related stuff for work. Work has been quite busy. But at the end of the day, I would rather deal with a passion than work, even if work is something of a passion. But it’s still work, no?

After finishing my last piece, quartet for piano, I’ve gotten the hankering to finally write something for the innovative violinist Todd Reynolds. Todd and I follow one another on Twitter, and expressed an interest in a solo violin piece rather than something for, say, violin and piano. I used to be a violinist, but haven’t played it in decades. Still, it helps in that I understand something about how to write for string instruments, which isn’t that intuitive, since you have to take into account the various strings, fingerings, etc. At the same time, there are not a lot of great works for solo violin. In part, I think that’s because of something along the lines of what Feldman once said, to the effect that solo violin music tends to be short because how long can anyone really listen to a solo violin? Feldman, who wrote prodigiously lengthy works in the last decade of his life (4-6 hours), wrote two pieces in that same timeframe that I know of, For Aaron Copland and Composition for Violin. The latter piece I like better than the former, but they are both short. Unusually short for late Feldman. The greatest works I can think of for solo violin are the unaccompanied sonatas and partitas by Bach. I used to play them, and they’re amazing works of music. But even they typically come in around 20 minutes or so, in several movements. Same with Bartok’s Sonata for Violin Solo. Same with Hindemith’s two solo violin sonatas, also fine pieces of music (it’s become fashionable of late to bash Hindemith, but I’ve always loved much of his music and will never bash his music). Xenakis wrote a few things for solo violin, as did Prokofiev. Again, all relatively short.

So I started writing this past week in a hotel room in Palo Alto. I had few ideas, but just decided to start improvising and writing, and got just under 10 minutes written down. It’s not bad, and even growing on me. But I have to see where it all goes. In some ways, I’m tempted to write a really long piece, just because everything else I know for solo violin is short. But I don’t know if that’s what I really think is likely. There is a very long solo viola piece I know of by one of my favorite composers, Maria de Alvear. But I’m going to be painfully honest-no matter how many times I listen to it (it’s almost 70 minutes long), it ends up boring me to the point where I just have to stop. I don’t know why it bores me so much, but it just does. Even Opus 17A by Darboven, for solo contrabass, holds more of my interest for the same length of time (69 minutes).

Anyway, I’m going to see where the new violin piece takes me, or rather, where I take it. It’s titled four strings for todd reynolds. Interestingly, the opening is 12-tone, or rather, uses all 12-tones in sequence. But it’s anything but academic. By the time a few minutes have passed, we’re into a stream of continuous eighth notes, so don’t worry-I haven’t given up on postminimalism and gone over to the dark side of uptown, academic serialism. But there’s nothing wrong with playing around with all 12 tones; I’ve been doing that for many many years.