I’ve just recently finished the rough draft of the second large movement of Glass House Concerto. Thumbing back through the sketches, I realized that I’d composed about 175 measures in a little less than three weeks, which is breakneck speed for me. I had the apartment to myself for most of that time, which helps; I can walk around the house and talk to myself about the work or sing through it at the top of my lungs and no one thinks I’m nuts except the dog.
I’ve realized also that I learned a lot about composing single-movement forms of this size from my work on several similarly proportioned works last year (i.e. *Some Assembly Required, and Postcards from Laramie). Each of these pieces is pretty much in block form, which makes it easy to push around chunks of material (of, say, six or eight bars) without hurting things on either side of the “incision.” So it didn’t come as a surprise when I found myself taking a pair of scissors to the finished piano score a couple of nights ago, clipping here and taping there (like pre-anesthetic medicine, my courage was bolstered by a stiff drink!). It also helps that nearly every bar in the piece refers in some way to the theme heard at the outset of the work. This relatedness provides a sense of cohesion, but also an opportunity for almost infinite variation by way of intervallic content, additive and subtractive rhythmic practices (and thus mixed meter), and so on.
For the more technically oriented among us, the work is in F Phrygian (for the most part), loosely rondo form (with each statement of the theme pretty heavily restructured/varied), and is mostly in compound meter (with 5’s and 7’s thrown in for good measure). It also features an extended pseudo-funk bass solo…where that came from I’ll never know.
Matthew Coley’s solo part continues to be a source of joy and vexation (in a good way!). How much playing is too much? Is it difficult enough? Is it too difficult? Is the soloist playing a sufficient number of different instruments? I think, however, that this concern is probably related to the fact that there is such a marked difference between the first movement, which provides only subtle glimpses of the soloist’s material, and this new movement, which is almost like a motu perpetuo. I unwittingly finished one right on the heels of the other, so the contrast between the two has been at the forefront of my recent thinking about the work.