progress and regress

A Concerto Playback Session

What a strange week its been. This day last week, after fearing that I would not get to see Cora before I left, we actually arranged to spend time going through the music and I set off into Dublin, excited to hear my ideas fly off Cora’s fingers, through her Gagliano and into the air and my awaiting ears.

I was giddy the whole way in – listening to a few Beethoven Symphonies in the morning, then both Prokofiev and Shostakovich’s violin concertos before arriving at her place at around 4.30pm. For the next 4 hours or so, we churned through the sketches, came up with several solutions to melodic and fingering issues and in general had a blast!

We tested my first themes variations, we tested my second movement idea, we tested my third movement idea and we looked at some more evolved and dare I say radical melodic progressions that I have been starting to consider.

I think the last few weeks have helped me re-discover the heart that beats behind my deep seated melodic experimentation. It’s hard to explain, but I know Cora noticed it as well when we hit those ideas that looked a little more off kilter on the page, but when we played them we were both shocked at how beautifully the quasi atonality of the notes complimented the more regular tonality of what could be referred to as pretty melody.

I have to admit, I have a thing for the whole tone scale. I’ve rediscovered that love while writing, and have been trying to find a way of melding that sound with a more linear, direct sound. The modal nature of the E minor that I have been working with makes this an interesting conundrum. In fact, the E minor I have been operating in, often sits on the same scale that D Major sits on when I am handling it modally.

We looked at ALL my development ideas and Cora gave some valuable feedback about my triplet variations and some gorgeous stops that could be applied across the strings to add some resonant texture to the violin part. I have a strong intent to keep the orchestra part harmonically empty for periods and predominantly work with tutti phrasing and 3rds at moments. Of course it will expand beyond that, but this is a concerto, not a symphony and we intend to have fun using the orchestra to support the violinist doing what both Cora and I want her to do!

We had both Oly and Rob in the session for various periods and both gave very encouraging feedback on what they were hearing. It was surprising to me that they could make sense of the ideas enough to actually like something at this stage of writing, but there you go, a polite surprise! I think walking away afterward, Rob said something along the lines of “Wow that was gorgeous. Man, that is how a violin is meant to sound!

Cora and I were thinking it might be a lot of fun to try a further session like that at a piano, either at the NCH or at one of Dublins modern galleries, open to the public and streaming live on the internet. how fun would that be? We could call our ‘exhibit’ “Writing a violin concerto“….. and have some fun while doing our thing!

Coming to America

So, the other major event of the past week, was my relocation to Los Angeles, well actually to Pasadena, CA. In the next few weeks, Cora and I both have a lot going on. Speaking for myself, I’m back in my main pro-tools studio in LA mixing an album for producer Noel Hogan (The Cranberries). 13 tracks in 5 weeks. That’s the challenge. Its the new Seneca album and it sounds great, but opening my first protools session and getting a request to change my playback engine to 5DSP chips and 120 voices. Add to that, the pressure to do other mixes in the facility that I am working out of, and I am not a happy camper at the moment. A lot of stress, no time and a sense of watching the hourglass emptying in front of my eyes.

How I wish I was back in Dublin right now, continuing writing my concerto and getting ready to be inspired by a live Cora show tomorrow, Friday the 24th March at the Irish NCH.

Instead, I am feeling quite lost here in LA, wondering why I find myself again overwhelmed in this city. When I was last here in November it was the same feeling and I really don’t like it. It is not very conducive to writing in the least.

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