Back to it

Almost a month since last post. Oops.

Classes for the spring quarter started today, in which I’ll be continuing my thesis work and taking two classes: Ethics of Bonhoeffer (with the mighty Glen Stassen), and Hebrew Prophets. Tracy and I are taking the Bonhoeffer together, as well as the thesis cohort (which meets seldom and informally). Last quarter I took my first pass/fail class, which took a bit of pressure off during a particularly stressful couple of months, and I’m repeating the formula this quarter with the Prophets class. Normally I’m a perfectionist about class work and such, so I’ll probably end up doing the same work as I would for a grade… still, it’s a nice load off.

And I’ll need it this quarter! Late in April, the Arts Concerns Committee (which Tracy and I chair together) holds its annual Arts Festival, a week-long series of events, art galleries, and so on. It’s a mountain of work to organize, but it’s also very rewarding to see come together.

More to the point, I’m supposed to finish my thesis this quarter (although I have a potential grace period into the summer, I’d prefer not to take it). I keep promising to write about that, and then not doing so. The idea for the thesis project in this program is to begin integrating the theology we’ve studied with the art which we theoretically already practice. For me, obviously, that’s music. So my project is a fairly large-scale setting of the De Profundis–Psalm 130 in the English Bible. I had initially wanted to interject settings of poetry between the stanzas of the Psalm, but suitable public-domain lament poetry is nearly impossible to find, so I scrapped that plan. That turns out to be a good thing, because it would have been that much more work to try to finish on time. Maybe later I’ll explain the theological grounding of the work beyond the sacred text. There’s a lot more, really, and it ties in with classes I’ve taken here.

The setting is a new experience for me. I’ve set text, but not in Latin. That’s not such a big deal, though. The bigger deal is my instrumentation, for piano and four trios: voice trio (SAT), string trio, wind trio (flute, clarinet, horn), and rock trio (guitar, bass, drumset). I’ve never composed anything for rock instrumentation, although I’ve written songs within a band structure. I’m attempting to avoid falling into writing rock music for “classical” instruments, or vice versa–a problem I always had with Gunther Schuller’s “Third Stream” work, wherein he claimed to be fusing classical and jazz, but in my opinion actually ended up with one of two results: jazz played by an orchestra, or an incongruous pastiche of casual-sounding swing and dissonant orchestral moments. I’m sure some people would have my head over that. So be it, but I’ve never liked his music.

At any rate, I’m attempting to balance the two worlds, although it is primarily a contemporary composed work. I haven’t gotten close to as much work done on it as I would have liked to at this point, however, and it will be a challenge to keep up with my own timeline for completion. Getting it performed is another task. I know people for almost every instrument here, but getting them all in the same room enough times to rehearse and perform might be a challenge. When we did “In C” last year I had the same problem, but as long as people knew what they were doing it didn’t particularly matter which instruments showed up for a rehearsal. This one’s a bit different.

I’m also back to it on the doctoral program front. Because my time was so tight in the fall, I cut back my list of intended applications from nine to three, and applied to the three for which I had the most work done and was able to complete. Having not gotten into any of those three, I went back to my list of possible schools to see what deadlines I might not have missed. There weren’t many, but there were a couple, and I added a couple more by looking around again. So I now have applications in to Ball State University in Indiana and Catholic University of America in D.C. These might be followed by University of Arizona, but they don’t seem too communicative over there. West Virginia University is another possibility, but although I haven’t missed their deadline (there is none), I believe their grad spots in composition are filled at this point. Too bad, it looks like a good program.

That’s my update. Other things are going along to one degree or another. We had spring break last week, and drove up the coast to just south of Big Sur, looked at the ocean, saw a bunch of seals, some otters, and a couple whale spouts, and then drove back.  Tracy posted some pics.  It was nice, but too short (as breaks tend to be). I can’t wait to graduate and get out of here, SoCal is not my bag.

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Composer of music and sonic art. Percussionist, guitarist, computer musician. Composition/theory/electronic music professor. Husband and father. Catholic. Food and beer enthusiast. Perpetually dissatisfied with the contents of my sock drawer.

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