O Nobilissima Viriditas

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This blog will track the progress of a new work for orchestra, “Nobilissima Viriditas,” which will be premiered by the Luther College Symphony Orchestra next fall. Check back for weekly (or nearly weekly) updates.

First Hearing

The first time I hear a new work of mine in rehearsal is both exciting and frightening. I’m never worried that the musicians who are playing or singing my work aren’t up to the task, I’m more frightened that I’ve made serious miscalculations and will need to scrap the whole project and start from scratch. Fortunately, the excitement of the moment often carries me through those moments of doubt. I had the great pleasure of hearing the Luther College Symphony play through O Nobilissima yesterday, and I’m happy to say... Read The Rest →

“Engraving”

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We still call this final step of the process “engraving,” though of course, there’s no movable type here or anything that makes us think of printing presses (or ink and quills, for that matter). Some composers prepare sketches and drafts for copyists who make the final versions of the printed music. I’ve never used a copyist, and as I’ve become more and more interested in the visual look of my music, it’s hard to imagine handing that process over to someone else. For an orchestral piece, there are really two... Read The Rest →

“…and burn like a flame of the sun”

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For the final section of “O Nobilissima,” I am experimenting with an idea that is at once very old and somewhat new. In the Renaissance era in particular, composers were drawn to compositional techniques that lead to shifting perceptions of time. In a cantus firmus mass movement, for example, a section of chant will often appear in the tenor voice, moving very slowly, while the voices above and below move more quickly. Even more systematic is the mensuration canon, where multiple versions of the same tune are presented simultaneously and... Read The Rest →

“You blush like the dawn”

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At Good Shepherd church in Decorah, where I am the organist, we have been treated to some sermons by the remarkable Richard Simon Hanson. Last week, he told us that for the ancient Hebrews, the past is in front of us, while the future is behind. It’s the opposite from how we tend to think of these concepts today, as in “look ahead to the future” and “don’t look back to the past.” But there’s a nice and beautiful logic in flipping those around–we can see the past, that’s what’s... Read The Rest →

“You are enclosed in the embrace of divine mysteries”

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It’s been over two months since I last updated this blog, but that’s not because I haven’t been busy! Personally, it’s been a time of transition, with the end of the spring semester at Luther, my wife’s pregnancy with our second child, and our decision to move to a new house in Decorah. Just a few days after we settled into our new house, I joined three colleagues in Duino, Italy, for the International Music Festival of the Adriatic, which I blogged about here. Now that summer is finally here,... Read The Rest →

Day 23 – Final Concerts, Part II

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This will be the final post for IMFA 2014! It’s been a tremendous festival, with wonderful music making, a great sense of community spirit, and lots of new friendships. As expected, the time has flown by. Here are some photos from an excursion I took this morning with Spencer to the church of San Giovanni in Tuba, which is not far from Duino, and which features ancient remains that date, possibly, to the 6th century, when it was probably used as a temple to the Greek god Diomedes. Tonight’s concert... Read The Rest →

Day 22 – Final Concerts, Part I

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Today we begin winding down IMFA, but not before a final flurry of musical performances. The day began as usual, with announcements from our fearless leaders, Spencer and Andy. Instead of Italian class, Stefano gave us a little test. And then Spencer and Andy gave him a test–that is, they created a make believe concert program and asked him to spontaneously create some program notes for an imaginary audience. This is something that Stefano does for each of our concerts: he introduces the featured composers and says a little about... Read The Rest →

Day 21 – Dvorak and Brahms

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Today began with an outing to Trieste for about 2/3 of IMFA. Last week, Stefano took us to the outside of the Risiera di San Sabba, a former rice processing complex south of the city center that was later used by the Nazis as Italy’s sole concentration camp. This was my first visit to such a place, and of course, it was haunting and deeply sorrowful to visit. It feels a little strange to share lots of photos of this place, so I’ll just post a photo of the main entrance... Read The Rest →

Day 20 – Mozart BBQ

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Today was a double-header: we began with our final concert in the Duino Castello at noon and ended with the world-famous Mozart BBQ. The concert in the castello was jam packed with terrific music and wonderful performances. Nearly all IMFA students performed, and each of the composers was featured (second performances of our Italian art songs). We had a full crowd for most of the 90-minute concert. At 2 pm, we strolled down the road from the castello to the oldest house in Duino, which was the site for the... Read The Rest →

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