Friday, March 23, 2007

Spring Light

The onset of spring in northern New England brings changes in the light: the softening of hues; the lengthening of duration and shadow. This March the snow is still deep-- more than a foot in my backyard. But every day the snow-pack shrinks a little more, and even another big storm could only temporarily change the tide of spring's arrival.

In the past few weeks I've stayed with the themes and concerns of my composition THE INEFFABLE FREEDOM OF CAPTURED LIGHT. I've been painting on canvas in the mornings, answering a call that the exploration of changing light has offered. And I've spun off new musical pieces from various juxtapositions and confluences of the sonic elements of INEFFABLE FREEDOM, using them as sonic background to the act of painting. Over the weeks this work has cohered into a whole that I would like to someday present as an installation piece. (Right now the installation exists only in my studio.)

Given these concerns and interests it's perhaps no surprise that I'd be pulled into the sound world of a composer deeply influenced by the energies of visual art. As winter became spring, I found myself listening in the afternoons to a lot of Morton Feldman, including his six-hour-long STRING QUARTET NO. 2, which, I'll admit, I experienced as If I were reading a novel-- settling into it over the course of a few days, each time taking up where I'd left off before. There are sections of luminous and mystical beauty in this work; mysteries of tone and harmony that sometimes touched a longing in me and truly hurt my heart.

Also a musical companion some afternoons has been Susan Alcorn's remarkable AND I AWAIT (THE RESURRECTION OF THE PEDAL STEEL GUITAR). Susan Alcorn commits to and inhabits each note she plays; It's an all too rare quality in a musician, and for the listener, it can open up worlds. The long title piece offers surprises each time I hear it. And Susan's version of the Italian tune "Volare" is a pure joy: dreamy, alluringly textured, melodic; conjuring with an orchestra of multi -tracked pedal steel guitar something that suggests to me what Les Paul and Mary Ford might have come up with if they'd been hanging out with Sun Ra.

And now this morning the sky is blue. The snow has melted down an inch since yesterday. Time to go out for a run.