I will be discussing the “timeline” of my own life and self-awareness on another blog entry soon, but a very important component of tracing this history is the music I performed and composed, particularly early in life.
I was born on July 10, 1943. I started piano lessons in February 1952, in third grade, at age 8. I took piano lessons twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) and had Wednesday class, in the home of a Mrs. McDermott in Arlington VA until her death in May 1958 from colon cancer. Her illness was sudden. The I took piano from a Mrs. Wheeler, also in Arlington, until after graduation from high school in 1961.
I performed in numerous recitals, and according to scrapbook records, it looks as though I performed in the “Festivals” every March from 1953 (fourth grade), until at least 1959 (tenth grade). The festival required performing a “required” piece for grade difficulty from a list and an elective. The elected piece had to be composed by an American, or a composer who had lived in the United States for much of his or her life. Sergei Rachmaninoff was included, and I played the B minor and E Major preludes from Op. 32 in the last two festivals. Records also show I performed the infamous C# Minor Prelude at least once. I recall playing the Debussy Arabesque in E, and a Schumann piece called “May, Sweet May”. I may have performed the Chopin G Minor Prelude. It looks like I earned “Superior” ratings four of those six years.
It looks like I had started composing at around 11 years old, in sixth grade. I have re-recorded much of this music on my Casio through Sibelius on a MacBook and preserved some manuscripts and mp3 records, published here. A few of the works are shown in photographed documents converted to Adobe PDF’s.
For tracking my own sense of “who I am” (an upcoming posting) early in life, it’s useful for me to list everything I composed, or could reconstruct, and give the status of any manuscripts that I have. All compositions are playable on piano
|1955||Inspiration Sonatina, F Major, 4 movements, 10 min||L||N|
|1956 (perf. 1957, 1961?)||Sonata 1, A Maj., 4 movements, 14 min||L,S,P,||P|
|1956 (perf. 1957)||Minuet, E Maj||P||P|
|1956||Anthem, “Lord Thou Art My God”, 3 part chorus, F Maj||N||N|
|1957||Anthem, Psalm 133, D-flat||P||P|
|1960||Sonata 2, D Min, 3 movements, 25 min||P (photographed)||P|
|1961||4 Modal pieces (4 min)||N||N|
|1962, 1974, 2012 perf. 1991||Sonata 3, C, 4 Mov., 50 min||P(photographed)||P, some excerpts as MPG|
|1972-1974||“Song Symphony”, 6 min, no key, 40 min||S||Exceprts as P and MPG|
|1962, 1974||Orch. Symphony, E Min. 4 mvmts, 30 min||S||Excerpts as P|
|1974||Polytonal Prelude (D and E), 4 min||S||P,MPG|
(L refers to Apple Logic, which I got before Sibelius.)
I entered the first two sonatas and Minuet into composition contests in the period 1957-1960. I think I composed the Sonata, which has its own Minuet, first. The E Major Minuet won a prize, but the Minuet in the Sonata is more interesting. I’ve given some history of these pieces on Blogger here.
I must say that in the “Song Symphony”, in an episodic “scherzo” movement, I experimented with taking a minuet theme, and then recasting it harmonically (by throwing in polytonality, which classicism can always “use”) and telescoping the rhythm. It’s like a Haydn minuet (rather than Mozart), with lots of little surprises that come on. It’s not literally adopted, but a movement from the “Farewell Symphony” figured in, as did the “Imperial”.
The most complete big works are the Sonatas 2 and 3. I must have written out the Sonata 2 manuscript on the kitchen table in black in in early 1960. Much of Sonata 3 was written in the spring of 1962, after I had started at GWU from having returned home from WM. My father had a “mild heart attack” and could not stand loud classical music from the basement. The third movement was a reflection of that circumstance.
The scrapbook notes show a judge discussing an “Impromptu in A Minor”, but I recall no such piece. I think she mixed up the title with another contestant and was really judging the Sonata #1 in A.
I’ve discussed a William and Mary classmate’s (from 1961) compositions also, here. Sometime in 1962, after I had returned “home” because of the “expulsion” from William and Mary that I have discussed on my blogs, I received a huge postcard from a high school friend from the old Science Honor Society, in which he sketched out eight folk songs. They may be some of the Irish songs that Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and later Amy Beach, used in “Irish Rhapsodies” and symphonies, or they may include some Czech melodies. The card may still be lying around in the attic or in estate property somewhere. If I find it, I’ll get it converted to digital.