Author Topic: Henning's Headquarters  (Read 989554 times)

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Online Iota

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8480 on: October 24, 2021, 05:35:56 AM »
I’ve been mulling of late, partly in response to a virtual acquaintance’s recent enthusiasm for composer N. Composer N. is perhaps a year older than I. She’s an internationally celebrated composer. In fact, I met her at Symphony Hall after a Boston performance of a piece of hers. The Boston Symphony may never play any of my music. There is no benefit to the idle speculation that it is possible they may play my music after my death. When composer N. is commissioned to write a piece, the sum of money is considerable. If I and composer N. sat down in conversation, and I told her the sum I was paid for my recent commission, she might perhaps laugh, if she were not such a nice person, as all reports suggest. None of this is composer N.’s fault, and it’s not a zero-sum game. While I do not believe I hold any of it against composer N., I did not enjoy nor think much of the piece that night at Symphony. I do consider in hindsight that I may simply have been resentful, but neither do I feel that I owe anything to composer N. It also doesn’t help, that the artistic director of a choir dedicated to performing new music, turned a piece of mine down (a piece of which many colleagues think highly) with the ‘explanation’ that my music is not like that of composer N., upon whom they lavish their musical love.

But enough of composer N., whom I wish no ill whatever, and who I hope will continue to enjoy success and prosperity.

Today, I debate which better describes my state: low motivation or nil motivation. My thoughts of late have not (despite the theme of the first paragraph) dwelt upon either resentment of successful living composers, nor self-pity. I am wondering what my goal should be, or even if having a goal is of any use to me. For instance, up to now (let’s say) I have had the ambition that the Boston Symphony Orchestra should play music of mine. But it is plain to me that this is a foolish ambition, as there is nothing I can do to make such a thing happen. Today, I wonder if having that as an ambition (or even as a hope) is not merely pointless but self-deceiving.

So, what?

An old friend of mine composes only when commissioned to do so, and has enjoyed some performance opportunities of which I can only dream. I certainly do not resent him, nor feel envious of him. In a general way, I might wish that I were in a similar position, but if I composed only on commission, I should not have written White Nights, nor either of my two symphonies. It is pointless for me to wish that I had been commissioned to write these, I am practically a musical nobody and I have certainly been treated so by musical somebodies. I am not going to be the next John Williams. Setting aside the speculative q. of whether I could successfully score a film, the universe has not afforded me any such opportunity. Nor am I going to be the next John Adams, Philip Glass or Joan Tower. I observe merely factually, with neither envy nor resentment, that the universe has not afforded me even such opportunity.

Then there is the clarinet, from which I have been perforce separated by my stroke. I pursue my therapy and do my homework. My determination remains staunch. Yet with the impaired sensation in my fingers, it is simply impossible to know, today, when I shall be able to play again. But I ain’t stoppin’.

Perhaps this week I am asking myself, why should I still compose? For most of my composing life, notwithstanding my negligible level of success, I never needed to ask myself such a question. When I was in rehab after my stroke, I did not ask myself any such question, it was simply that I wanted to compose. For only one thing, I was determined to complete White Nights.

As I write today, the latest of the Op. 169 organ pieces I composed was 31 May, and I don’t know whether I’ll finish the set as conceived. The last I worked on the string symphony was 4 Oct. I make no claim or promise as to the future. I can only say, I don’t feel like writing today.

An interesting post and I applaud your candidness and have sympathy for your searchings. I find the older I get, the more such questions seem to emerge (though not in my case about composing), and the awareness of time passing/health etc add an urgency to them, procrastination no longer cuts the mustard. Have no advice but will simply say that I have found a question answered honestly in such circumstances is almost always empowering, whatever the answer. Knowing want one actually wants can be surprisingly hard at times, the building blocks of our identity capable of strains of intransigence when it comes to giving approval to something, but often something useful emerges I find. All the best, hope it works out.

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8481 on: October 24, 2021, 07:36:07 AM »
I’ve been mulling of late, partly in response to a virtual acquaintance’s recent enthusiasm for composer N. Composer N. is perhaps a year older than I. She’s an internationally celebrated composer. In fact, I met her at Symphony Hall after a Boston performance of a piece of hers. The Boston Symphony may never play any of my music. There is no benefit to the idle speculation that it is possible they may play my music after my death. When composer N. is commissioned to write a piece, the sum of money is considerable. If I and composer N. sat down in conversation, and I told her the sum I was paid for my recent commission, she might perhaps laugh, if she were not such a nice person, as all reports suggest. None of this is composer N.’s fault, and it’s not a zero-sum game. While I do not believe I hold any of it against composer N., I did not enjoy nor think much of the piece that night at Symphony. I do consider in hindsight that I may simply have been resentful, but neither do I feel that I owe anything to composer N. It also doesn’t help, that the artistic director of a choir dedicated to performing new music, turned a piece of mine down (a piece of which many colleagues think highly) with the ‘explanation’ that my music is not like that of composer N., upon whom they lavish their musical love.

But enough of composer N., whom I wish no ill whatever, and who I hope will continue to enjoy success and prosperity.

Today, I debate which better describes my state: low motivation or nil motivation. My thoughts of late have not (despite the theme of the first paragraph) dwelt upon either resentment of successful living composers, nor self-pity. I am wondering what my goal should be, or even if having a goal is of any use to me. For instance, up to now (let’s say) I have had the ambition that the Boston Symphony Orchestra should play music of mine. But it is plain to me that this is a foolish ambition, as there is nothing I can do to make such a thing happen. Today, I wonder if having that as an ambition (or even as a hope) is not merely pointless but self-deceiving.

So, what?

An old friend of mine composes only when commissioned to do so, and has enjoyed some performance opportunities of which I can only dream. I certainly do not resent him, nor feel envious of him. In a general way, I might wish that I were in a similar position, but if I composed only on commission, I should not have written White Nights, nor either of my two symphonies. It is pointless for me to wish that I had been commissioned to write these, I am practically a musical nobody and I have certainly been treated so by musical somebodies. I am not going to be the next John Williams. Setting aside the speculative q. of whether I could successfully score a film, the universe has not afforded me any such opportunity. Nor am I going to be the next John Adams, Philip Glass or Joan Tower. I observe merely factually, with neither envy nor resentment, that the universe has not afforded me even such opportunity.

Then there is the clarinet, from which I have been perforce separated by my stroke. I pursue my therapy and do my homework. My determination remains staunch. Yet with the impaired sensation in my fingers, it is simply impossible to know, today, when I shall be able to play again. But I ain’t stoppin’.

Perhaps this week I am asking myself, why should I still compose? For most of my composing life, notwithstanding my negligible level of success, I never needed to ask myself such a question. When I was in rehab after my stroke, I did not ask myself any such question, it was simply that I wanted to compose. For only one thing, I was determined to complete White Nights.

As I write today, the latest of the Op. 169 organ pieces I composed was 31 May, and I don’t know whether I’ll finish the set as conceived. The last I worked on the string symphony was 4 Oct. I make no claim or promise as to the future. I can only say, I don’t feel like writing today.
Karl, with all that's been going on in the world (particularly since Covid-19 became a part of our lexicon), plus the additional burden and stresses of having to go through rehab after suffering a stroke, I'm  amazed that you've had the determination, concentration and desire to compose at all!  Do give yourself credit for all that you have created so far in your life and cut yourself a fair bit of slack for not currently feeling inspired.  And shame on that music director for comparing your music to another composer's; I'm actually rather shocked that someone would do something like that.  Surely there would have been a much more diplomatic, kind and constructive way of dealing with the situation?  *Perhaps offering to discuss/show your work to her colleagues; they might have been much more open to performing it than s/he was?  In any event, you have your own voice--don't ever try and fit into someone else's mold; you'll both be unhappy with the results.

*I don't know how exactly one would go about it, but there's probably a way that you could reach out to other choirs/groups which would be much more receptive to performing your work...perhaps a better stylistic fit?

Take care and take heart mon ami,  you'll figure it all out in the end.

PD

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8482 on: October 24, 2021, 08:02:35 AM »
Thank you both very much!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Cato

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8483 on: October 24, 2021, 08:35:53 AM »

And shame on that music director for comparing your music to another composer's; I'm actually rather shocked that someone would do something like that.  Surely there would have been a much more diplomatic, kind and constructive way of dealing with the situation? 

PD

Amen!   0:) 

A literary agent once wrote to me about an early novel for which I had high hopes (of course I have high hopes for all my novels!).  The comment was basically: "Your story is extremely original, the characters re unique, and your writing style is evocative and well-done.  But that's why it will never be published."   ???   :o

In essence, mediocrity and the well-worn cliche' rule the publishing world.

From the Albert Jay Nock quotation which I offered yesterday:


"(The masses) ask you to give them what they want, they insist upon it, and will take nothing else; and following their whims, their irrational changes of fancy, their hot and cold fits, is a tedious business, to say nothing of the fact that what they want at any time makes very little call on one's resources of prophesy."
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8484 on: November 16, 2021, 05:15:10 PM »
Amen!   0:) 

A literary agent once wrote to me about an early novel for which I had high hopes (of course I have high hopes for all my novels!).  The comment was basically: "Your story is extremely original, the characters re unique, and your writing style is evocative and well-done.  But that's why it will never be published."   ???   :o

In essence, mediocrity and the well-worn cliche' rule the publishing world.

From the Albert Jay Nock quotation which I offered yesterday:


"(The masses) ask you to give them what they want, they insist upon it, and will take nothing else; and following their whims, their irrational changes of fancy, their hot and cold fits, is a tedious business, to say nothing of the fact that what they want at any time makes very little call on one's resources of prophesy."


The drought hasn't broken just yet, but I think I see it breaking.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8485 on: November 16, 2021, 07:14:33 PM »
There's also the good news that Ensemble Aubade are performing Oxygen Footprint in So. Carolina twice this week,
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8486 on: November 16, 2021, 08:13:08 PM »
I’ve been mulling of late, partly in response to a virtual acquaintance’s recent enthusiasm for composer N. Composer N. is perhaps a year older than I. She’s an internationally celebrated composer. In fact, I met her at Symphony Hall after a Boston performance of a piece of hers. The Boston Symphony may never play any of my music. There is no benefit to the idle speculation that it is possible they may play my music after my death. When composer N. is commissioned to write a piece, the sum of money is considerable. If I and composer N. sat down in conversation, and I told her the sum I was paid for my recent commission, she might perhaps laugh, if she were not such a nice person, as all reports suggest. None of this is composer N.’s fault, and it’s not a zero-sum game. While I do not believe I hold any of it against composer N., I did not enjoy nor think much of the piece that night at Symphony. I do consider in hindsight that I may simply have been resentful, but neither do I feel that I owe anything to composer N. It also doesn’t help, that the artistic director of a choir dedicated to performing new music, turned a piece of mine down (a piece of which many colleagues think highly) with the ‘explanation’ that my music is not like that of composer N., upon whom they lavish their musical love.

But enough of composer N., whom I wish no ill whatever, and who I hope will continue to enjoy success and prosperity.

Today, I debate which better describes my state: low motivation or nil motivation. My thoughts of late have not (despite the theme of the first paragraph) dwelt upon either resentment of successful living composers, nor self-pity. I am wondering what my goal should be, or even if having a goal is of any use to me. For instance, up to now (let’s say) I have had the ambition that the Boston Symphony Orchestra should play music of mine. But it is plain to me that this is a foolish ambition, as there is nothing I can do to make such a thing happen. Today, I wonder if having that as an ambition (or even as a hope) is not merely pointless but self-deceiving.

So, what?

An old friend of mine composes only when commissioned to do so, and has enjoyed some performance opportunities of which I can only dream. I certainly do not resent him, nor feel envious of him. In a general way, I might wish that I were in a similar position, but if I composed only on commission, I should not have written White Nights, nor either of my two symphonies. It is pointless for me to wish that I had been commissioned to write these, I am practically a musical nobody and I have certainly been treated so by musical somebodies. I am not going to be the next John Williams. Setting aside the speculative q. of whether I could successfully score a film, the universe has not afforded me any such opportunity. Nor am I going to be the next John Adams, Philip Glass or Joan Tower. I observe merely factually, with neither envy nor resentment, that the universe has not afforded me even such opportunity.

Then there is the clarinet, from which I have been perforce separated by my stroke. I pursue my therapy and do my homework. My determination remains staunch. Yet with the impaired sensation in my fingers, it is simply impossible to know, today, when I shall be able to play again. But I ain’t stoppin’.

Perhaps this week I am asking myself, why should I still compose? For most of my composing life, notwithstanding my negligible level of success, I never needed to ask myself such a question. When I was in rehab after my stroke, I did not ask myself any such question, it was simply that I wanted to compose. For only one thing, I was determined to complete White Nights.

As I write today, the latest of the Op. 169 organ pieces I composed was 31 May, and I don’t know whether I’ll finish the set as conceived. The last I worked on the string symphony was 4 Oct. I make no claim or promise as to the future. I can only say, I don’t feel like writing today.

You bring up some fascinating questions, Karl. I, of course, can't offer you any advice as I don't know what is in your heart and what you truly want to do with the time you've been allotted. What I can tell you is I know what it is like to have the creative impulse. I remember someone asking me why I still play the guitar when there's no recording of me in sight and I haven't forged any musical friendships to the point where playing gigs would be a possibility. I answered, "Because it gives me pleasure." Playing the guitar and working on pieces of music gives me a certain kind of emotional pressure release. I have considered forging some musical friendships just as I have pondered the idea of playing some gigs. But, today, I sat downstairs in the basement with my guitar in my hands and all of that stuff didn't even matter to me --- I was content and, most of all, happy to be able feel the vibration of the strings against my chest. There's nothing like it in the world.

I play the guitar because I want to not because I believe I have to and that's all that matters to me at the moment.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2021, 08:15:03 PM by Mirror Image »
"Humility is society's greatest misconception."

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8487 on: November 16, 2021, 08:23:00 PM »
Very good. Thanks for sharing, John.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Boston MA
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8488 on: November 16, 2021, 08:34:01 PM »
Very good. Thanks for sharing, John.

You're quite welcome and I truly wish you the best in whatever it is you're dealing with inside of yourself. I think you're incredibly talented and a gifted composer/musician. Don't ever shortchange yourself, because if I could write as fluently as you do, my hand would've fallen off years ago! To be given a gift such as yours is the ultimate blessing.
"Humility is society's greatest misconception."

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8489 on: November 17, 2021, 05:10:39 AM »
The drought hasn't broken just yet, but I think I see it breaking.
There's also the good news that Ensemble Aubade are performing Oxygen Footprint in So. Carolina twice this week,
Excellent Karl!  So happy for you!  Do let us know how the performances go and how they were received.  Fingers crossed for you....or should I say "Break a leg"?  :-\

PD

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8490 on: November 17, 2021, 07:32:43 AM »
Excellent Karl!  So happy for you!  Do let us know how the performances go and how they were received.  Fingers crossed for you....or should I say "Break a leg"?  :-\

PD

We musicians don't mind the expression "good luck," PD!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 at 12 noon

Ensemble Aubade (Peter H. Bloom, flute; Francis Grimes, viola; Steve Sussman, piano)

Music by Louise Farrenc, Robert Russell Bennett, and Karl Henning

The Parish Church of St. Helena

507 Newcastle St

Beaufort, SC 29902

 

Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 7:30 pm

Ensemble Aubade (Peter H. Bloom, flute; Francis Grimes, viola; Steve Sussman, piano)

Music by Jean-Phillipe Rameau, Louise Farrenc, Maurice Duruflé, Robert Russell Bennett, and Karl Henning

Lake City Concert Series

The Bean Market Museum

111 Henry St, Lake City, SC 29560
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8491 on: November 17, 2021, 07:37:11 AM »
I've also been disappointed in how little feedback (and sometimes not even an acknowledgement) has come back from my organist colleagues, viz. the Op. 169 organ pieces. A positive new development is that a Wooster schoolmate has expressed warm interest in seeing them.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8492 on: November 17, 2021, 10:36:43 AM »
I've also been disappointed in how little feedback (and sometimes not even an acknowledgement) has come back from my organist colleagues, viz. the Op. 169 organ pieces. A positive new development is that a Wooster schoolmate has expressed warm interest in seeing them.


You know my opinion of organists!  A more mercurial and unreliable part of humanity would be difficult to find!

When I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college, I offered my Organ Symphony #1 (now lost, except for what I remember of it) to an excellent organist, who, after looking through the opening pages, accepted it with great enthusiasm.

After many promises of a performance, which never happened, I tracked him down and wondered in person what was happening.  He said that he still needed to practice it more, but again with great enthusiasm suggested that I orchestrate it and offer it to the local symphony orchestra.   ???

No, I never heard from him again!

That is just one example out of a dozen or so throughout my early composing career!
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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8493 on: November 17, 2021, 10:53:20 AM »
Karl. I've just picked up this thread with the thoughtful responses. I draw your attention to the two quotes at the end of my postings (which I know you like - you're the only one to have mentioned them  :)) I think that the reason why Composer A receives lots of attention and Composer B doesn't has a lot to do with contacts and luck - it often has little to do with the intrinsic value of their music. Think of Havergal Brian, Langgaard etc. I personally have been moved by a number of your compositions. As I often tell myself - the answer is always to persevere. The ancient Chinese classical text the Tao Te Ching, evidently written by a disillusioned historian, (I can relate to that  ;D) states 'Give up and you will succeed'. I have found that paradoxical statement to be true during a number of times in my life when I war prone to despondency.
All strength to you.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8494 on: November 17, 2021, 10:59:40 AM »
Warm thanks, Jeffrey.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Boston MA
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8495 on: November 21, 2021, 04:22:10 PM »
Ensemble Aubade are returned from their tour, and Peter tells me that Oxygen Footprint was warmly received.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8496 on: November 21, 2021, 04:40:02 PM »
Ensemble Aubade are returned from their tour, and Peter tells me that Oxygen Footprint was warmly received.
Hurrah!  👏  So happy to hear it Karl!  :)

PD

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8497 on: November 21, 2021, 05:39:01 PM »
Thanks!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8498 on: November 24, 2021, 06:43:04 AM »
Cross-post from WAYLT

Beach Balls for Thanksgiving:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/-bYl3ZJ0RVs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/-bYl3ZJ0RVs</a>
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Boston MA
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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  • Et quid amabo nisi quod ænigma est?
    • Henningmusick
  • Location: Boston, Mass.
  • Currently Listening to:
    Shostakovich, D. Scarlattii, Stravinsky, JS Bach, Liszt, Martinů, Haydn, Henning
Re: Henning's Headquarters
« Reply #8499 on: November 24, 2021, 11:22:35 AM »
Cross-post from WAYLT

Beach Balls for Thanksgiving:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/-bYl3ZJ0RVs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/-bYl3ZJ0RVs</a>

Something of a nod to our then-tuplet-nester-in-residence, Luke, the piece cost David some pains in rehearsing,
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot