Hilltop Diary, May 25, 2022

It’s been a big two weeks of travels for me, and I’m glad to be back at Hilltop! I’m in no hurry to take an airplane again for as long as possible! That aside, the work done at these two destinations has been well worth it and the culmination of many months and hundreds of hours spent in absolute solitude at home, alone as a hermit, notating thousands of those little golf clubs called notes.

But the interior life must always, eventually find its way to the exterior one, involving, all told, almost a hundred orchestral instrumentalists on the symphony tracks, and two whole choirs of singers on the choral tracks, plus conductors, recording and production engineers, an art department, and a record company executive or two, not to mention all the people I hope might enjoy the end product of our collaborative efforts.

The European Recording Orchestra in Sofia Bulgaria turned in some first-rate playing, as did their whole team of engineers and management. They treated me like royalty in Sofia, but more than that, they filled my symphony with such beautiful and expressive solos, as well as great full section playing – for example, solos by the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, horn, celesta, violin, and cello principal chairs. After listening to a virtual computer rendition for so long, it was very moving to hear actual humans make my music sound so much more emotional. A tear or two was even shed in the control room, proving what I already knew, that supposedly technical-minded recording engineers are also music lovers.

If you would like to hear a few brief excerpts from the preliminary mix of the symphony, you can find them HERE.

I happened also to have old friends in Sofia, the dean of the European Academy of Film Scoring and his wife, who put on a wonderful meal at their home for me with other friends and the next night went out for dinner with me and our conductor (who conducted The Sea Knows and other works of mine in the past) and his wife. Such great conversation, and so good to see them all again. I actually got to conduct the orchestra just a little myself, too, which was fun, though not something in my comfort zone to do very often. Still, that is just a bucket-list thing you have to do, if the opportunity arises. You know: Ride in a hot air balloon, attend the Super Bowl, climb a mountain, conduct a symphony orchestra, Haha. A few of my conducting baton strokes even made it (uncredited) into the finished recording.

After a 30-hour ordeal getting home from Bulgaria to the U.S., including three planes and sleeping all night in a chair at the gate at Dulles Airport in D.C., I worked day and night for a week listening closely to all we recorded, in order to make lists of all the best takes and timings of excerpts I wanted to edit together to make the best performance on the album, noting the precise spots where they must be seamlessly and imperceptibly joined.

Then it was off on a plane to Boston and a rather complex obstacle course (even with a G.P.S.) to get out of Boston to Parma Recordings’ studios in rural New Hampshire. There I worked for the last two days with their wonderful post-production engineer to: 1) make the edits I had chosen, and 2) to get the big, massive symphony orchestra hall sound that recordings of huge orchestras (in this case, 92 players) typically have, and 3) change the relative volume of the instruments, if needed, to be sure all the parts can be heard. I must say, I’m extremely pleased with the results. I hope everyone enjoys listening to it again and again for years to come. Here is how a post-production studio looks these days – pretty simple, since it all can be done on a laptop!

Parma 3

While I was away on these two trips, Crystal had a full slate of Secret Garden musical rehearsals, teaching, her students’ school graduation, a theater fund-raiser event, a visit from her parents, and more. Just before I left for Bulgaria, our state representative brought to the house a beautifully framed proclamation signed by the governor, a senator, and other dignitaries, naming me Composer Laureate of the State of Tennessee, and I did some interviews about that, including one for The Tennessee Register (Click here to read it). The state’s own press secretary is also about to put out a press release to many media outlets, so perhaps there will be more knowledge about the laureate position turning up in various places.

Finally, my musical theater show, Dear Miss Barrett, has been tentatively scheduled for performance (but not yet locked in or announced by them, I’m only spilling the tentative beans here) on May 19 – 28, 2023 by the Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro, TN. Murfreesboro, not far from Nashville, is the town that has a spot in it that is marked as the exact geographic center of the state of Tennessee. They also asked for Crystal to reprise her title role of Elizabeth Barrett (Browning)! Her performances at the readings in New York and especially the premiere last June were a tour de force, and no, I’m not biased. (If what I claim was not true, I just wouldn’t mention anything about it.)

So all the music is now almost done for the new album, Symphony No. 2: Tales from the Realm of Faerie (and other works). All that remains is for me to listen several times again to the mix we made in New Hampshire and live with it for a week or so, and perhaps catch some few little things for the engineer to tweak before the album is mastered. The album release date is to be announced but will be in the fall. It has to be delivered to Naxos (the distributor) three months before the release, for the processing they do.

I hope lots of people will pre-order it on Amazon. There will be some bonus options for pre-orders only, details to come as soon as it gets posted there for pre-ordering (either the physical CD or the download). I think I will simply advertise that people should e-mail me personally a copy of their pre-order receipt and a mailing address, and I will send out a bonus directly to them. So, the trip home was another real obstacle course of shuttle buses, a rental car, a quagmire of crazy roads around Boston, and all the hoops you have to jump through in the airport, and I’m pretty worn out, but, as I said above, it was well worth it to me.

Until next time, I wish you joy, which I like to define as “happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

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