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Month: September 2013

Canon for a Rainy Day

Here’s my latest work of music.  It’s a canon for 2 clarinets and an English horn, with a piano playing the chords:

A PDF score can be found here: Canon for a Rainy Day.

The canon kind of came out of nowhere.  I was trying to write one last month, but it just wasn’t working, so I scrapped it.  Then I sort of arbitrarily decided to write one with a chord progression of I-IV-I-V-IV-iii-IV-V.  I ended up changing the first V chord to a iii, so in the end the chord progression became I-IV-I-iii-IV-iii-IV-V.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear how good that first I-IV shift can sound with the right melody.  They’re major chords, yet with the appropriate style, there’s something a bit wistful about it, almost nostalgic.  And of course the iii chord only adds to that feeling.

The themes introduced by the first clarinet, then passed to the English horn, then to the second clarinet, contrasting and complimenting each other as they are passed along.  I was originally writing the canon for piano and violins, but I wanted something with a lower range than the violin and I knew clarinets would really compliment the piano.  (Plus, sampled solo strings don’t sound that great in Garritan Personal Orchestra, at least not without a good amount of tweaking, so I don’t work with them much anymore.  I love its woodwinds, though.)  I also wanted an oboe, but its range does not go low enough, so I went with an English horn instead.

Overall, I am very pleased with how the canon came out.  It was pouring rain outside as I wrote it, and the canon sounded rather wistful anyway, so the name “Canon for a Rainy Day” seemed appropriate.

Also, I was very tired while I was writing this, so the calm lullaby quality of the piece was constantly beckoning me to fall asleep at my desk.  I was able to resist, but when I’m composing when I’m that tired, I’m unable to think straight and it makes the composing process very strange and dream-like.

Also, my pizza went cold while I was obsessed with writing this, so I know what it’s like to sacrifice something for my art.

Cousinly Silly Putty

Some more random trivia from my ancestry.com free trial…

My great great great grandfather’s older brother’s grandson was Peter C.L. Hodgson.  So that would make him my second cousin thrice removed.  He was famous for what he did with a newly invented strange but useless putty.  According to Wikipedia:

In 1949, the putty reached the owner of a toy store, Ruth Fallgatter. She contacted Peter Hodgson, a marketing consultant. The two decided to market the bouncing putty by selling it in a clear case. Although it sold well, Fallgatter did not pursue it further. However, Hodgson saw its potential.

Already $12,000 in debt, Hodgson borrowed $147 to buy a batch of the putty to pack 1 oz (28 g) portions into plastic eggs for $1, calling it Silly Putty.

Oh, Silly Putty, I always knew we had a cousinly connection… a second cousin thrice removed connection…

My Great Aunt Frances

frances

Some random family trivia is that we are related to the famous children’s book author Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy).  I was told she was my great great great great aunt.  But is this accurate?  If so, how?  How can it be so?  Is it a direct relation, or through marriage?  No one knew.  (Not that I really asked anyone.)  History became legend and legend became myth and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.  It was kind of like a secret… a secret garden…

So I registered for a free trial on ancestry.com to investigate the matter and after a few hours of researching and putting all the clues together, I can confirm that the family legends are true.  You see, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s older brother, John George Hodgson, was my great great great grandfather.  According to a biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett, John was a poor drunk, and when he died in 1904, it was my dear rich Aunt Fran who paid for his burial.

John had two children, Edith and Bert.  Interestingly, Bert was a songwriter, which explains why my grandparents had some obscure sheet music he had published in the 1920’s.  At some point, I’ll try orchestrating my great great great uncle’s work to see what it sounds like.  Edith married some guy named Alonzo Miller.  They had three daughters, Nellie, Lucile, and Bertie.  Lucile married John Ashe Hannifin and they had six children, one of whom was my grandfather.

So there you go, from Hodgson to Miller to Hannifin.  Not too complicated.  Also making the research easy was the fact that each generation between me and John Hodgson was born and lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the Hodgson family emigrated to from England in the 1860’s.

Unfortunately Frances Hodgson Burnett left no money or book dedications for her great great great great nieces and nephews.  I must confess, it is tough living under the shadow of my great great great great aunt.  There’s just so much pressure.