Monday, November 17, 2008

Composer, conductor, orchestra, premiere, rehearsal

Here is the good news, the great news, in fact: it was an historic moment, I was there, I had a sketch book, I had the presence of mind to sketch the moment, I had the gall to ask the historic figures to sign my sketch, and they had the graciousness to sign it.

And the bad news: it's as bad a sketch as I've ever managed to produce.

The occasion: Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra musical director David Robertson conducting the orchestra in a rehearsal for a premiere of part of a new Glenn Branca symphony, with the composer in the house (The Pageant) and nervously following along on his much-thumbed copy of the score.

The moment: Branca got up from his slouch over the score and shuffled toward the stage, in an attempt to get the conductor's attention and contribute to the directions he was giving to the orchestra.

The extenuating circumstance: I did say Branca was following along nervously, he was fidgety as all get-out, I started several other sketches of him and finished none because he couldn't keep still - he crossed his legs, puzzled over the score, uncrossed his legs, stood, sat, stood, shuffled to the other side of the stage, shuffled back, sat, crossed his legs ...

So, when I saw him move toward the conductor, I pounced on the moment and sketched hurriedly (and badly), and I was right to do, if I wanted any sketch at all, because David never deigned to so much as acknowledge Branca's presence near his conductor's stand nor his suggestions. The implication was clear and forceful - I wasn't at your elbow when you were composing this piece of music, I don't want you at my back as I am conducting it - and Branca got the point right away.

The composer shuffled back to his seat, sat, crossed his legs, uncrossed his legs, pored over the score, closed the score, stood - had to deal with a journalist with a sketchbook; graciously signed his sketch - shuffled off and out of the club and into the day as the orchestra played on - played on his music - behind him.

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