…one more thing about variations. Toccatas. Scores of Publishing Questions!

Just another word about themes and variations. Obviously, not only composers, but a lot of poets have used them . I think of Wallace Stevens’ “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”—no theme, exactly, but lots of variations. When I did my dissertation on Stevens in the ‘70s, deconstruction, of course, was the rage. And how better to do that in writing than creating work which constantly “deconstructs” itself, and in a sense, variations do this. However, in Stevens, there is no “true theme” around which all the variations dance; instead, the variations themselves make up the dance and their interplay creates a kind of fleeting “truth.”   Thirteen blind poets feeling up that proverbial elephant.

But now, on to toccatas which are, according to the dictionary, “virtuoso, free-style compositions with brilliant runs and scales.”   I have chosen two for next year’s recital: Bach’s Toccata in E minor (#2, BWV 914, 1710) and one by Beata Golec (2007).  Given that they were composed three hundred years apart, it is interesting to see how each has interpreted that definition, that form.  You can listen to Bach’s Toccata at any time on YouTube of course, and can hear Golec’s Toccata here: https://myspace.com/beatagolec/music/song/toccata-for-piano-solo-1598498-1615143

I have written no poems called “Toccata,” but I have written many, many poems about music in general. The latest published ones can be seen in Chicago Literati from earlier this year: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-literati/2014/03/three-poems-by-kathleen-dale/

Beata Golec  lives and teaches in New York and was kind enough to send me her score for free. Given my interest in contemporary American women composers, I have had the good fortune to receive other such scores for the asking or for only a token amount, from such composers as Jennifer Higdon, Rami Levin, Elizabeth R. Austin, Emma Lou Diemer, Ruth Schonthal, Beata Moon, and Marilyn Ziffrin.  Few except the most famous, like Joan Tower or Libby Larsen or Judith Laing Zaimont, actually publish their scores with the big publishing houses.   The great good thing (as May Sarton used to say, and she would have LOVED to blog) is that these women are willing to talk about their work and to share it freely.

I have been thinking about how different it still is for writers, though perhaps that is changing with the advent of online sharing, and so forth. Though I still like a good, firm, well-designed book in my hand, I doubt that I will be able to afford to have such a book of poetry produced to give out for free at my recital, though this is what I would really like to do.

I loved the recent movie Begin Again with Keira Knightley, in which her character ends up NOT signing with a big record company, but producing an album herself and then selling it on the Internet for $1.00. That’s what I’d like to do. And I guess one can do that on Amazon.com. But is it the “same”? There is still such a stigma against self-publishing among poets in America today. I admit that poetry differs from musical scores in that the real money-maker (if there is one) for composers is the recordings, not the score. But still. I would love to get anyone’s ideas or feedback about this issue.

This morning I worked with Golec and a new Bach Partita, working back to the Higdon and the Bach Toccata. I’m pleased to find that the latter haven’t lost much since I last played them in May. More about performance later.

This afternoon I sailed with my good sailing partner, Karen R.  Light air, which meant problems with our first “practice over-board” of the season. Let’s just say, the buoy would have drowned before we finally pulled it back aboard.

Sailing is so much like writing. So much about listening and being willing to change direction (vary one’s course) at the slightest change of condition.  Metaphor intended!

One thought on “…one more thing about variations. Toccatas. Scores of Publishing Questions!

  1. Also about sailing — there is something very "variations on a theme" about the repetitive movements there, as well. Do you think that the concept of theme and variations ties back to the very idea of sitting down at an instrument and performing (relatively) similar, yet different, acts each day? And can we see our writing practices as similar?


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