SIO: Who are the librettists you work with?
Do you work with several or only Peter? Roger was director of the opera department at the Peabody Conservatory, and he wrote the libretti for my first two operas, a short piece called Leaving Home , which represented my first operatic project, followed by a one-act, titled The Reunion. It was a wonderful libretto, and the project went very well. A year or two later, Peter approached Roger, asking if he could suggest a composer for him to work with. Roger proposed that we collaborate. Perhaps the harmonic language and expressive range have broadened a bit.
DC: I do. I have a couple of former students whom I trust to help me with getting scores and parts together. I grew up near Philadelphia. My father worked as an archaeologist at Temple University. DC: I started as a pianist. So I think my interest in the early nineteenth century comes from that repertoire I knew early and well. I played a lot of that music.
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I think a lot of our early influences remain strong — the things that attracted us to music at the start. I began writing piano music almost exclusively through my later teens. During my undergraduate years I started writing for other forces, and realized I was very interested in vocal music, and in the orchestra, too.
DC: The realities of the world of new music are quite a hurdle. I think we find our own ways to negotiate that, getting performances and so on.
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Truth be told, I think of all my music as operatic. I think of scenes and characters even in instrumental pieces. Opera is so difficult to get performed, and so expensive. SIO: What are some of your latest artistic obsessions — areas of interest for future works? It resonates with this opera actually in terms of subject matter. I have quite a few sketches completed. About the same time I began that piece a pianist approached me about the possibility of a piano concerto. DC: Probably.
It goes back a long way. I think there are two kinds of composers represented by the Mozart model and the Beethoven model. DC: One of my favorite composers is Robert Schumann who might be the most confessional composer of all. I think a lot more composers are confessional than meet the eye. I keep secrets — like Chopin did. I have an orchestra piece titled, A Tale After the Brothers Grimm, and everybody always asks which fairytale. I am certainly a confessional composer, but a guarded one.
DC: I think we want music to provide an emotional discourse that can resonate with our own experience. SIO: Why focus on sacred music-drama as a form? What was your interest in this genre within the larger family of music drama? DC: As far as the sacred subject matter… chant especially is really interesting to me.
I love chorales, too. A lot of the music of the church is so beautiful. That was one of the attractive features of this particular piece. Though I wrote the opera before I ever taught anything, I now enjoy teaching sixteenth-century counterpoint very much.
I enjoy spending time with students on that literature. The other is the beautiful poetry of the heroine, Sor Juana. It is simply gorgeous writing. SIO: What would you say are opportunities or insights you have found that can derive from this form of communication— the dramatization of sacred or transcendental stories and ideas?
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DC: I think opportunities to create further works; spiritual growth for oneself; further investigation into how art relates to life- How art, meaning, and our existence come together. SIO: Particularly thinking about sacred operas… so many are written to speak to the violence of the contemporary world.
Do you think that these kinds of works are simply telling a story or do they reflect on ethical and moral issues? DC: Oh, they definitely do. This story, old as it is, is still timely because human nature is the same in any period.
Would the sacred aspect draw you to a project or would it really be about the story that may just happen to have a sacred aspect? DC: The sacred aspect would interest me. I am a person of faith myself, and I like to reflect that where I can artistically. We have callings and I need to do what I am able. I agree with Stravinsky where this is concerned. SIO: Do you think that the setting of sacred topics can breathe new life into those spiritual topics especially in our age of secularization and industrialization?
DC: Oh sure, it can. I think that it is naturally challenging for people of our time to relate to abstract concepts and distant eras. Peter has drawn the characters so well in this piece that audiences are always engaged. SIO: Do you have any compositional or production suggestions that you would offer as guidelines for writing and then consequently staging in a church or sacred space? Things that you might be concerned about because of the space? DC: You mean in terms of dealing with institutions or just in terms of practicality of performance?
DC: Yes, we were. The piece has been performed in sacred spaces too, however. SIO: So are there issues related to staging in a sacred space that might be important to think about in terms of composition or production? There were issues because of the space such as where to put the orchestra — practical things. We built a platform. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always.
It has been said, time and time repeated, that once you get ink in your blood, running strong in your veins, you can never get it out…. You never grow too old to write when the ink is in your blood.grandaday.co.uk/map8.php
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Your fingers still itch to record the ideas you have. Your eye is still proud to read a bit of work that you have created. Your mind is still capable of being astonished at the power it holds. No, you are never too old to see a new adventure and get it down, quick. Men have left writing for other positions and they have always been restless until they are back at the desk, with their pens, their typewriters, and their inky hands.
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Their desire for creation and their pride in their product can find no outlet, and you know what happens to things that are bottled up too long. The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. To women he is half vivisector, half vampire. He gets into intimate relations with them to study them, to strip the mask of convention from them, to surprise their inmost secrets, knowing that they have the power to rouse his deepest creative energies, to rescue him from his cold reason, to make him see visions and dream dreams, to inspire him, as he calls it.
He persuades women that they may do this for their own purpose whilst he really means them to do it for his.
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Since marriage began, the great artist has been known as a bad husband. He has sacrificed everything for his plays. Shaw gives the impression of a man who long since parted with every temptation, except that of turning his blood into ink, in order to reveal his soul.