Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The news came yesterday that a major American university—Northwestern, a private one—is taking drastic steps to deal with fallout from this pandemic.  This article notes that, among a number of very frightening actions, Northwestern is going to cut into their endowment.  That’s a step of last resort, as the golden rule is to never touch an endowment’s capital unless in an existential crisis. This is all a very clear indicator of just how desperate this very well-endowed institution is right now, and this is surely not a unique situation. 

And then the news that the California State University system, the largest system in the US, with 500,000 students, is maintaining all-online classes through the fall; the same with several Canadian universities (McGill, UBC, others).

This will spread, and undoubtedly his us here in the UNC system, I’ve no doubt at all.  So I’ve spent a chunk of time this morning searching for resources, software, ideas, etc., related to the teaching I’ll likely be asked to do when the fall arrives.

Some possible, only slightly possible, good news on the job layoff front.  A call to a recruiter has yielded good news as this family pursues openings which would involve a move that Pattie and I would very much like to see happen.  Still many rows to hoe ahead in all of this, but we’re keeping fingers crossed for an easy transition, and one that might even point the way for us, as well, in the coming years.


But the past few days have also brought an exchange which generates a smile that’s rare these days..

What our creative lives involve (in the best of circumstances) is such a test of one’s ability to tolerate delayed gratification.  Writing, critiquing, correcting, editing, re-writing, re-critiquing, re-editing…and all over again.  The ‘final’ product delivered, and then the best part, the feedback from those who’ll bring it to life for the first time.  The workshop, if you like.  Followed by more editing.

Sometimes the workshop is very brief; the piece delivered in time for a few rehearsals before the premiere, then the first performance.  In such cases the performers don’t have much time for reflection and feedback, as they’re focused on doing what’s needed to get to a performable state of preparation.  Then, after that performance, they’re on to their next performance-preparation.  In those cases we grab feedback from the notes the players have made on their parts, perhaps focusing a few important queries, if they are available to respond and recall.  Otherwise it’s really just hearing a recording of the performance and trying to allow for the sorts of things that just happen in performance settings, as well as recording quality, the room’s ambient sounds, reverb, etc.

Other times, the workshop is quite extended, bringing lots of delayed gratification, in exchange for a great deal of feedback, opportunity for clarification and/or editing before a first performance.  Such is the case with a piece I finished almost two years ago, Anima/Animus for marimba solo. 

This piece has yet to be premiered, as it’s important to me that the person I wrote it for is the one to premiere it—so I’ve not sent it out to anyone else as yet.  He’s had a rough time both personally and professionally over the past few years, especially now of course, and I’ve wanted this to be something he can look forward to when life permits.  Now, the Shelter Recordings project of my publisher—the same project that yielded a great recording of a violin duet, On Balance, a few weeks ago—has brought him an opportunity to earn a little $ in preparing a recording.  So, although he saw sketches of the piece as I was writing it for him, we’re now in the stage of him learning and getting to know the piece from the more intimate perspective of a performer preparing for presentation. 

Thanks for that, Chris. You’ve made my year.

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