The idea for this work pretty much arrived in my mind exactly as it ended up: seven or eight short movements that depict aspects of my mother. I see it much like a series of postcards (she likes to send us postcards now and again) depicting this and that but making no attempt to tell the whole story. And this isnít the whole story Ė it really is just Seven or Eight Short Things About My Mother. Fittingly, I am writing these notes on the day before Motherís Day 2012, having just finished the piece. Happy Motherís Day, mom.
The first movement, When My Mother Was Young, was inspired by pictures of my mother around the time she got married and became a mother a few years later. My mother has always been youthful looking, but in these pictures I was also struck how very young see seemed.
Mom Bikes to the store to get groceries, on road trips, to get around town. She always has. I thought her old Raleigh (long ago retired) was the coolest. The stringsí pizzicato notes are her bike bell.
Although mom likes games, she was never much into sports until I went to Indiana University as a graduate student in 1989, and she became a college basketball fan. Since then we have annually exchanged our NCAA Picks for the college basketball tournament known as March Madness. Even though neither of us watches many games anymore, we still keep up this tradition, and because I never saved our old brackets, this piece was based on our picks for the 2012 tournament. Each team was given a note based on their seeding (with 16 seeds, some notes are repeated). Number 1 seeds are ďCĒ and the higher seeds are closest to C (so number 2 seeds are B, number 3, D-flat, etc.). Octave is determined by which of the four regions the team was assigned to. Each game is represented by one note. The actual winner of each game, presented in the order they were played, is played by the clarinet. The cello (my picks) and the violin (momís picks) follow with slightly (and sometimes not-so-slightly) altered echoes reflecting how well we predicted (or didnít) the outcomes. Note that on those occasions where the cello and violin play together, they should be in unison; any harmony is a sign of disagreement. Despite neither of us doing particularly well that year, Mom did pick the tournament winner: Kentucky.
Mom Hangs Up the Wash even when itís going to rain. Or freeze. The violin is the clothesline. The clothespins are placed on the line by the cello. She hangs up laundry a lot faster than this Ė I decided this had to be a pastoral movement because weíre outside, and on this day (in my mind) itís perfect hanging weather: the sun (the great bleacher) is shining, and the sheets are gently flapping in the breeze.
My parents have had a large garden for as long as I can remember, but I found writing about Momís Garden to be rough going, and almost did not include it in this set. The solution I eventually settled on does not depict her activities Ė planting, weeding, harvesting Ė but instead focuses on the mysterious nature of growing things, as they change from seeds to food.
Mom Sometimes Forgets Things. Itís just how she is. Arenít we all like that a little?
Mom Plays Scrabbleģ and my brother and I always find time to play some games with her when we are all together. This piece is based on a game we played in 2011. We recorded each roundís rack, and took pictures of the board after each turn. Each letter is given a note based on its place in the alphabet. The piece begins with the three tiles we picked to see who goes first (it was mom). For each turn, we hear the new tiles picked up, then the letters in the word(s) created, including letters already on the board that were used in the formation of the new word(s), and finally the points scored. Any double and triple letters or words become repeated notes or groups of notes (either twice or three times). Mom is the clarinet, Iím the violin and my brother Bruce is the cello, although I allow the other instruments to support the main one. Other overlapping parts emphasize patterns of letters and notes that were the same between the three players. The piece ends with the announcing of the three total scores. Bruce won.
Mom Takes a Nap. She exercises and keeps busy in a hundred different ways, even at 70, so itís no wonder she sometimes sits down for a minute and ends up taking a nap.