Composer in the studio

Winter is here, snow making the garden lovely in a new way. This is the season of lines and shapes, the bones of the garden.

snowygate

The seeds and plants have been ordered while watching garden videos, the antidote to the bitter cold keeping me indoors. Zelda is sound asleep for the winter, adorned by a milky snow mustache. zeldasnow

Angel has been enjoying the snow in spite of the cold, running through the woods . . . angelsnowrun

alert to the sounds of birds and squirrels in the quiet days . . . angelsnowgarden

and trying to puzzle out why the snow is only on the south side of the trees. angelsnowtree

There have been days where my feet have not crossed the threshold into winter, as I have been in my music studio instead of the garden. The cello concerto is almost ready for rehearsals but so many details to complete! Someone asked me recently where I composed and on what instrument (thank you, Linda!), so perhaps many of you will find this of interest.

Composing begins for me with an idea that will work within the structure of the piece. I think about it for a long time, do extensive research and write many pages of notes. Often, I begin this process in what is perhaps my favorite room in the house, piano_rooma room lined with a wall of windows facing south where I can see the woods in all seasons. It is the closest I can be to nature and my garden while still being inside the house and is especially appreciated in winter when the light streams in and I can light a fire in the fireplace. Once the piece takes shape in my mind, I move from the cozy chairs to the piano. One of the great treasures of my life,  the piano is a Lindeman from the 1930’s and belonged to my Aunt June, who was a marvelous pianist. I spend evenings searching for the “soul” of the piece while improvising at the keys, finally sketching out musical themes and ideas with paper and pencil.

Armed with those notes, I move into my studio. A partially finished “bonus room” over the garage when we moved here, we eventually tricked out the room with a heating/cooling unit, added skylights and carpet and furnished it as my creative retreat to compose, to work on multimedia projects, and to just think. The music work station takes center stage and this is where I go to bring pieces to completion. Reference books on technology and orchestration line the bookshelves. Angel, ever my muse, sleeps next to me on the blanket on the floor or under the table.lynnstudio

Once I complete a section or movement, I retreat to my little sofa to listen to playback, marking rough drafts, taking notes. What works? What sounds unbalanced or incomplete? Putting some distance between me and the computer allows me to regain perspective from the minutia of putting notes to page and also encourages me to relax my back and neck from the inevitable computer strain. My first oil painting hangs on the wall and artwork of all kinds fill the space. lynnstudio2

In a few days, the score and parts will be complete and uploaded to the music librarian; rehearsals begin soon. I will share more about Watershed in my next post. In the meantime, stay warm and enjoy the stark beauty of the season.

 

A Winter Wonderland

I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again. ~ Lewis Carroll

patternoflightThis week, winter arrived. An all day snow turned the world into a festive snowy wonderland that I could barely see during a slow drive home from work in the dark. Morning brought blue skies and golden sun and revealed the white fairytale forest around me. You might enjoy listening to the unusual arrangement of Winter Wonderland by Pentatonix (below) while you look at the snow photos – click on any photo in the mosaic to see a full size image. (All still images ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse)

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~ J.B. Priestley

Multiplicity

Multiplicity – a very large number (the simple definition) – from Merriam-Webster

A snowstorm quietly moved through western Pennsylvania earlier this week, sifting fine wet snow onto the garden and woods, snow that clung to every branch, leaf, and twig. An early morning foray outside revealed a magical wonderland, a multiplicity of shapes and forms delicately outlined in white.Lutyens bench in snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first inch of snow melted on pavement, outlining stepping stones.stonepathWP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An oak leaf on the driveway became a pillow of white against the black asphalt.oak leaf snow

 

Bronze leaves still clinging to branches held small tufts and caps of snow.bronze oak leaves

 

A loose hedge of forsythia was transformed into an ethereal cloud.Forsythia in snow

 

Ornamental grasses stood tall, capturing snow crystals in their curved inflorescences.grass gate snow

 

The straight lines of a bench echoed the bold trunks of trees.Monet bench in snow

 

The lower garden became a study in curves made up of a million tiny lines of black and white. I became lost in the looking, entranced by an endless multiplicity of growth and life stripped down to its skeletal beauty. Winter suddenly became as beautiful as any fair day in May.
February snow in the lower garden

 

What an amazing world we live in! A complex harmony of shape and form and line that changes from day to day, season to season, beautiful without measure.Snowy wood

All photos ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

 

The Lion Roars

March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb. (old proverb)

Zelda sleeps The month of March has carried the winter banner forward – snow, a bit of rain, and more snow. Bitter temperatures come and go – at least the garden is covered by a deep layer of snow, tucked in safely for the season. For most of us in North America, the winter has been long and difficult and I, at least, long for the return of spring.

Whiteout in the woodsThe garden is asleep, as witnessed by Zelda peering out from her wintry cap. (here is Zelda in warmer times) Snow whiteouts have become common, spectacular and ghost-like. The world is gray and white and brown but I am dreaming of color. To satisfy my need for the hues and vibrancy of the garden, I have begun spending the first hour of each day watching YouTube garden videos. They remind me that the garden season is not so far away and I am inspired to plant seeds, propagate plants, and dream of the days to come.

I am looking forward to the “out like a lamb” part of March. Warmer weather is predicted next week, so perhaps spring really is at hand. In the meantime, winter, however unwelcome, is still a beautiful season. (All images ©2015 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

The March wind roars like a lion in the sky,
And makes us shiver as he passes by.
When winds are soft, and the days are warm and clear,
Just like a gentle lamb, then spring is here. ~Anonymous

Footprints

Remember sixteen – when all the world was new and a lifetime stretched before you like fresh snow just waiting for your footprints? ~ Peggy Toney Horton

dogprintsI haven’t been leaving many footprints here lately. Life took a decidedly inward turn in December as I began to treasure the last few weeks of my sabbatical, reluctant to share the quiet and solitary days left to me before I returned to the whirlwind of another semester. Punctuated only by a happy crowd of family and friends on Christmas Day, I spent those days reading, thinking, writing and walking and sometimes snuggled up to the fireplace with Angel in my lap. (She may be large but she considers herself a lap dog!)

Snow has been plentiful this winter, nature sharing her winter mulch in a generous way. And so I have been able to track the rabbit that sneaks through the fence into my garden to chew on the rose bushes, leaving my own steps behind. Angel tracks the rabbit’s movements with great interest but we never catch a glimpse of it, only the traces of its path in the snow. I have been feeling like that rabbit lately, making quiet visits to favorite blogs but rarely leaving a footprint. It was a bit of a shock to return to work after seven months of quietly pursuing my own path, but I have found my inner and outer balance again and suddenly find that I want to leave a few more footprints in my wake. A special thanks to those of you who stopped by here to say hello while I was on vacation.

A few footprints in my life. (All images © Lynn Emberg Purse, 2014)

A musical version of Footprints, with composer and saxophonist Wayne Shorter performing live with Esperanza Spalding on the Tavis Smiley Show. Enjoy!

“I think that’s what we all want, in the end. To know that we left footprints when we passed by, however briefly. We want to be remembered.” ~ Mike E. Lancaster