November – getting everything in before the snow comes…

By this time last year, we’d already had tree damage to the Bangor house due to record snow fall. So, I am thankful (on this day of Thanksgiving) that this year I was able to get where I needed to get to without having to shovel the car out first.

And I did have to get to a variety of places this month in addition to my regular commute. First, to Brooklyn, to hear Ensemble mise-en play my new piece for the first time. That the group has its own rehearsal and concert space in Bushwick is a real advantage for these players, all very busy freelance performers and specialists in contemporary music. And fittingly for the neighborhood, there’s gourmet grilled cheese nearby.


The Brooklyn concert featured some pretty intense music from a bunch of New England composers, although my own contribution aimed at comedy more than anything else: the piece is based on Miriam Gamble’s poem “Introducing the Nissan Jet-pack,” and uses various kinds of machine sounds both from the live performers and from accompanying electronic sounds.

Jet Pack demo

Some of the comedy didn’t quite play – I will need to do some editing on the piece to get the proportions correct, and to get more info to the players on the overall mood. By the time the piece was done again in Maine, I think the feel was better, and the larger space made the sound mix a little cleaner. Recording the work is also tricky, given the various sound sources and the use of some spoken text. This recording, from the dress rehearsal, is the best take I have for the vocoder sounds in the ending:

Jet Pack – ending

The trip in between these performances took place in Hartford, with the Hartford Opera Theater‘s New in November event. Six scenes selected from 6 different operas were put together in a couple of weeks, with some basic staging and piano accompaniment. Each scene had its own team of performers, stage director, conductor and pianist, all of whom had to work at maximum efficiency to get the scene on stage.

Contrast the figuring-out-what’s-happening next photo from the dress rehearsal..


with the look of the scene excerpted from “Until the War is Over”(libretto by Jennifer Moxley) ..


and you get a sense of what needed to happen in just one afternoon. The whole company was a pleasure to work with, and I hope to have video of the scene soon to share.

While the whole extended trip was memorable and eventful, I am also glad that it all got done before the season changed and the push to the end of the semester started. Also glad that the slow leak in my front tires didn’t prevent me from doing the extra driving, and that Subaru found and fixed the problem without fuss.

And now, this week in Bangor weather:



Author: beth wiemann

Beth teaches composition and clarinet at the University of Maine in Orono, ME. She also spends time in Massachusetts with her husband, David Rakowski, and in her Subaru going back and forth on Routes 95 and 93.

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