My composing sessions extend to eight hours, with plenty of breaks for coffee and stretching, which is why I don’t compose when on contract. The title, To His Coy Mistress, entered my head because I’m a mid-forties bachelor who love has not yet called to her bedside, or fireside, or beachside. I can’t think of any sides. Perhaps we should go straight to the main course: the orchestra is tuned and Hans von Bülow stands poised at the pedestal waiting:
So I remembered Andrew Marvell’s poem, To His Coy Mistress, which at various times I’ve committed to memory. The first four lines declare that he’s waited long enough:
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Whether Goddess Fortune opens her Horn of Plenty in 2021 remains to be seen. I am in the cafe, head on small of palm, gazing out the window at the summer lovers. To His Coy Mistress is for the arrival of the Queen of Sheba. Until then, Solomon’s Temple remains unfurnished.
Farewell to a friend
At the beginning of 2020 I said goodbye to Patrick Wu. He exerted a strong influence over my intellectual and artistic development. Our conversations at the pub ranged from philosophy to jazz, politics to pop culture, and how the Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos could field so many good players without going over the salary cap.
Patrick loved photography and continually refined his art as we entered the digital age. He left an oeuvre of masterful photos, dispelling any doubts that the medium of photography is out of place among les beaux arts of painting/sculpture, music, literature and now film.
Discover more of Patrick’s photography on instagram @kindofbluehour and on his website. Patrick’s photos are characterised by attention to line and focus; minimalism and abstraction are also his concerns.
I have chosen one that captures the elegance, art and haute couture of Paris, one of Patrick’s favourite haunts. He religiously made an annual pilgrimage to Paris once a year in November where he took communion with baguettes and burgundy and prayed at the Louvre.
I have little amateur experience writing for orchestra, mainly setting accompaniments to my piano works such as Lake of Reflection written two years ago.
Recently I attempted an adventure track, The Temptation of Merlin, where I squeezed almost all I could out of Logic Pro’s orchestra library. I had it pointed out to me by a fellow producer, Gorman, that Spitfire Audio released a free orchestral package, BBC Discover. It’s $49 or complete a survey and receive the package in your inbox a fortnight later.
The professional studio-recorded quality of the BBC Symphony Orchestra strings is clear. Forty-seven articulations are available across thirty-three instrument patches. Whether I do justice to any of them is another matter entirely.
Casual listeners may find To His Coy Mistress affirming, as my friend Neil in Melbourne found it “took me on a ride.” My friend Christian in Brisbane adopted the spirit of Marvell himself: “It’s strong and punchy and gives hope, which is needed after this year. Like the resurgence of life in spring after a winter thaw.”
Other opinions may differ. Perhaps the clumsy orchestral voicings are derivative in nature. I’ll go back and improve it – so far the exertions were only thirty hours over four days. A short burst.
I set out to compose the Mozartian style. By the mid-point I’d ventured from mid-classical to late-classical/early-romantic with string motifs learnt from Mendelssohn. Anton Bruckner influenced my use of brass, particularly his fourth Symphony, “The Romantic”.
Composing is always a process of discovery and of learning. After publishing to YouTube, I usually re-listen to see where improvements can be made. The section after the early oboe solo is a touch too loud and it gets a bit messy later on when I wanted to be done with it.
Important details can be overlooked after your ear repeatedly listens to the same sequences. I left the double basses out of the final chord, robbing the closure of some extra oomph.
So if you are going to play To His Coy Mistress, please let me know in advance. Wherever you are, I’ll be there with a double bass to give His Coy Mistress the ending she deserves.