Daniel Dockery's Portfolio

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December 24th, 2010

nec tamen, ut lauder, uigilo curamque futuri
nominis, utilius quod latuisset, ago.
detineo studiis animum falloque dolores,
experior curis et dare uerba meis.
quid potius facam desertis solus in urbe,
quamue malis aliam quærere coner opem?

Ovid, Tristia, V. vii. 39–40.

It’s not for praise I stay awake and toil for the future of a name best forgotten. I busy my mind with studies, sidetracking sorrows, trying to give voice to my concerns. What else can I do alone in this forsaken town, what other help to this should I seek?

I wish I had some such study tonight to drive myself to like distraction, that I would not now be sitting here brooding as I am, under full sway of this sad, sorrowful season’s selection of spectres. This flu business hardly helps.

Last night, I lost myself in music, or my fumbling attempts thereat. As they did not turn out well—they seldom do—I do not wish to pursue the same fruitless path tonight. The goal, as with Ovid, is to forget my frustrations, not encourage them. Yet running through my options now, I’m coming to a dreary conclusion: everything I know how to do is an equal frustration.

Writing, art, music, any of it, all of it—equally flawed, equally disappointing. I’m tired of this; I need a new outlet.

Fazer uma obra e reconhecê-la má depois de feita é uma das tragédias da alma. Sobretudo é grande quando se reconhece que essa obra é a melhor que se podia fazer. Mas ao ir escrever uma obra, saber de antemão que ela tem de ser imperfeita e falhada; ao está-la escrevendo estar vendo que ela é imperfeita e falhada—isto é o máximo da tortura e da humilhação do espírito. Não se os versos que escrevo sinto que me não satisfazem, mas sei que os versos que estou para escrever me não satisfarão, também.

Por que escrevo então? […] Tenho de escrever como cumprindo um castigo. E o maior castigo é o de saber que o que escrevo resulta inteiramente fútil, falhado e incerto.

Pessoa, Livro do desassossego, 231

To write something and recognize afterward that it’s bad is one of the tragedies of the soul. It’s especially terrible when we recognize that the work is the best we could do. But when we write something knowing beforehand that it has to be imperfect and flawed, seeing as we write it that it’s imperfect and flawed—that is the spirit’s maximum torture and humiliation. Not only do I feel that the verses I write do not satisfy me, I know that neither will the verses I’m about to write.

So why do I write? I must write—it’s like carrying out a punishment. And the greatest punishment is knowing that what I write will be entirely futile, flawed and uncertain.

As it’s said that “the truth is established” by “two witnesses”, these two botcheries of last night’s effort will be mine.

The basic study of the intended melody, meant to be a throw-away piece, though it’s perhaps the better of the two in the end.

Black Keys

A more elaborate work on the same melodic material, passing through a number of modulations into other tonal areas than the basic F# minor of the original, though beginning and ending with it.

Further work and revision has—perhaps, or hopefully—improved this latter work, so I have removed the earlier recording; the new incarnation has been premiered on the Facebook “fan” page, under the title “A Waltz in Winter“.

He cometido el peor de los pecados
que un hombre puede cometer. No he sido
feliz. […] Mi mente
se aplicó a las simétricas porfías
del arte, que entreteje naderías.
No me abandona. Siempre está a mi lado
la sombra de haber sido un desdichado.

Borges, “El remordimiento”

I have committed the worst sin a man can commit: I have not been happy. I gave my mind to the symmetric stubbornness of art and all its webs of pettiness. It never leaves me. It is always at my side, the shadow of having been a brooding man.


February 27th, 2010

Εἰ δ᾽ ἄγε νῦν, Ἐρατώ, παρά θ᾽ ἵστασο, καί μοι ἔνισπε…

Long already a muse and inspiration to me, as I have mentioned here before, I have written and released this newest piece to acknowledge that she has also inspired me in ways and directions I’d no longer thought open to me.

It’s but a little thing, I know, but we work with what gifts we have and this is mine. Thank you, my dear, for everything: my life is better with you in it.

With all my love, then, I present for you, Gabriela, your track “Ἐρατώ”—the Greek’s muse of love for the muse of my own:

This track may also be listened to or voted on at thesixtyone.com and heard on Last.FM.

“Ihn bewegt der Sehnsucht Schmerz, und er schauet himmelwärts…”

August 2nd, 2009

A small piece this time round, barely three minutes of playtime. It began as a simple piano melody that came to mind one evening earlier in the week, but shaped by the week’s events and some dream-time inspiration it has emerged as a small work for violin with piano accompaniment, primarily in E minor, with small diversions into G major and C minor along the way. The title, I think suitable enough, comes from a line in the Mayrhofer poem “Einsamkeit” which Schubert once set to music.

The work may be heard at Last.FM or previewed here:

This track may also be listened to or voted on at thesixtyone.com.

φοιβιδα μοι παντων τε θεων παντων τ’ ανθρωπων υμνει, Μουσα

April 20th, 2009

Last fall I found myself lamenting my lack of a Muse, fumbling around with this or that, doing arrangements or covers—just to keep in practice—of some other artist’s work for want of my own inspiration. Those of you who’ve followed my pre-release blogs may recall the grumbling. Yet with the previous post, I had thought—had hoped—perhaps that phase had passed, as new work began once more to trickle out.

I should have been more wary of optimism, perhaps, but so it goes.

And yet, as fate’s mysterious ways are wont to unfurl, it turns out that further inspiration was even then making itself known, entering life from unexpected quarters. In the months since, this Muse has proved inspiring in myriad ways, but most significantly for this blog, she has brought me round again to music, having so far inspired several new works.

In gratitude, I here dedicate this latest to her, with all my thanks and all my love, which she has also re-awakened.

You may hear it at Last.FM, the Facebook page or preview it here:

This track may also be listened to or voted on at thesixtyone.com.

A melody for Gabriela

March 3rd, 2009

In the hope of cheering up a friend a bit, I played a while tonight, exploring forms and melodies. As I have sometimes done in the past, I used a piece of text to build a melody—the text being, in this case, my friend’s name. Exploring two forms of her name, I drafted two melodies, and played the one transitioning into the other and back again. In the exploration, I retained the same melody in the right hand but set it against two different harmonizations and playing styles in the left, resulting in one of the preliminary offerings on display here:

It may also be listened to or voted on at thesixtyone.com or heard on her album at Last.FM.

Update: this melody was later elaborated into the work Su melodía oculta (A Song for Gabriela) which is described in this blog post, the title “her secret melody” referring to the song hidden in her name.

Calculi Albi Atrique

November 4th, 2008

The title comes from the reported ancient practice of setting aside a stone for every day of life: white, if a good or fortunate day; black, if not. At the close of day, or of life, the stones are counted, and the day, or the life, considered fortunate or not depending on which color predominates. (See here, for example.) As moods and experiences fluctuate through my own life, I am not certain which color so far describes my course; nor, perhaps, am I even sure which is predominant in my music, as I slip from major to minor modes and round again. The title is inspired by that consideration. And the tabulation of counting stones? What more fitting day for such a name than today, the Election.

If you’ve listened to much solo piano work, you may recognize one of the right hand variations as a quotation from Sergei Bortkiewicz‘ (Сергій Борткевич, 1877-1952) second work from his six “Pensées lyriques” (Op. 11, no. 2). The Ukrainian pianist has cropped up in a number of places lately in my reading, and given Oct. 25 as the anniversary of his death, I decided to quote him here. Hopefully his ghost won’t take too much offense.

You may hear the track on Last.FM, the Facebook page or here.

This track may also be listened to or voted on at thesixtyone.com.

A new work for solo piano: per Nemora

October 27th, 2008
Photo by Ekaterina
per Nemora

Encountering this picture recently by chance, inspired a particular mood in me, which emerged as a small piano piece, presented here.

For those of you who have followed my work, you may have noticed that for a while now the bulk of my releases have consisted of arrangements—Bach, Mozart, Salieri, Beethoven or here), Grieg, et al. That changes with this post, as here, at last, is a return to original work. The credit, inspiration, and ultimately, the dedication for this goes to Ekaterina, to whom, all my thanks.

This work may be heard on Last.FM as well.

Trold på Troldhaugen

October 22nd, 2008

Edvard Grieg wrote a number of lyrical pieces for solo piano, sixty or more if memory serves. I cannot speak for all of them, having not yet heard the lot, but many are quite good. Interestingly, we actually have a few recordings, from 1903 or so, of the composer himself playing his own works, including, or at least a part of, the piece which has taken my interest most recently, the relatively well-known “Bryllupsdag på Troldhaugen“—”the wedding day at the troll-house”, which was the name of the composer’s own home. Unfortunately, that recording is rather noisy due to the distortion of age, and since, as above, it’s but a fragment, I suggest instead, for comparison here if you are not familiar with the original piece, a recording from 1929 of a performance by Arthur de Greef, who was not only a pupil of the great Liszt through the 1870s and ’80s but was an intimate of Grieg for some three decades and the composer’s favorite performer and interpreter of Griegs’ piano works. I link to de Greef’s performance below to reveal what the original sounds like when played as the composer intended.

But comparison to what, you may be asking. Well, to what the piece has become under my own “corrupting” influence, having had my way with it. I finished this arrangement a couple of days ago and have today finished a recording of the same. It’s actually still for piano, but if you listen to the two, perhaps you can hear the difference?

Granted, my recording hasn’t the grace of de Greef or the Grieg recording, but perhaps it’s still not entirely without some merit or interest of its own.

Daniel Dockery's Portfolio

animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri