Stan McDaniel

My Musical Background: Some Biographical Reminiscences


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Lorraine Hazel Higbee (age 19) Lorraine H. McDaniel

My mother, Lorraine Hazel McDaniel (née Higbee), was a very fine pianist and a piano teacher. She could play marvelously in both classical and popular styles. I recall many, many days when she would entertain family and friends whizzing through the hits of the day including showpieces like "Dizzy Fingers" and "Nola" (this was in the 1940's). She also taught piano to youngsters for many years. Somehow I seem to have inherited her musical sensitivity (but not her performing skills). At an early age I began composing original music at the piano (listen to "The Aviary" on the music page). Several of the melodies I wrote during that time I later used in more elaborate compositions. An assessment test I took before entering college showed that I was high in musical talent, so I entered undergraduate school as a music major (1949). After two years, however, I developed a consuming interest in philosophy and switched to a philosophy major. It was during these college years, however, that my musical inclinations developed. Although I had an omnivorous appetite for classical music of all eras and styles, eventually it was the music of Sibelius, followed closely by that of Frederick Delius and somewhat later by Carl Orff, that directly impacted my own sense of musical form and style. Above all I aspire to create beauty in melodic line, and especially in the interplay of melodic lines (counterpoint).

A strong influence has also been the music of the American composer Howard Hanson, particularly in the use of open harmonies (based on perfect intervals and creating a "primitive" feeling) and flexible modes or scales. The music of both Hanson and Sibelius evokes a mood of ancient modality. Hanson especially in his "Lament to Beowulf" and Sibelius in his "Tapiola" as well as many other works.

H. Klyne Headley During my years as a music major, I studied composition with an inspiring teacher and consummate musician named H. Klyne Headley, who (although now forgotten) at that time was quite well known as a composer, conductor and concert pianist. It was he who gave me skills for serious musical composition. Although I pursued a career in philosophy, I continued to compose music, bits here and there, and even one or two major pieces over the years, based on further reading and experience as time permitted. I made efforts at self-publishing, and in 1965-66 two of my pieces, "The White Tree" and "Estel" (Hope) for solo alto recorder, were received favorably, the first by a laudatory review in The American Recorder magazine (1965) and the second in a letter from the outstanding professional recorder artist Franz Bruggen, who called "Estel" "a real contribution to the modern recorder repertoire."

Despite this encouragement, nothing significant happened with these pieces, or indeed any of the other music I wrote, for a very long time. Then in 1977, on the occasion of the passing away of the great fantasy writer and philologist J.R.R. Tolkien, I was asked to provide music for a memorial program at the annual OCTOCON science fiction convention in Santa Rosa, CA. This resulted in the orchestral suite In Memoriam Tolkien for chamber orchestra and chorus. With the advent of computers and music notation programs, I was able to publish several more of my pieces, most for recorders but also a newly orchestrated and expanded version of my 1962 composition Saga of the White Mountains, originally written for piano and alto recorder and now re-scored for strings, piano, percussion and flute. I have also completed a re-orchestration of In Memoriam Tolkien and a revision and expansion of my work for chorus and orchestra honoring the late science fiction author Frank Herbert, Images of Dune. Some of these works can be heard on my music page.

Stan McDaniel