The Customs Officer

24 Nov 2006

The Customs Officer Opus 8, Composed January 2006. This was perhaps my most ambitious attempt to date, having set out to accomplish two goals: First, I wanted a depiction of the artist Henri Rousseau, also known as Le Douanier (which means “The Customs Officer”). (The cover mock-up shown here features one of his self-portraits.) Second, I set out to write something in five sharps, as it was a different mind-set than my normal places of comfort, which were Eb and Db for the most part (although I’d also been toying with F#). The piece is meant to be played rather quickly, as reflected in the rendering. However, there would be some important differences in any new, live-played version. For example, I slow the D section a bit, but not too much, and have come to introduce a bit of rubato in place, most notably in the right hand where, once the piece is mastered, the melody can benefit from a certain bit of controlled temporal independence which I think clarifies the emotional intent of the phrasing. I don't believe this comes through properly in the rendered piece or the score, but it's nevertheless part of this work. A few areas either have been or are still slated for some revisions, as well. But, I'm pleased with the piece in general. It's always been well received in salons, etc.

Philosophically, there is much to admire about Rousseau. For one, many people often search for inspiration related to late-starters. I don't believe Rousseau *really* gained any momentum until his 40s, and thereafter. So, if you're looking for that type of story, read up on him. Next, the man was multi-talented -- publishing art, music, and writing (and who knows what other output). This is a model that far too few follow in today's world of what I feel is basically societally-forced specialization (resulting in, for example, self-deprecation being a far-too common style of communication and self-identification). I mean that last item not as a promotion of the opposite scenario, of course -- more in the sense that few people today seem to embrace the possibilitiy of living the "Renaissance man" ideal of multi-disciplinary advancement. Finally, there is the notion of what "naive" or "primitive" means -- usually uttered by critics in a condescending manner, in my view. If you want to know the truth about my own art, music, and writing... I do it all strictly to entertain myself.

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