Whenever Kerry Turner thinks of a snazzy potential title for his latest music composition, he whips out his cellphone and makes a note of it.
The current list includes titles such as "The Coyote of Central Park," "Rainbow on the Mesa," "The Bridge of Sighs" and "The Last Call of Phineas Beard." (Beard was the bugler for Admiral Nelson's British fleet back in the day.)
These day, Turner said in an interview this week with The E, the title often comes first — and then, the music follows.
So in some ways, this is the story of how "The Coyote of Central Park" did not become the commissioned work that the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival will premiere at a Friday night concert in Corvallis.
Turner (he's married to Albany native Kristina Mascher-Turner) struck the deal with Chintimini music director Erik Peterson years ago to create a brand-new work for this year's festival: It's part of a festival tradition to commission a new chamber music work each year.
The plan then was that the piece that would be performed at Chintimini would be "The Coyote of Central Park." (In fact, that title showed up months ago on the Chintimini website.)
Turner headed to Barcelona in Spain to work on the piece.
And then Barcelona intruded.
As he explored the city, Turner said, he found himself humming a tune inspired by his surroundings. "I literally wrote the song walking along the streets of Barcelona," he said.
The eventual result: "Catalonian Serenade," with three movements, each inspired by a different time and place in the city. The piece is written for two horns and a string quintet; Turner and his wife, both accomplished horn players, will perform the horn parts.
The first movement of the 15-minute work was inspired by sunrise in Barcelona and is, Turner said, "very atmospheric." The second movement, inspired by the city's old Gothic Quarter at midnight, is "creepy and fun." In fact, he said, the Gothic Quarter was one of the first areas that got him thinking along the lines of creating music inspired by the city.
The final movement is inspired in part by the rhythms of the city at sunset, when the streets fill with Spanish guitarists and dancers.
The last time the Turners were in the mid-valley was last year, when their American Horn Quartet played a concert in Corvallis as part of the ensemble's farewell tour. Since the quartet disbanded, Kerry Turner has been able to concentrate more on his composing work.
In some ways, he said, it's harder than it used to be back when composing was "something I did on the side." In part, that's because he's set the bar higher.
"I've been haunted a little bit by the grand masters of the past," he said, and worries sometimes about trying to sound like Bach or some other famed composer. "I've had trouble getting past that."
And he's become a little more fastidious at trying to precisely note on the pages of each score exactly what he has in mind. "I write every single detail," he said. "It should all materialize just like it sounded in my head" — and when it doesn't, he said, it's because he failed to make his instructions clear to the musicians playing the work.
Obviously, Turner is familiar with how the horn should sound, so he has little trouble writing for that instrument. But he's still working at increasing his understanding of other instruments.
The harp, for example: "As I turns out, I don't really know how those pedals on the harp work," he said. And he still doesn't think he writes well for percussion.
But even the masters sometimes made mistakes in their writing: Turner recalled working on an orchestral piece in which he wrote too low for the violins. But the person who pointed out the mistake to Turner went on to note: "That's OK. Richard Strauss did that all the time."
It's all part of the process of learning the craft.
And it helps, of course, to have nifty titles as points of inspiration. That "Coyote of Central Park," for example, is waiting in the wings.