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This work came out of an improvisation in a hotel room in Palo Alto, CA on the evening of 8/27/13. It is unlike my other recent works in that it involves more than one dynamic level, in this case pp, mf, ppp. It is scored for solo piano. This recording was realized with Reason 7.0.1.
Why “unfinished?” Years ago, my wife and I attended a large exhibition of the works of Keith Haring in NYC, and one of his paintings was purposely unfinished in one of the corners. That always struck me as an interesting idea, that one’s creative work is really never truly completed. The question in this work is which portion was not really completed. I’m not sure I have answered that for myself.
I’m pretty excited by this one. Details to follow, but I improvised something I liked a few weeks ago in Palo Alto and started to mold it into an actual composition earlier this week when I was back out West. I also picked up Reason 7.0.1 and when the work is completed sometime next month, hope to record it in Reason rather than Finale. The piano sound in Finale is good enough, but has some harmonics that are readily apparent and often distracting. I originally improvised this piece in Reason 4.0.1 and the piano sounded very nice. Unfortunately, Reason 4.0.1, I came to find, was incompatible with the new version of OS X I’m testing so I had to upgrade. Which is all fine.40.088859 -75.142588
I had had some ideas about writing a choral piece, but as I improvised something in a hotel room across from Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, it became clear that this would not be well-suited for anything but piano. So this work completely came into being from a 31-minute improvisation that was reworked into a solo piano piece lasting 45-50 minutes.
The piece is largely based on two notes (d-f) as well as a two-chord sequence that I came up with while visiting the NAMM museum in Carlsbad, CA on vacation and playing one of their synthesizers. I wasn’t sure what to call the piece and gave it the provisional title tbd as a placeholder, but the name stuck.
Between 1996 and 1997, I composed a long work for brass sextet called brass piece for arielle victoria. I was pretty fond of it, but wrote it with the idea that, because so much of it required fairly continuous playing, the performers would have to be adept at circular breathing. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it turns out that it was, and I’ve since come to realize that there was very little chance that it would ever be heard other than in a suboptimal MIDI performance with sampled instruments. And that’s where things have stood since 1997, except for the last section that was arranged for string quartet and can be heard in an excellent performance by the Rangzen Quartet.
I had long toyed with the idea of scoring the entire piece for strings to circumvent the performance challenges, and this has now resulted in this arrangement for string quartet and contrabass. Other than some minor tweaks in a few sections, it is identical to the original brass work, but should pose no significant challenges in terms of performance. The audio file is not idea, of course, since strings are harder to convincingly sample compared with piano and a few other instruments, but overall it works
At least the Chicago Tribune didn’t mention that gynecologist by the same name (see question #5)40.088156 -75.141043
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.
In late November, I had some time to improvise and managed to come up with the raw elements for two different pieces. One of these turned into two voices. The other improvisation was slow and quiet, basically just half notes followed by an eighth note rest. This was restructured into a new piece called for four. There are a maximum of four voices at any given time, so it could be performed by four instruments (eg, two violins and two celli) or for piano. The score includes a piano reduction along with the same notes displayed on four individual staves. It’s ppp throughout, and the tempo can be a low of quarter = 20 to a max of quarter = 40. Thus, depending on the tempo chosen, the piece can take as little as 23 minutes or up to 46 minutes to play.
By coincidence, the composition of the work overlapped with the horrific deaths of children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I mention this, because it struck me that the slow final section of the piece flutes and trombone was composed around the same time as a similarly terrible gun-related massacre in Aurora, CO.
for four was originally improvised in Palo Alto, CA in late November, 2012 and restructured into a composition in Wyncote, PA and Palo Alto between 12/13 and 12/18/12.
I will release it soon, but last night I finished (I think) a work called two voices, for keyboard or any two instruments. It started as an experiment I was playing with three nights ago, in which one voice plays all the black keys and the other plays all the white keys. There are five black keys and seven white keys, so one has all 12 tones to play with. I wanted to see, just out of curiosity, if I could take some very banal themes and make them at least somewhat interesting. I was also curious how long this nonsense could go on.
I imposed another constraint: each measure had to have each voice play all of its assigned notes. And no chords.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I was really unsure of this approach, since it doesn’t seem entirely conducive to improvisation, which is how I generally compose and thus manage to avoid systems and processes, which are the bane of folks like me who hate academic and mechanical methods to write music. Surprisingly, one can actually manage to improvise within these constraints, and even make what I think is a pretty good piece of music.
To balance all these formal requirements, I wanted to provide a lot of choice for the performer, so that each performance would be unique. There are no dynamics, nor is there any tempo indicated. Each measure gets repeated a minimum of eight times, so that if one really likes a particular measure, knock yourself out and repeat it even more times.
There are a few measures in which both instruments (or hands on the keyboard) are in different tempi, since the upper voice is playing five notes in the same time as the lower voice plays seven. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.37.612952 -122.383920