Updates from November, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts
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.
At least the Chicago Tribune didn’t mention that gynecologist by the same name (see question #5)40.088156 -75.141043
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
I had an idea for writing a work for two flutes and a bass trombone. By splitting the notes between the two flautists, I could write continuous lines without requiring circular breathing and also write chordal music that would not be possible for one flute and a brass instrument, in the absence of multiphonics. And let’s face it, multiphonics are pretty harsh in terms of their sound quality.
This work could also be done by two identical treble instruments and a bass instrument. It is important that the two higher-pitched instruments be identical, but there is no reason this could not be accomplished by two violins or two oboes and a tuba, for example.
The last several minutes are very quiet, and largely consist of chords followed by silence, not too unlike the earlier work hevron-deir yassin.
The score is here.
Audio file (mp3) is here.
When I was 17, I composed what I felt was the first piece that was truly mine. No one really had much of any input into it, and while it is very different from music I’ve written since, I still have a soft spot for this piece. I was very much enthralled with the fiction of James Joyce at that time, although I didn’t much care for his poetry, so I thought the poems were fair game to use in a song cycle. The second of the seven songs was the first piece of twelve-tone music I’d written, interestingly. The seven songs after poetry of james joyce was played once in 1979, and the tape of that performance is on my music page.
It has been bugging me for some time that I only have one copy of the handwritten score left, other than the original transparencies and manuscript (in pencil). And I know that there are errors in the score that needed to be fixed. So I’ve been inputting the score into Finale 2012, and have just started the fifth song, so I hope to have it done in the coming weeks. Other than fixing some tempi and tweaking the notation a little bit, it is the same score, but this one won’t fade.