At least the Chicago Tribune didn’t mention that gynecologist by the same name (see question #5)
Updates from January, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts
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.
I’ve been doing a lot of travelling across the pond to Europe lately, and it’s been seven months since I was last in Palo Alto with evenings free to compose. Nonetheless, I managed to record an improvisation on my Ensoniq KS-32 synthesizer on 2/2/12 at home in Wyncote, PA and just finalized it into a piece in Palo Alto on my M-Audio Keystation 88-ES MIDI controller. The toughest decision had to do with scoring; I had debated between piano and voice, piano and string quintet and other combinations, and finally settled on keyboard with one other instrument (which could be a third hand playing a second piano, or perhaps the instrument could be voice, flute, violin, etc.).
The work is just over 30 minutes and is a bit of a throwback to some of my early postminimal works from the 80′s, in that it is heavily pattern-oriented and even has some tonal elements. Although none of this was in the plans; it just happened.
If the other instrument is wind-based, it will require some circular breathing. The audio file is actually for two pianos (the second piano has just a single line for one hand), since it sounded better than the flute samples I have, and the identical timbres reinforced some of the patterns that resulted from combining different lines.
This is a bit of a change from some of my more recent music that consists mostly, or exclusively, of single notes or chords followed by rests. This piece starts off somewhat like that, but changes to a much more animated and rhythmic series of notes that continues largely unabated for the remainder of the piece.
The score is here.
The mp3 is here.
I was contacted last week by the contrabassist Ryan McMasters, who recently graduated with a masters from the Hartt College of Music and is now active in the Pittsburgh area. He noticed some of my works on the IMSLP site and asked if I might write him something for solo contrabass that he would perform and record next year. I got on it, despite a really full plate at home and at work, and wrote something in around four days that I think works pretty well. It is largely made up of whole notes followed by a quarter rest, although the middle section is more rhythmic (and played pizzicato and col legno throughout, rather than arco). It lasts longer than I would have thought, since I hadn’t been working on anything suitable for a contrabass piece. I did, however, manage to improvise something on December 17, and that formed the basis of the finished work.
The score is here.
The mp3 (generated with Finale 2012) is here.
With the forthcoming demise in June of my iDisk, which is from where my music page is served, I’ve been struggling with alternatives. One approach of course would be to purchase my own domain and server space. Normally that’s what I would recommend, except over many years this gets to be a fairly pricey option.
On the other hand, this blog is served by WordPress, all for free. So I have started developing a page on WordPress.com which would basically serve the same HTML page that I am currently using for my music. I created a static, non-blog site which will go live soon.
The glitch however was that wordpress.com will not allow me to upload any MP3 files without a space upgrade. It’s somewhat overpriced at $20 a year, so I did look into soundcloud and also archive.org. Suncloud is great, but very expensive. Archive.org looked very promising, and I had already uploaded some files there previously. But trying to upload about 2 GB of my music was becoming very onerous. After uploading some files, I would get an error page at the end of the entire process telling me that there is a file naming problem. This happened too many times, and without any pattern, as some files uploaded perfectly fine. So out went the free option, and I purchased the space upgrade from wordpress.com. Why would have preferred my music files to exist on a free site that is not dependent on yearly subscription fees, I think this will work just fine.
On another note, I recently wrote a piece for solo contrabass at the request of the contrabassist Ryan McMasters. I’m hoping to launch the new site soon and have that piece up as well.
The existing new music site will probably be replaced with a page that redirects visitors to the new site on WordPress.com. And that redirect well of course go away at the end of June. The iDisk has served me pretty well, and I am sorry to see it go. I am now using SugarSync for my offsite file backup needs, and even with the $20 a year wordpress fee, this is still no more expensive than what I was paying for .Mac every year.
It’s been awhile since I have had any opportunity to compose music, with work and all that. I did, however, make it out to the office in California last week, and over 2-3 nights managed to write a short work for solo cello. It just happened; I didn’t go into this with any thoughts of writing for solo cello, nor did I have an abundance of ideas, so I’m glad this was the resultant output. It is based entirely on an improvisation, which just happened to work well for cello. It’s a stream of continuous 16th notes and also ends as it begins.