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  • dtoub 4:01 pm on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 4:01 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: new piece   

    hevron-deir yassin (2011) for several instruments 

    I may have finished a new work that has been percolating for awhile, but am giving myself another day or two to be sure. The piece is something people will either really like or really despise. And yes, I mean “despise.” First, there’s the title. I had thought for a bit to write a piece that, while not at all programmatic, would invoke the name of a massacre against Palestinian civilians that remains debated, contested and denied among many. That is the massacre of Deir Yassin, a village that was essentially destroyed during the 1948 War of Independence or Naqba-take your pick of which term you wish to use to refer to that event. I’ve been intrigued by Deir Yassin for some time, in large part because whether or not it was a massacre, whether or not it was “justified,” and how many people actually did die there remains a very major debate, to the point where just saying the words Deir Yassin is apt to provoke an argument.

    At the same time, I’m also very familiar with the history of the 1929 Hevron Massacre, in which nearly 70 Jews, all of whom were living side to side with their Palestinian neighbors, were killed as a result of the general milieu and hysteria relating to increased levels of Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine. This event, in my opinion, really changed everything in the Middle East. It led to much more violence, and signalled the clear end of peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews. Truth be told, many Hevron Palestinians risked their lives to shelter and protect their Jewish neighbors, and to this day, many of the living survivors express dismay at the militancy, violence and racism of the current Hevron settlers, along with their neighbors in Kiryat Arba.

    Which also brings up another Hevron massacre from more recent times-the killing of nearly 30 innocent Palestinians at the al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hevron at the Maras HaMachpelah, which is believed to be the site where Abraham and Sarah are buried. Whether or not that is true, it is an important archeological site and also a building that has been a flashpoint for centuries. Jews were banned from entering the synagogue there during Islamic rule, although their status was still much better than that of Jews under many Christian societies in Europe. In the 1990’s, a physician, Baruch Goldstein, gunned down over two dozen Muslims during prayer there. His burial site in Kiryat Arba has become a shrine to militant settlers, and represents the failure of coexistence.

    So I’ve been struck by the duality of both Deir Yassin and Hevron, and didn’t want to exclude one for the other, since they represent an unfortunate continuum. Both Deir Yassin and Hevron contained good people who did nothing wrong, and who were murdered due to a failure of coexistence. The mob who killed Jews in 1929 Hevron was reprehensible. So were the Jews who killed Palestinians in Deir Yassin. And so was Baruch Goldstein, in particular since he was not only “religious” (I’m told that religion gives rise to moral behavior, despite the obvious counterarguments) but was also a physician.

    There it is; take your pick of massacres. All are shameful, and all should be remembered. One is not worse than any of the others; they are all disgraceful. The title hevron-deir yassin is not meant to imply that both are equivalent. Each represents unique people.

    But enough of history, since that only provides a pretext for the music. The work provides a lot of latitude to the performers. For starters, the instrumentation is not specified. Depending on the range of the instruments, six or perhaps 8 instruments would work, and probably 4-5 if played by strings. So this is an open score work. The tempo is not specified, except to say that it is slow (I play it around quarter note = 55-60, but that is not a hard and fast rule). And the durations of the notes is also free-while everything is either a whole or half note, not all whole notes are equal to one another nor are all half notes equal to one another. To borrow from George Orwell, “All notes are equal, but some are more equal than others.” So the duration of each note can vary, even repetitions of the same chords. Same with the rests-not every whole rest need be as long or as short as the others.

    That posed a challenge. In a few sections, the time interval between notes needed to be shorter, and so I placed quarter note rests between them. That seems to have worked well, at least for me. There is thus no right or wrong performance; if something seems to be dragging, one can speed things up, and vice-versa.

    In practice, the piece can be performed anywhere from 45-60 minutes by my estimates. At the same time, the last measure is identical to the second measure, which comes after a rest, so the piece is actually cyclical and could theoretically keep going ad infinitum (or ad nauseum, depending on how much you like it). That’s about as programmatic as I’ll get with this piece-just as mass murder seems to be a cyclical event that never stops, so is this composition.

    I will be posting the score and a MP3 soon, but think it will be best to wait a bit to make sure I don’t want to make any edits. The piece was entirely improvised in one sitting and then tweaked a bit into a score, but probably 99% of the improvisation remains in the score. I improvised it in Palo Alto, did some scoring in Wyncote and then in Amsterdam Zuid.

    But yeah, the title will provoke a lot of comments, I’m sure.

    UPDATE: the score is here. The audio is here. I realized the audio on the flight home from Amsterdam today using Reason 4.0.1. 
    • Paul Muller 12:37 pm on Saturday, May 7, 2011, 12:37 pm Permalink

      Downloaded ‘hevron-deir yassin’ and had a listen on the train home the other day. A fine work. The chords are solemnly beautiful and effectively create tension without being too strident. The spaces between the chords – esp in the beginning – add to the drama. The scenery on my rail route home is often pretty grim and the music seemed to compliment this. The string samples you are using seem pretty good – strings are the most difficult sounds to get right – I thought there was just the right amount of attack. I did notice some scratchiness in some of the tones – maybe the MP3 conversion?

      In the US, at least, I would think the title refers to events not generally known, so it is unlikely to be controversial. There would probably be a different reaction in Israel where simply equating the two events musically could be seen as provocative. I think the electronic realization you have here would be hard to improve on in performance – it would take a lot of concentration for a string section to start and end the whole notes (separated by a measure rest) together – in the absence of any other pulse. Overall I think you have managed to evoke a sense of the power of the memory of events past – maybe you should send it to Daniel Barenboim.

    • dtoub 3:05 pm on Saturday, May 7, 2011, 3:05 pm Permalink

      Thanks Paul. Glad you liked it. Not sure what you mean by scratchiness, but in my opinion, the samples in Reason are not as good as the real deal, although some do come close. In general, keyboards sample very well, strings less so, as you note. But I think it works pretty well in general with that sample. Any group of instruments, at least those that can sustain notes for a few seconds, would work. I just used strings because that was the easiest way to go with limited time.

      I completely agree that a good deal of concentration would be needed, and that’s the only thing about performance, or at least one of the only things, that makes it difficult. It would need a conductor to tell people when to start and stop unless people could nod to one another effectively. I think Daniel Barenboim has a ton of things on his plate, but certainly wish that someone of his caliber and progressivism would indeed take it on. It’s a great idea-thanks.

  • dtoub 3:24 am on Thursday, December 9, 2010, 3:24 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: new piece, ranting for no good reason   

    dharmachakramudra for vibraphone, viola, cello (2010) 

    I’d composed four works this year up to yesterday, compared with five last year, so I figured it would be nice to end the year by evening up the score. I was thinking of a longer, static piece for tuba, bass trombone, cello and celesta, but after reading this and debating long and hard for more than a week, I decided to try and write something a bit shorter, and for the resources requested. Actually, I had thought to submit either five notes for christina fong or an arrangement of the open instrumentation work this piece intentionally left blank. Both are around 10′-11′ and I think are pretty good. But it became clear that neither would likely be accepted since even 10 or 11 minutes were apparently at the upper end of what would be feasible. In other words, anything submitted would have to be even shorter, and involve less than the 4-5 performers available.

    My initial reaction was to not bother. I don’t generally do composition competitions. Granted, this isn’t technically a competition, but in effect it really is, since only a small group of works will be selected. I went down this road before when I submitted an arrangement of this piece intentionally left blank for a small group of instruments and, while the ensemble apparently liked the work and promised to perform it in a forthcoming program, that has yet to happen. I have always had issues with composition contests or anything where there is some competitive element to whether or not a work is selected. Music is almost completely subjective, and what one person might deem worthy another might not, and each is correct. And there are many other factors involved: economic feasibility, difficulty of the work, the duration/scale, how many rehearsals would be necessary, etc. I give a lot of credit to those composers who have mastered the art of getting their music performed. I have little or no skill at that, and the few live performances I’ve had (three since1980) have generally come about because the performer(s) liked the works enough to take them on. When Paul Bailey decided to premiere this piece intentionally left blank with his own Diverse Instrument Ensemble a few years ago, he did so on his own initiative, and I was extremely touched that he took it on and did such an amazing job with both arranging it and taking part in the performance. Same with recordings-Glenn Freeman and Steve Layton both took on a few of my pieces with great results.

    But getting music performed consistently is challenging, even for the best of us. And I’m not one of those. There are several factors mitigating against much of my music being performed anytime soon:

    • Lack of name recognition
    • Performance challenges/technical difficulty
    • Length/scale of the work
    • (your reason here)

    I’ve composed a few works with selected performers in mind. With few exceptions, that has not panned out very well. I had written one work for an old friend who plays an instrument that needs more new music written for it. The piece isn’t that difficult, at least to my mind, but my friend informed me that a performance wasn’t in the cards because of a lack of stamina. In other cases, the performers simply have too much on their plates to deal with a new work anytime soon. I don’t take it personally-this is just the reality. I have many friends who compose short works (generally 5 minutes or less) or who simply bypass the performers altogether and just compose for electronics. I’ve written a few works that are under 10 minutes, but truthfully, that’s more the exception than the rule. I have nothing against short works, although with the exception of Webern, early Feldman and a few others, most short works tend to be inconsequential, even trifles. Developing ideas takes some time to unfold. Webern could make this work because he was also dealing with timbres and klangfarbenmelodie, so that the texture was novel for the time and was as much a part of the music as the specific notes. But even Webern wrote a lot of music that isn’t that short. Many of his works, particularly the later ones, are more than 10 minutes. Quite a difference from the four-minute long Sechs Bagatellen. And Feldman eventually gravitated from writing brief works a la Webern to compositions lasting anywhere from one hour to just over six. Longer isn’t necessarily better. But shorter isn’t necessarily better, either. Many people know, and admire, La Monte Young’s seminal The Well-Tuned Piano, which lasts 5-6 hours. But how many know his early work for string quartet entitled On Remembering a Naiad from 1956? That work is nice enough, but in many ways is a Webern knockoff.

    Anyway, after considering, and rejecting, arranging a short section from either for philip glass or zichron, I was again left with “Do I bother to do this” versus “Should I just try and write a piece and submit it?” I opted for the latter, much as I have some reservations. The main reservation is that I constrained myself to trying to write something in the range of seven minutes or less, and for no more than three performers out of piano, violin, viola, cello and percussion. It’s a nice challenge, but at the same time, I came up with a piece that I otherwise probably would have developed a bit further. I think it works pretty well, and am happy with it, but when I started last night wasn’t even sure I had any ideas. It must have been the champagne I had a few hours beforehand at a work-related party.

    The piece clocks in around 7’30”. The title is dharmachakramudra and is scored for vibraphone, viola and cello. It is essentially a set of chords, often for both strings echoed or answered by vibraphone. There are no complex rhythms, and other than having to play very very quietly (pp throughout), I can’t imagine it’s at all difficult to play. There are a few chords in the vibraphone part that require the percussionist to span a major ninth with two mallets in one hand, but that’s generally not an issue (thanks to Glenn Freeman and Bill Solomon for confirming that it’s all playable).

    The first reaction many people will have is that it sounds like Feldman. Yes, it does. Just like some of my music seems to remind folks of Philip Glass. And just as some Feldman sounds like Webern, some Riley sounds like La Monte Young, some Young sounds like Webern and Cage, etc. We all have our influences. Yet, some of the chords could have been lifted from any of a number of my earlier works, and it builds on some of the sustained notes and chords in some recent works like piece for electronic organ and bongo drums , four strings for todd reynolds and quartet for piano. So with one exception, everything else I’ve written this year is consistent with dharmachakramudra.

    When I get back to the East Coast, I will send it in for consideration of performance at the forthcoming Manhattan New Music Project/Sequenza 21 concert. I don’t have a lot of confidence that it will be performed anytime soon, since any of a number of considerations could derail it. I remember being on the concert committee for the first Sequenza 21 concert back in 2006, and it was an experience I’d never wish to repeat. The process was admittedly a work in progress, and got bogged down by competing agendas, politics, personality clashes, etc. Some works were chosen for reasons that didn’t make a ton of sense, while others were rejected for the same nonsensical reasons. In one case, a really good piece was to be rejected without anyone even listening to the work in question, all because someone just didn’t like the composer personally. I happened to like some of the works by that composer and really pushed for a hearing and in the end, it was one of the works that was performed. I suspect the process this time around will be more rational, but in any case, I’m not getting my hopes up that dharmachakramudra will be selected for performance. But if not on this concert, then hopefully in another at some point. The question then becomes whether or not to expand the work. I think I probably wouldn’t-other than repeating a few notes here and there and possibly developing an idea further, it already seems to be a completed, whole work that I’ve come to really like.

    The score is here. A downloadable MP3 is here. For reasons I can’t explain other than the quality of the sample (or lack thereof), there is some undesirable decay of the vibraphone notes in a few areas. Another reason, then, to hope for a live performance.

    One last thing-what about the title? I was recently speaking on fibroid treatments in London and had the opportunity to visit the British Museum, which has an amazing collection of Asian and South Asian art and handcrafted statutes. There was a large exhibit on Buddhism, with several statues depicting the Buddha in the dharmachakra mudra. A mudra is a ritual gesture in both Hinduism and Buddhism, and the dharmachakra mudra specifically refers to the position the Buddha assumed right after reaching enlightenment. One therefore might think the term has some relevance to the piece in terms of the nature of the music, but the reality is that it is a very interesting word when melded together, and I decided to use it as a title. That’s the honest, superficial and somewhat silly reason for why this work is titled dharmachakramudra.

    • Paul Muller 8:06 pm on Saturday, December 11, 2010, 8:06 pm Permalink

      Good for you! Something to be said for sitting down and trying to write something – just for the sake of writing it. If Bach were available, I’d love to ask him what part inspiration played in his work – I’m guessing he would say it was more the “doing” than the “waiting on inspiration”.

  • dtoub 1:53 am on Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 1:53 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , new piece   

    4/4 for electronic organ (2010) 

    I was essentially out of ideas ever since composing a violin piece for Todd Reynolds a few months ago. I go through these phases where I write a work and am suddenly bereft of ideas; this has been plaguing me probably since the 70’s or so. But eventually I get my bearings, find my muse, etc. and the next piece ushers forth. My dry period wasn’t that long, actually, but it sure felt that way. I started playing around with some ideas on 6/13 on my keyboard back in Wyncote, and at first I wasn’t that taken with the improvisation that I dumped into Reason 4.0.1, but most of it grew on me and I went ahead in Palo Alto with developing it into a piece. It ended up a bit shorter than I initially thought it would be-only 23 minutes or so-but since the work is nothing more than a continuous stream of 16th notes, it’s probably best that this didn’t drag on too much longer. 

    There’s nothing complex about this piece whatsoever-the score has one dynamic level (mp), one tempo marking (quarter = 78) and that’s it for the entire work. Just a bunch of 16th notes; not even a tuplet. In that way, it builds on some of the previous works I’ve done for electronic organ as well as works like this piece intentionally left blank in which the rhythms are pretty much static. Parts of 4/4 might make someone think of Terry Riley, but any resemblance to any composer, living or dead, is purely coincidental. 
    I was really finding it difficult to come up with a title, and went for the sole meter indication of 4/4, even though much of the piece doesn’t really conform to common time. Anyway, the score is here, and the audio file is here
    • Paul Muller 1:05 pm on Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 1:05 pm Permalink

      Downloaded this and had a listen the morning on the train into work. Classic Toub – the unusual chromatics get your attention. Nice progressions at 2:30, 4:30 and 5:15. Gets interesting at 14:40 and 15:15 may be, for me, the most likable pattern. Good at 19:00 and a recapitulation at the finish. An accessible and characteristic piece all-in-all, good for first-time listeners.

    • dtoub 4:32 pm on Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 4:32 pm Permalink

      Thanks Paul-glad you liked it!

  • dtoub 1:44 am on Thursday, October 22, 2009, 1:44 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: new piece, torture memos   

    torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo) (2009) for nine instruments 

    Screen shot 2009-10-21 at 9.53.30 PM

    Since June, I’ve been composing a piece for two female voices, flute, bass clarinet, marimba, electric bass, violin, cello and piano. The piece is titled torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo) and is one of three works I’ve written with a political/social action title (the others being darfur pogrommen and zichron (in memory of bisan, maye, aya and nur abu al-aish)). As mentioned in an earlier post, I had considered setting poetry by torture victims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo, but the source poems didn’t grab me. Besides, I’m not sure the music would have done the poems justice.

    So tonight I managed to put the final edits into the piece, so it’s completed. A few comments:

    • The piece is a bit of a departure from my recent music. At the same time, it’s also an evolution and natural progression. In other words, it still sounds like me, but it’s not a rehash of a lot of earlier works. So I suspect people will either love it or really hate it; there’s no middle ground. If you’re disappointed, no worries.
    • Don’t expect doom and gloom despite the title. This isn’t “program music.” In most ways, the title has nothing to do with the music.
    • While the wind and vocal parts are far easier than some I’ve written, in that there are rests and intentional spots to breathe, in some areas the performers are on their own; when they need to grab a breath, they can, since many of the parts are doubled.
    • No matter what I did, Finale 2010’s playback put in some unwritten and unwanted accents in some of the repeated eighth note sections. I gave up trying to solve this problem, since it seems unsolvable. It might be related to the ambience plugin, but without adding in resonance the audio file sounds worse than with ambience + accents, so I’m learning to live with it. Same thing happened in the final measures of ushabti, and it still drives me crazy.
    • The audio level is higher than it should be-the entire piece is actually p throughout, so feel free to listen at a low volume

    The duration clocks in at just over 40 minutes. The audio file, such as it is, is here. The score (bass clarinet is written as it sounds) is here.

  • dtoub 11:44 pm on Thursday, September 17, 2009, 11:44 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: new piece   

    another piece is on its way 

    Looking back at the past year and a half, it’s actually been the most productive musical year I’ve ever had. By my count, I’ve composed six pieces, and another is on its way. That’s amazing, at least in my opinion. For the most part, I had tended to compose one piece of music per year. Maybe two on occasion, but usually just one. Sometimes it took me even longer to finish a piece; three years wasn’t uncommon. In terms of people actually hearing my music, I’ve had one piece premiered, only a few months after it was written. And a few weeks after that concert premiere, it was heard on the radio on WPRB-FM. That’s never happened to me before.

    Similarly, Steve Layton released his beautifully crafted realization of my piano work textbook, and it was heard on the first Music from Other Minds broadcast of the 2009-2010 season, with the opening selected as the show’s theme music for this year.

    So why have I been so productive composition-wise since April of 2008? Probably because I spend 1-2 weeks each month in the Bay Area for work, and when I’m in my hotel room at night can work on new pieces. Having the time to write has been extremely fleeting since I started composing music several decades ago. In order to compose, I had to compromise, and that usually meant giving up sleep, time with my family, etc. Since I’m home only half the time, I have no more time to give up for my music except when I’m out on the West Coast, so that’s worked pretty well. That doesn’t make the notes come any easier-if anything, it’s really hard to motivate oneself to write music when you’re sleep deprived, off by three time zones, and have to sit in a really uncomfortable position to get access to a portable keyboard and laptop because hotel rooms rarely have desks that can accommodate 88-keys.

    So on to the new piece-it’s been a real slog, since it’s based largely on some improvisations I did over the past year and required me to notate them while scoring the output for a chamber ensemble. But this past week was the charm; I got past the drudgery and things started to come together. I was up until almost 1:30 AM last night getting a lot of the piece done. It’s not there yet, but it’s 21+ minutes and counting, not that that matters. If anything, that’s a pretty short work for me. The piece is scored for two female voices (soprano/mezzo), flute, bass clarinet, electric bass, marimba, violin, cello and piano. It’s an unusual ensemble, but was dictated by both my preference for some of the instruments along with the range requirements of the piece.

    What’s it called? torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo). I wanted to write a piece that called attention to the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush/Cheney administration, and initially thought to set some poetry of US torture victims to music. However, the existing poetry by Guantánamo inmates that I found just wasn’t to my taste. So I thought that, rather than set words by the victims to music, it would be more fitting for the music to be the main focus. That doesn’t mean that the music is doom and gloom–I’m not Shostakovich, of course. To some extent, the music doesn’t seem to even have anything to do with the subject. And that’s the point; I don’t compose “program music.” But I do want the music to at least provoke some thought, even if only through a title.

    I’m next out this way in late October, so hopefully I’ll have even more progress at that point to report. But in any case, this has been a very busy musical year, and with luck, it will continue. That’s great news if you like my music. If you hate it, then this has been the 18 months from hell. Sorry about that.

    But if you aren’t freaked out by new music, here’s an eight-minute excerpt from the current draft of torture memos. Remember, it’s still a work in progress, but this is a good chunk of what I was working on last night. This part was a pleasure to write. Whether it’s a pleasure to listen to is beyond my pay grade.

    • Kraig Grady 8:33 pm on Friday, September 18, 2009, 8:33 pm Permalink

      It is quite good of capturing the mood, setting the tone, as you tend to be. My biggest complaint of American music is that it is afraid to be depressing, so i find this useful. Look forward to the finish and a realization with real people who would breathe even more life (and death) into it~

    • Paul H. Muller 9:08 pm on Friday, September 18, 2009, 9:08 pm Permalink

      So are you gonna claim to be ‘west coast influenced’? :=)

      The excerpt certainly sets the emotional tone. Maybe not using the poems was the wiser choice – I bet there would be copyright issues…

    • dtoub 11:04 pm on Friday, September 18, 2009, 11:04 pm Permalink

      Nothing wrong with being influenced by the left coast. Not at all. But in this case, I think it is more that the music is facilitated by my being on the west coast. 😎 Thanks for your comment, Paul.

      Thanks Kraig-this means a lot to me.

    • boga 2:41 pm on Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 2:41 pm Permalink

      copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste-copy- paste

      no wonder how you have managed so fast to compose

    • dtoub 2:46 pm on Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 2:46 pm Permalink

      Yup-you caught me. See, isn’t it ridiculously easy to write music? Trivial, in fact, as you so astutely point out. Reich, Riley and Glass figured it out long ago, but it was a little more challenging for them since they had to either write out the repeated notes or develop a shorthand (as I did when i still used paper and pencil). If only they had notation software, they could have written even more stuff, faster, right?

      So, since you’ve figured out the secrets of all of us minimalist/postminimalist composers, why aren’t you doing this yourself? I mean, clearly you seem to have so much interest in how I “compose” my music, so I assume you want to do it yourself. Please, feel free to do our secret “copy-paste” method to come up with a few really amazing pieces of music, and let me know where I can download it. I’m sure you can do an even better job of copying and pasting than i ever could. Muchas grácias, amigo!

  • dtoub 10:20 am on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, 10:20 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: new piece,   

    forthcoming work 

    I’m planning a new piece for what probably will be an ensemble consisting of two women’s voices, violin, cello, marimba, bass clarinet, bass guitar and possibly piano. The work is tentatively going to be titled torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo). The music is already largely written, in that it will mostly be derived from several recent improvisations that were done as part of James Combs’ improvfriday sessions on various social media networks. Almost all of my works started off as improvisations, so this is pretty much standard operating procedure for me. I had thought of using the title Room 101 as that was the torture room in Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984 but I thought the significance might not be obvious to anyone who hasn’t recently read the book.

    Why torture memos? Because I’m horrified by what this country has done, how it has taken a detour from its original ideals, and the fact that our last administration contained what amounts to war criminals who have yet to be brought to justice.

    Another reason: I’m very much taken by the notion of music as a form of social action. The standard teaching has always been that “political music” tends to be very forgettable in the end (think some of the “Communist” works by Shostakovich or Prokofiev, or even Copland), so invoking political topics in music is a recipe for bad music. But I disagree; some of the best things out there have political or historic connotations, such as Reich’s Come Out, Rzewski’s Coming Together, Glass’ Satyagraha, etc. It’s not that political music is automatically bad. Rather, some political works that have been derided over the years just might happen to have been bad music. If you write decent music, the underlying social message doesn’t make the music bad. Similarly, a lofty social message doesn’t make bad music good. Two of my recent works already deal with social messages, such as darfur pogrommen and zichron

    My original plan was to set actual words written by some of the torture survivors from Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantánamo, and possibly some of the rendition sites. But I haven’t been able to find such texts. Many of the victims remain incarcerated, some of whom undoubtedly are evil men, but many of whom are and remain innocent of wrongdoing. I’m sure at some point their words will be captured, but in some ways, the most meaningful takeaways remain the photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the full extent of which remain to be seen. Then there was the idea of setting the actual legal memos “justifying” torture by John Yoo and John Bybee, and indeed one of my friends recommended this approach as well. However, a fairly mundane list of approved torture techniques, however terrifying, cannot do as much justice to the abhorrence of the torture idea as can the actual words of the victims.

    As of now, I’m thinking of letting the music speak for itself, to use a bad cliché. I might preface the score with some passages from the torture memos, but I have come to the belief that setting either the torture memos themselves or actual accounts from victims is not optimal, since both of these speak well for themselves.

    The “a survivor from guantánamo” part of the title is an obvious reference to Schoenberg’s work A Survivor from Warsaw. I do not mean for this to suggest that the things that have gone on, and continue to go on, vis a vis torture are morally equivalent to the massive genocide of the Holocaust. However, I do want to imply that just as Schoenberg drew upon the words of a survivor to describe the unspeakable horrors he suffered through in the Warsaw Ghetto, I want to draw upon music to solicit thoughts about the multiple horrors committed in our name over the years since 9/11/01. That doesn’t mean the music is anything other than music, any more than darfur pogrommen depicts what goes on in Western Sudan. The music is just that; music. But if the subject matters stimulate more thought about their respective topics, then that’s all the better.

  • dtoub 11:51 pm on Sunday, March 8, 2009, 11:51 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: brian kauth, , new piece   

    zichron (2009)—for saxophone quartet 


    I just spent the last hour writing a slightly lengthy blog post about my new piece for saxophone quartet called zichron, which means “in memory of” or “in remembrance of” in Hebrew and, I believe, Yiddish as well. For reasons I don’t understand, since WordPress saves incremental drafts every few minutes onto a Web server, once I hit Publish, the post disappeared. It’s almost 12:40 AM on the East Coast and I’m pretty tired, so I’m not going to attempt to recreate the entire post. So here is a quick synopsis:

    • The piece was requested by the saxophonist Brian Kauth
    • Disclaimer: I find it difficult to write for wind or brass instruments, since I feel constrained by having to worry about leaving space for performers to breathe, or else hope that they are capable of circular breathing (NB: I have yet to encounter anyone in person who can do circular breathing, although many musicians can do it). That’s why I write a lot of music for keyboards, strings, or else keep it indeterminate (as with my pieces written for open instrumentation). But since Brian was really nice enough to ask me for the piece, and is committed to getting it performed, how could I say no?
    • The work was essentially without a title for most of its composition until I heard about the tragic death of Bisan, Maye, Aya and Nur Abu al-Aish, the three daughters and niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who died as a result of IDF fire in Gaza shortly before a ceasefire agreement. Dr. Abu al-Aish is an Israeli-trained Palestinian gynecologist who has worked to foster understanding between Israelis and Palestinians. The tragedy  had an unexpectedly personal impact on me, both as a parent and as a fellow gynecologist.  I wanted to do something to reach out and react to Dr. al-Aish’s loss, and soon realized that this work was an appropriate response.
    • I really tried to keep it playable, although there are a few spots where it requires really good breath control on the part of the performers, due to some long sustained tones. I think it’s doable, though. Then again, I also thought my earlier works for brass sextet and alto flute were doable too, so all bets are off.
    • The first three-and-a-half minutes consist of a single tone. But it’s a nice tone.

    The mp3 is here. The untransposed score (in C) is here. The transposed score is here.

    I’m going to bed…

    • Chris Becker 1:20 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009, 1:20 pm Permalink


      Not that you asked, but a couple things strike me after looking at the pdf and listening to portions of the mp3…

      It seems there are several places in the score where instead of one of the saxes playing and holding a single note for such long periods of time, you could pass the note between two or three of the saxes – dovetailing the note in the register wher you want it – and not only give your players time to breathe (and keep your tones nice and full) but also create some subtle shifts of timbral color.

      You have these phrases of 4/4 measures ending in measures where you ask that 5 or 7 beats be evenly spaced across 4 beats. I’m not sure if this compositional decision is coming from Morton Feldman or the possibilities of MIDI playback with your notational software. If the effect you want is to be that precise, you might have the quartet treat these sections that repeat as “vamps” that they can practice with separately in order to establish as a quartet a steady pulse and articulate the surprises at the end of these phrases to they come across to the listener. I wonder if some simple articlation indications instead would give you the effect you want without the math?

      The addition of and attention to dynamics throughout this piece would be welcome. Unless you want the entire piece at one dynamic (?) which isn’t truly possible unless you have a computer playing the music. But if you want the performers to bring their own ideas to phrasing this music, I think you might want to make that clear in some notes on the score. Right now you have one dynamic for every register of each instrument, and it seems that more direction would only help shape the journey you have outlined for the players and listener.

      It’d be nice to post on your blog suggestions and issues Brian brings up after reviewing your score. Others writing for woodwinds might find it helpful to find out when imagining such extemes what the challenges are for the player (and what’s totally impossible!)


    • J.C. Combs 1:36 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009, 1:36 pm Permalink


      I think that post minimalism is one of the harder genres to”realize” for w/ notation due to the length of time to play back the work. It seems obvious to me David is composing with notation in mind, whereas many composers create their own performed work which has no notation. Its simple really. If you play the work as you compose (why not?), then you don’t have a properly notated score.

      A workaround for any of us could be to compose on two computers. One as you punch it in notation program and the other to play it into your sequencer. Then you can have your cake and eat it to.

    • Chris Becker 2:33 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009, 2:33 pm Permalink

      “I think that post minimalism is one of the harder genres to”realize” for w/ notation due to the length of time to play back the work.”

      But why is hearing a computer play back your work for whatever length crucial to composing a “post minimalist” piece? I don’t want to sound like an old fart bu didn’t composers compose before MIDI?

      “It seems obvious to me David is composing with notation in mind…”

      Well, he’s composing with live players in mind (and that may be what you are saying?)

      How you notate your music then becomes crucial to realizing your musical vision. But, revisions to scores are completely the norm in rehearsals with live players. I suggested that that may be the case for David (as it is for all of us) once he begins working with the quartet.

      Speaking more conceptually, there is always a disconnect between what we notate and what a player plays. That’s part of the process of realizing a work with live musicians.

      And hearing the computer play your notated music vs hearing a musician play your music vs you hearing your music in your mind’s ear are three completely different experiences. That may sound obvious, but I’ve always experienced challenges navigating the three…

    • J.C. Combs 3:25 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009, 3:25 pm Permalink

      “Well, he’s composing with live players in mind (and that may be what you are saying?) ” -quote

      Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. I may be mistaken, but I think this is more a sample to get the work performed. Re: dynamic markings, I’ll let David answer that for himself. Myself, I prefer to mark speed and jot down instructions throughout the piece, but more in a Satie-esque fashion 😉

    • dtoub 4:37 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009, 4:37 pm Permalink

      Chris and JC, thanks for weighing in.

      Re: “It seems there are several places in the score where instead of one of the saxes playing and holding a single note for such long periods of time, you could pass the note between two or three of the saxes“: I originally did just that. However, the timbrel changes between, say, the alto and soprano saxes, took away from the static nature of those sections (which was desired) and felt intrusive, at least to me. So I tried to keep it easier on the performers, but the sound, in the end, is what matters, and I just didn’t like it.

      ”I’m not sure if this compositional decision is coming from Morton Feldman or the possibilities of MIDI playback with your notational software. “

      Neither. It has nothing to do with Feldman (whose notation I love and admire, even though I suspect it makes things so difficult for performers; at least I have a hell of a time figuring it out when i’ve seen his scores). Nor does it have anything to do with notation software. Would you have similar remarks for the late Ralph Shapey, whose nested tuplets baffle me as much, if not moreso, than the most difficult Feldman scores, yet no one seems to care? Ever see a score by Carter from the 60’s, or Babbitt, for that matter? I have no expectations of, nor desire for, players to be automatons who perform rhythms with mathematical precision. But the rhythms are what they are, and probably look far worse than they are.

      ”The addition of and attention to dynamics throughout this piece would be welcome.“

      There are three dynamics in the piece: pp, mp in one section, and then pp again. That’s actually more diverse than some things I’ve written. I don’t like to add a lot of instructions, dynamics, articulations, etc. So when I actually do specify something, I really mean it. I trust the performers to interpret things, not recite back what I’ve written down. In the end, I think the music will come through. Good performers will know exactly what to do. And yes, I do mean pp until measure 106, and then pp again at measure 158.

      Chris, I absolutely agree that MIDI has nothing to do with postminimalism per se. Composition is composition. Some folks (like Kyle Gann) can do it in their head and write it all down without a musical instrument handy. I can’t do that—I’ve always composed at the piano, or since the early 90’s, a synthesizer. I only started hooking up my keyboard to my computer a few years after using a synthesizer. That’s what’s been working for me, but I was writing this stuff for many, many years before I owned any synthesizer, using whatever piano I could find.

      I am indeed composing with live performers in mind. Always. This is a decent realization (probably the best I can do with what I have) until Brian’s group performs it. I absolutely agree, Chris, that it’s tricky to navigate among live performance, MIDI and one’s own mind. They’re not equal, although they should hopefully be concordant.

      Thanks! Let’s see how it all goes. But in the end, who cares about the notation or MIDI output, or even how performable it is? Does it work for you as music?

    • dtoub 10:20 pm on Monday, March 9, 2009, 10:20 pm Permalink

      Just read a great quote from Nancarrow:

      I just write a piece of music. It just happens that a lot of them are unplayable. I don’t have any obsession of making things unplayable. A few of my pieces could be played quite easily — a few!

    • Chris Becker 12:03 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 12:03 pm Permalink

      “I don’t like to add a lot of instructions, dynamics, articulations, etc. So when I actually do specify something, I really mean it. I trust the performers to interpret things, not recite back what I’ve written down. In the end, I think the music will come through. Good performers will know exactly what to do.”

      David, good performers want to know what you the composer want as well as how far they can go in interpreting your piece. And in my experience, they’re also fine if you tell them you DON’T know what you want and are open to exploring possibilities. And all of this will come out in your dialog with Brian and his quartet. Your statement “Good performers will know exactly what to do” needs a little bit of qualification, don’t you think?

      You repeatedly said “I hope (the piece) is playable…” And if you are truly concerned about that, I believe there will need to be revisions to your score. Which isn’t a criticism – and anyway, it sounds like you are anticipating this? JC pointed out that he thought the present score is a sample to sort of get the ball rolling?

      But if you’re not concerned about that (you go back and forth on this subject in this thread… just pointing this out…) great. If the score is done, finito then more power to you.

      Anyway…I’m curious to see what Brian has to say about the piece over the time it takes to review it and ultimately premier it. It would be helpful to share that on this blog if you are comfortable doing so.

    • dtoub 12:46 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 12:46 pm Permalink

      Chris, I really do believe that less is more in terms of instructions to performers. In the end, I really do trust that performers will do the right thing. At least they’ll do something interpretive. Did Bach profusely annotate his music? Uh, no. Who knows what he really meant in The Musical Offering? Yet, despite all the wiggle room for performers, they seem to be pretty consistent in terms of how they perform it. Same with his solo violin music, etc. I have no interest in telling musicians what to do. At the same time, I really do mean pp until it suddenly turns mp once, and then pp when it’s marked again. Of course there will be variations based on the register of the instruments at any given time. That’s ok. In other words, I know exactly what I want, but don’t want to be pushy about it.

      When I said “I hope the piece is playable,” it was not at all out of my desire to continue changing the piece. It is what it is. If something were technically impossible, such as writing a note that is entirely out of an instrument’s range (which I didn’t, as far as I am aware), that’s one thing. But I think it’s possible to perform it. Outside of technical impossibilities, like range issues, I can’t and don’t let “ease of performability” get in the way of my writing. I could spend my time writing music that is easy to play, or at least very clearly playable by good performers, but if that’s not what I want to hear, then why do it? I also can cite countless examples of music that, based on the score, should be nearly impossible to play or else could have notated much more simply. Yet, these works are indeed played, and even played well. I just can’t get too worked up over whether or not something is viewed as performable. There are indeed very few works of music that are truly non-performable in good hands; 99% of Nancarrow’s music would fall into that (nonperformable) category.

      Cowell believed his Quartet Romantic would never be performed by humans, since its rhythms are so difficult to coordinate. He genuinely believed that. He wrote it anyway. And I’m glad he did—I was at the premiere and have a subsequent recording of the work as well. Obviously this is not something that is going to be in the repertoire of most ensembles. But it was, has been, and can be performed. And again, the composer absolutely was convinced it would never be performed because of its rhythmic difficulties. It’s an incredibly beautiful work, by the way.

      I’m confident Brian and his colleagues will do my piece justice just fine. Incidentally, I’m always open to collaborative and constructive suggestions from musicians, and indeed did show him much of the score from the beginning for just that reason. At this point, the piece is done. The emphasis should be on how best to realize it, not how to change it to make it easier. Sorry, but part of creating something is to decide when it’s done.

    • J.C. Combs 1:16 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 1:16 pm Permalink

      “JC pointed out that he thought the present score is a sample to sort of get the ball rolling? ” Chris

      I’m pointing out that you seem a bit disappointed in the realization, when I know David isn’t really concerned about making it such a great realization that it would fool listeners as to whether or not a flesh and blood quartet is playing it.

      I personally think it sounds great. If whoever ends up playing it finds parts where small revisions have to be made, well that’s the life of an “autodidact.” We tend to bend the rules and sometimes go too far. Ask me about my piano works! Anyway, I give kudos to Chris for making David’s piece something to talk about right out the gate!

    • Chris Becker 1:41 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 1:41 pm Permalink

      Great. Again, I am curious to hear what Brian and his quartet have to say as they dig in to this work.

    • Chris Becker 2:11 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 2:11 pm Permalink

      JC I’m not disappointed in David’s score! You make it sound like I’m David’s rabbi or something 🙂 I took it at face value and offered some observations. And honestly my first thought was “How in the hell is this ensemble going to play this?”

      But I don’t think I even disagree with anything you or David said throughout this thread…although I thought a few things needed some qualification. Especially for someone else reading who might not be as versed in contemporary composition.

      But then again…you all do enough back slapping on this site – can’t I drop a little bit of vinegar in the sugar once in awhile 🙂 ?

    • J.C. Combs 3:17 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 3:17 pm Permalink

      ?But then again…you all do enough back slapping on this site – can’t I drop a little bit of vinegar in the sugar once in awhile 🙂 ?” Chris

      Typically, I’d say sure, but we’re talking about the master of minimalism, the mammer jammer of musicmaking, the man who puts the M in music, proceed at your own risk! 😉

    • dtoub 8:04 pm on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 8:04 pm Permalink

      “master of minimalism???” WTF??? I think that’s a bit much of an overstatement. I’m barely housebroken, JC! 😎

      Chris, I appreciate your comments, which clearly provoked a lot of good discussion and thinking. Not sure there’s a whole lot of “back slapping” here, but I have to say I love compliments as much as the next guy. Thanks!

    • Chris Becker 10:17 am on Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 10:17 am Permalink

      Hey, I come here because I enjoy reading your posts. It’s as simple as that.

      Uh…how do I make a smiley wearing shades?

    • dtoub 4:26 pm on Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 4:26 pm Permalink

      Just type “8”“-”“)” (without all the quote marks). That is, type 8, then a dash then an endquote. The server converts it automatically.

    • kraig Grady 6:55 pm on Thursday, March 12, 2009, 6:55 pm Permalink

      Quite compelling and varied in mood!
      Some parts really ‘stick’ even when they have passed.
      Interesting the slight beating on the ‘unisons’. I could not tell if this was vibrato or a method to hear that two instruments were on the same note.

      not as a criticism, but i don’t think that everything needed to be repeated or a least you should not feel like they have to be. i am not saying it would be improved by less, but i wouldn’t be harmed either in just a few spots.

    • dtoub 7:40 pm on Thursday, March 12, 2009, 7:40 pm Permalink

      Thanks, kraig—much appreciated! I’m not sure that it was vibrato, but also am not sure what is causing the beating (which I like, incidentally). I suspect it might be slight frequency differences between two patches even on the same note.

      Choosing how many times to repeat something is the hardest part, perhaps, of any music with repetitive structures. Sometimes I’ve regretted not repeating some measures more, since with repeated listenings, what seems really repetitive on first listen seems much less so down the road. Sometimes I’ve regretted repeating something too many times, but that’s usually obvious during the composition process and these get scaled back before the work is considered done. Without question, however: nothing needs to be repeated. It’s more a matter of “want” rather than “need.“

      Thanks very much for taking a listen!

    • mandy 1:50 pm on Friday, March 20, 2009, 1:50 pm Permalink

      this piece is genius!!!!

      i will listen tomorrow another 2 min.I think until the end of the month i will manage to listen it all!

    • dtoub 6:16 am on Saturday, March 21, 2009, 6:16 am Permalink

      genius??? not sure about that one. More a work of compulsion than anything else. But I appreciate the comment. Thanks!

    • mandy 6:25 am on Saturday, March 21, 2009, 6:25 am Permalink

      do you have something shorter to listen??about 5 min would be great.Or else could you increase the speed of your pieces x 20?

    • dtoub 5:42 pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 5:42 pm Permalink

      Mandy, check out piece #2 for electronic organ (5′) or <10′ (which is indeed less than ten minutes).

      Chris, I did get some feedback from Brian, who wants the parts to get going with this. There is no problem at all with playability. The duration is more of an issue in terms of requiring stamina, but I didn’t get any sense that this is a show-stopper. Now I can relax again! 😉

    • J.C. Combs 8:44 pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 8:44 pm Permalink

      “The duration is more of an issue in terms of requiring stamina, but I didn’t get any sense that this is a show-stopper. Now I can relax again! ;-)” David

      That’s freaking great to hear! Thank god you didn’t listen to Chris (:P) and go to all the trouble of restructuring for handing off player to player!

      When I plugged in the samples, I could definitely tell this work is going to rock (of course, I already knew from the first listen to your MIDI release, which is why I wrote about it in my blog!). In fact, I meant it when I implied you should consider converting this to full orchestra.

    • dtoub 9:41 pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 9:41 pm Permalink

      Actually, I appreciate Chris’s thoughts and he raised some good points with the best intentions in mind. Our task as composers is to make choices. I chose to stay the course in this instance. Sometimes it will work out. And sometimes it won’t. A lot of this stuff is intuitive and not based on facts. One just has to gauge when to trust one’s intuition and when not to.

    • Chris Becker 1:07 pm on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 1:07 pm Permalink

      “Thank god you didn’t listen to Chris (:P) and go to all the trouble of restructuring for handing off player to player!”

      Well, if stamina is an issue, then handing the lines off player to player might be helpful, still giving you the static effect you want and probably assisting in keeping the piece in tune over the course of the hour plus.

      Rereading some of your responses over the course of this thread, I think you guys (you and JC) should be careful not to mistake a lack of knowledge with intuition. Or being stubborn with artistic integrity. Or flexibility with being wimpy. Or (finally) instrument range with what you are repeatedly calling “playability.”

    • dtoub 6:21 pm on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 6:21 pm Permalink

      Chris, I think the duration was a bit daunting, regardless of whether I swapped notes among instruments, etc. Truth be told, some might consider zichron to be among my shorter works 😉

      I agree with all your points. But again, I think there’s something to be said for intuition vs process in art, and for autodidactism vs academic training. I also don’t think that at any point any of us would confuse staying within an instrument’s range with playability. And as I mentioned earlier, I reached out to Brian at the beginning for feedback, so I don’t think it would be fair to accuse me of mistaking flexibility with being wimpy. Not that you accused me, of course, but there was that warning…

    • J.C. Combs 3:15 pm on Thursday, March 26, 2009, 3:15 pm Permalink


      I don’t get your point at all in that last thread of yours. Seems like you could have taken the ;P too personally. Nevertheless, it sounds like all this fuss was over nothing. That’s something to be excited about, that an autodidact won an argument on scoring!

    • Mandy 4:44 pm on Thursday, March 26, 2009, 4:44 pm Permalink

      why don’t you take the best parts of this piece and put them together so they will become one shorter track?
      Or you can change the repetitions and make them one in every bar instead of 5.

      what do you think??? 😉

    • J.C. Combs 9:03 pm on Thursday, March 26, 2009, 9:03 pm Permalink

      “why don’t you take the best parts of this piece and put them together so they will become one shorter track?
      Or you can change the repetitions and make them one in every bar instead of 5.

      what do you think??? 😉 ” Mandy

      That is a silly question. The aim of a postminimalist composer is not to size down a work! I recommend researching the genre before you have anymore questions. 😉

    • david 10:18 pm on Thursday, March 26, 2009, 10:18 pm Permalink

      Mandy, you seem to be hung up on brevity. I’m not Webern. I love Webern’s music. But I have no interest in being a Webern clone. The duration of a piece is irrelevant; what matters is if it works or not. If it’s short, as many of my works are, and it works for me, then fine. Same with the longer works. Would you have directed the same comment towards Feldman if he were still alive?

    • mandy 4:47 am on Friday, March 27, 2009, 4:47 am Permalink

      it doesn’t mean if someone writes shorter pieces or without repetition is a Webern clone.

      By the time you put yourself in a limit and you say :i am a post-minimalist makes you automatically a clone of minimal composers of the 60s.

      The question is how a listener will manage to listen a 1 hour piece.
      Minimal music could work like a background music when someone is doing his work or yoga or training without being concentrate to the piece.

      But if you hear for example a long piece like Mozart or Ligeti,their music works because they change a little and bring always new ideas even if their pieces last 1 hour.

      I liked very much your string quartet but i have never managed to listen it all without watching the score and without small brakes.I mean in the same way like i listen a piece of an X composer because of the duration.

      Have you ever performed this piece?

    • dtoub 8:31 am on Friday, March 27, 2009, 8:31 am Permalink

      I think my longer works work fine if one listens to them without preconceptions. I also think there’s more variation than in some long works by others, but that’s just me. If you like to break it up that’s fine. I rarely get to listen to feldman’s string quartet 2 without interruptions!

      But to the question “why is my music so long?,” I think that’s a question I can only answer by saying that I write what I want and have no idea why some pieces are long and others short. It just works out that way. Why is Reich’s early music so repetitive? Why is some Stravinsky so neo-classical? Why ask why?

    • mandy 11:21 am on Friday, March 27, 2009, 11:21 am Permalink

      Stravinsky was neo-classical a certain period.His style had many changes.

      You as David Toub,what changes have you done the last years.

      Do you other pieces except minimal?

      I am very interested to hear!

    • J.C. Combs 2:01 pm on Friday, March 27, 2009, 2:01 pm Permalink


      You actually raise some nice questions here, some I would like to ask of all minimalist composers, not just David Toub.

      However, it is a futile question in a sense. Sort of like asking Chopin, “hey, when you going to play some music w/o so much sugar?”

      If a composer feels comfortable with a certain style, maybe they want to focus on that style. But I understand where you’re coming from in the sense of where a lot of us are at now, incorporating many styles into our music. I’ve heard some of David’s 12 tone works which I found great as well. Its my opinion that a composer doesn’t have much limitation of genre of they wish to explore other areas.

    • dtoub 10:12 pm on Friday, March 27, 2009, 10:12 pm Permalink

      Mandy, I really appreciate your interest in my music, and you do indeed ask good questions. A lot of my early music, as JC indicates, is 12-tone. Much of it has not been digitalized, and probably won’t ever be, since at least some of it is crap. I still really like my seven songs after poetry of James Joyce, which is on my music page, as well as the last 12-tone work I wrote before going postminimalist (ineffabilities). My early postminimalist stuff, like improvisational study no. 1 tended to be long, albeit in sections, and not quite as differentiated from what else was going on in the early 80’s. The stuff I write now is equally influenced by minimalism and Feldman with a good dose of Scelsi, but if you listen to the earlier stuff, there is, I think, a common thread and a common voice. I only want to write in my own voice, of course. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to influences, as all of us are influenced by what we hear, good and bad.

      A recent piece, bs piece is both repetitive and purely 12-tone and is a double canon to boot. That’s very different from most of my recent music, but has a lot in common with my earlier works. Incidentally, I had never heard the term “postminimalism” nor was any term applied to my music until Kyle Gann placed me under that rubric in one of his blog posts. Since he’s the expert, I stuck with it. But really, I could care less about classifications. I have no interest in writing “postminimalist” music in that I don’t feel a need to conform to any style. But it just happens that the music that I like to compose and that I think has evolved a bit in terms of my own style is “postminimalist” as such. So there you are.

      Thanks! Keep listening!

    • steven 2:08 pm on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, 2:08 pm Permalink

      Hi David,
      nice composition. If you ever need a saxophonist who can circular breathe and play anything on the instrument do let me know. I am based in NYC though find myself in philly much these days.

    • dtoub 2:11 pm on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, 2:11 pm Permalink

      Awesome! I’d be delighted-perhaps, if you don’t have three other sax colleagues to fill out the quartet, it could be done with prerecording? I’ve done that for a piece for six marimbas, and given all the works by Steve Reich pitting live musicians against prerecordings of themselves, it seems to be more acceptable nowadays. Let me know-that would be great if it could finally get performed!

  • dtoub 10:11 am on Monday, September 1, 2008, 10:11 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: new piece   

    <10′ for open instrumentation 

    I managed to get together a short work over the past month that came out of an improvisation. The piece is called <10′ because it is just under 10 minutes (somewhere around 9 minutes, to be more precise) and I couldn’t come up with any other title. I kept it as an open instrumentation work, although I think of it to a large degree as a work for 2-3 violins (or 2 violins plus 1 viola) along with 1-2 contrabassi and an electric bass (in the audio file I did with Reason, the electric bass part starts at the last eighth note of measure 121). It could also be done with an electronic organ. Or if some wind/brass players can circular breathe, that would be feasible as well.

    As an aside, I originally tried outputting an audio file using Finale 2009’s included Garritan Personal Orchestra instruments. That was a losing option—for reasons I can’t understand, Finale’s playback was inserting all sorts of audible accents on some repeated eighth notes. I could get rid of some of these by copying and pasting individual notes that weren’t being accented, but it was a losing battle. So I dumped it into Reason as a MIDI file, and no accents were present. Finale’s playback continues to drive me nuts, as I typically have to spend far more time dealing with playback than notation. I get it, it’s a notation program first and foremost. But why it continually inserts unexpected glitches into playback is something I have yet to understand. 

    Anyway, this is a short piece for me, but in all honesty, some of my pieces are indeed not that long. I’ve written at least a few pieces that didn’t last an hour or more. Honest. The MP3 and score are all up on the music page. If there’s interest, I’d be happy to post the (final) MIDI file as well as an audio file of the original improvisation to compare the rough draft with the final.

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