Sunday, February 12, 2017

What next?

Well, Labyrinth and Dystopian Sunrise (with Clouds) have been premiered, although I haven't yet heard the latter. The arrangement of Inner Sanctum premieres on Friday.

What next? I have some long term projects on the back burner:

1. Temps - an extended work for Messiaen quartet. It will include some movements from Labyrinth and Time Knot, as well as a clarinet solo movement that was originally planned for Labyrinth, but was left out, since I planned to feature Violin and Cello (because I planned on turning it into a double concerto).

2. Labyrinth Concerto - this is the double concerto for sinfonietta/chamber orchestra based on Labyrinth. I have already created a straight transcription, but I'm trying to decide if I should expand it at all. It's very difficult to re-envision an already finished work, so I'm not sure if I want to go there. I might add some improvised cadenzas. I'm consulting with possible soloists, but it may be complete as it stands.

3. A Mighty Fortress - I have a re-harmonization of JS Bach's chorale ready, however, after the original modulates, my harmonic system doesn't work so well. I need to find a way to deal with modulation - or do I? Re-harmonizing someone else's 4-part harmony into my 6-part harmony seems like an academic exercise. Is it one worth doing? The piece is for wind ensemble, if I do it.

4. Song Cycle - I have someone who wants me to write a song cycle, possibly based on my own poetry. Dare I? I've tried to do it before, and never finished any of the songs I started.

... I take that back. I already have two songs out there based on original poetry - very early original poetry that is very embarrassing. One of the songs is decent, though.

5. Orchestra piece. I have some sketches for an orchestra piece, but I left the orchestra for which I was writing it, and shelved it. I want to write more for orchestra, but I don't want to spend that much time on it, if I don't have a destination for it, especially since Symphony No 3 and Chaos, still haven't been performed, not to mention the chamber orchestra versions of my Dante tryptich (3 Pieces for Chamber Orchestra). This is where my compositional heart is, but why should I spend my time on something that may never get performed?

6. There are also fragments of a piano concerto - or two? I have the beginning of one with chamber orchestra, and fragments of one with full orchestra. I wanted to start a concerto from scratch when I was working on my commission, only to struggle for inspiration. Chaos was more piano concerto than wind ensemble piece, so I re-scored it for orchestra and finished it as a concerto, leaving the other concerto materials on the cutting room floor.

7. Piano piece(s) - It's probably time for me to write one. I have a couple of former students as well as a few other friends who might be willing to play it.

8. String Quartet (No. 4) - I was really thinking string quartet in the 3rd and 5th movements of Labyrinth. I could easily arrange them for quartet, and provide a couple of more movements.

The only problem with all this is that there are no commissions there - or even promises of performances (except maybe the songs). Having just completed an extended period of commissions, I find myself hitting a wall. Until I become better known at UC, I won't have anyone here asking me for music.

So is there anyone out there who wants a piece, either one of the above or something else? All offers considered.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sitting down

As I'm sitting here exhausted, I've finished all my current commissions and am in that nervous time while the performers are rehearsing - probably finding that the pieces are each in their own way almost impossible to play. The arrangement of Inner Sanctum is a known entity, at least. The strings playing Labyrinth are going to hate me for the fast and frenetic final movement. The cellos in Dystopian sunrise are going to gasp for air from the stratospheric heights of their parts.

In the interim I'll start a new job, plan my new courses, do my UK taxes, and move in to our new house. We are halfway there. Somehow I'm going to have to figure out how to fit into my new (smaller) office, possibly the smallest one I've had, except for the 8x8' room I had in Saxmundham - but I was also renting a larger office in a nearby business center at the time. I'm nearly set up, but I have no idea where my books are going ... and the stereo. That's probably going down in the living room, but it may be too big.

Still much to do, but my body hurts, and it's only a few days until Christmas. Presents? Are you kidding? We haven't had time to think about them.

I'm ready for an early night.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


As I am sitting here (instead of going to bed), the score to Labyrinth is printing. All I have left is to proof and extract parts.

Even with a long lead time, most of the composition came down to the wire. I've been so busy with this semester and my move to Cincinnati, that I basically lost all my weekends. I don't think I've ever composed so quickly, and speaking of quick, the last movement is ridiculously fast with a lot of notes. It probably can't be played as quickly as the tempo I've marked, but I'm hoping the performers can prove me wrong. It's a very different beast than I originally envisioned, but I think it's good.

Premiere: Jan. 22 at 2 pm - Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY

Monday, August 15, 2016

I was thinking today. (Not to be recommended.) I was trying to come up with some monster courses for non-music majors, but that morphed into odd dissertation topics. Here are a few of them:

Smoke on the Water: Autobiography and Social Discourse in the Lyrics of Deep Purple.

Dysfunction: Harmonic Apathy in mid-20th Century Art Music.

Let's Make Music Great Again: The Fall and Fall of the Arts and Culture in Public Schools.

Do you have any ideas?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Into the Labyrinth ...

... well, that title is taken, but I'm finally working on my SNM commission: Labyrinth, for fl, cl, tpt, pf, and string quartet. It was going to be two movements separated by an interlude/cadenza. As I started working, it was clear to me that it had to be three movements separated by interludes. I wanted to write a six-part chorale setting, and it wasn't going to be a significant movement, so it will be part of a short middle movement.

The plan is to make it a mini double concerto, featuring violin and cello, but at this point in time the interludes will feature other instruments, probably trumpet and flute. Why? That's a long explanation, but I'll give you the short version. Last year, when I derived the sets for it, I wrote a short clarinet quartet, Time Knot, which was eventually going to be part of Labyrinth, a 9-movement monster with a solo movement for each instrument. That could easily balloon to a piece larger than my 18-20 minute commission. I've written the opening movement for clarinet, and a little of the second movement, but all that material was based on 6-notes sets (and a row divided into layers).

When I started Labyrinth, I opted for sets of 5 and 7 notes, based on the same row. They classify into functional units better than 6-note sets. Now, there is nothing saying that I have to use the same divisions for all the movements, but I want to use them differently, and I'm not convinced that they will fit together. I also wanted to use larger structures, which won't work in a piece of nine 1-3' movements.

Hence, the old Labyrinth is now Temps, which I'll work on when I am motivated and have time (no pun intended).

So why have interludes for trumpet and flute in a quasi-double concerto for violin and cello? I'm worried that violin and cello interludes will be too similar to Temps. Flute and trumpet are instruments that aren't in the other piece. I want the interludes to not be musically significant. Instead, they are active silence between movements and a break for the soloists. I may also have a free accompaniment in the piano (music not specifically synchronized with the soloist, more of a accompanimental texture). That may still change, but I'm almost finished with the draft of the first movement, so I'll have to make a decision on the first interlude soon.

Of course, I don't have to compose in order, but it just happens that the other movements are less fully-formed in my mind, and working from the beginning usually helps solidify them. In fact, the idea of the accompanied solo interlude came only as I was writing this article. We'll see what happens ultimately. It all may change as the draft coalesces.

I've also been asked for a quartet or quintet version of the piece for another performance, for which I might change or remove the interludes.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Symphony No. 2 now available

My procrastination should be complete now. I've just activated my revision of Symphony No. 2 for sale now. It available now on Symphony No 2, and will be on Amazon within a week. There is a short excerpt on my website (, but I may post the whole thing on Soundcloud at some point. There are some issues in the first movement and the beginning is slightly different, but the rest of the changes are either corrections, notation, or orchestration.

Time to compose now, or garden, or refinish the little table in the dining room ... or the one in the family room ...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Publication news

I've just corrected my proof for Symphony No. 2. I've made a few revisions and simplified some notation. I'm going to look through it once more, since I'm using the Vienna font on it. That's one that is supposed to look like Score. Unfortunately, it doesn't map the same as Opus (Sibelius' native font), so I have to manually change a few things, and a couple of things still don't look perfect (but they are very minor). Musegraph (the font designer) is going to re-map the font to be compatible with Sibelius and that will make a few things easier. At the moment it is mapped to match Maestro (Finale's default font). At very small staff sizes, I've found that increasing the font size from 19.5 to 22 or 23, makes the noteheads larger. I've never liked the shape of Opus noteheads, and this is much more agreeable.

That means the publication of Symphony No. 2 is still a couple of weeks down the road. Nearer is The Master's Hammer (also using Vienna). I'm waiting for Createspace to supply a printed proof, which should come in the next few days, along with a new version of Paradiso, ostensibly for sinfonietta, but with multiple strings preferred. I've kept the Steel Pan from the chamber version, but unfortunately the Soprano Sax, Tuba, and Harp had to go (for the purposes of this arrangement). There were a few other instruments that became doublings. I was allowed double winds, horns, and trumpets, but I wanted to make this orchestration different enough from the original that they could both stand as separate entities.

Another piece in the pipeline is my saxophone Quartet, which I have a group reading next month. (I'm extracting parts this weekend.) It's too short for Createspace, so I may publish it with Mirage and/or the sax and piano version of Remembering the Night Sky.

So, what is next?

I'm itching to write another big orchestra piece, but I need to write Labyrinth for early next year. That's an octet (fl, cl, tpt, pf, string quintet). I'm planning for it to be like a double concerto for the violin 1 and cello, but we will see, once I get going on it.

I should probably get Symphony No. 3 and Chaos premiered before tackling another orchestra piece, so probably after Labyrinth is a wind ensemble piece and a set of songs.

So nobody understood my Libera-etto joke (except Steve Taylor)?