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)?

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Announcing the future premiere (or not) of:

Libera-etto, the grand neo-postmodern tragicomic opera (that I will never write).

Jon Fast, a long suffering Kia dealer and aspiring pop singer, meets Mepho, a hard of hearing devil who wants Jon's Soul. "For your soul in 10 years time," Mepho says, "I will give you anything now."

"What's wrong with the other other Souls on the lot?" Jon asks, not sure why his 8-year-old Soul with a couple of dents in it should be so attractive to this fine gentleman. Anyway, it looks like a great deal, since he couldn't even be certain that the car will still be running in a decade. He takes up the offer.

"I want to be a pop star," Jon announces.

"A what?" Mepho asks.

"You know, a pop singer, with adoring fans."

"Ah! In exchange for your soul, you will be an opera singer!" Mepho exclaims, waving his arms.

"No, a pop ..."


"A pop star!"

"That's right, an opera star! You will be magnificent!" (The curtain falls.)

What follows (or not) is a series of misadventures, including a walk on part (literally) as Parsifal, a love affair with Susanna and/or Rodolfo, and (of course) Jon speaks neither Italian, French, nor German. He marries Musetto, but can't understand a word.

The scenes appear in random order, and some of the action happens backwards.