Hey, everyone! We're just about at the beginning of May and, now that I'm finished with the
copyist project, it's time to begin work on the next composition of my own. I've already finished and sent "Capriccio"
for french horn and piano to Adam and Byron with the hopes that, someday, they'll perform it. I've also completed
"Elegy for Marilyn" for string quartet, which I had been working on during the whole copyist gig, mostly
as a diversion from that project.
Now, I am considering my next work. Among the candidatees floating around
my brain is another work for narrator and orchestra in Icelandic, featuring my friend Swany Getchell. But finding some
source material for this is proving to be a problem. We agreed this piece should be no more than 15 minutes in duration,
but in perusing the Icelandic literature, I'm not finding anything that lends itself to this. Most are sagas or
eddas and incredibly long, even more so than Voluspa.
The other candidate is an opera based on Macbeth.
That's intriguing to me because the story is rather dark and gothic, and would fit with an avant garde, free atonal score.
Of course, I have a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting it performed, but that doesn't diminish the attraction
for me. It would clearly be an opportunity for a collaboration with others for scenery, costumes, and all the rest of
the things that make an opera a spectacle. Even though the scope is truly grand, I will not yet rule it out.
What I'm trying to do is not repeat myself. There will always be some trace of my signature in any future work.
I don't see this as repeating myself. Every composer has their own signature and it will appear in all their works,
in some way or another. That's perfectly OK.
I'm talking about a more direct, verbatim repetition
where listening to the piece immediately reminds you of a previous work. That kind of a repeat should be avoided.
Sometimes, when I've finished a piece, there's a lot of musical momentum going that wants to spill over into another
piece. I try to resist that and ask myself if this continuing flood of ideas should extend the piece I've just finished,
or just be set aside for potential use later. If the overall flavor is the same and seems like an appropriate continuation
of the piece I thought I just finished, I'll consider extending it, if it actually sounds like it should continue.
If it's another re-hash or re-vamp of some motivic idea or the like, it may not be worth doing. A lot of factors
enter into this decision.
But, before I arrive at the beginnings of a new work, I will take some time to decompress
and rid myself of some unwanted stress. Only when I've cleared my head and really focus on the new piece will I
be ready to begin. I usually sense when that time comes. I think it's another example of the laws of attraction
at work. You send your thoughts out to the universe and it sends you back enlightenment. Before you assume I have
a bent treble clef in my brain, do yourself a favor and explore the concept. Thanks to my very dear friend, Denise,
I've seen this whole other side and have experienced how it works. Don't be quick to write it off until you've
looked into it.
Remember what I've always said about music....don't be afraid to listen to new things.
This is also true of new ideas. Learn new things....it's great exercise for your mind and soul.
care and watch out for the man,
I'm writing this blog post Friday, April 24th, which promises to be a warm and sunny day. At some
point, I plan to sit out on my patio, fire up a Parodi, and ponder my next musical adventure. This morning, I shipped
the last of the scores and parts for Adam and Byron's project. This completes everything a copyist is expected to
do, and then some. With malice toward no one, the effort versus compensation ratio was very biased toward hard
work for very little money. Such is the nature of independent projects funded by individuals, not studios.
However, I learned a great deal about what a copyist's gig involves and, more importantly, what it requires. Unless
you're working with a nice reserve of cash to fund expenses incurred during the project, you're going to need some
money up front; a cash advance to cover these costs. Not having that reserve and, in fact, having to cover other expenses
at the same time, really ate into my own money, to the point where some cutbacks were necessary. I don't ever want
to cut it that close.
The FedEx and USPS costs were another expense I didn't realize would run so high.
Unless you ship on a regular basis, some of these fees can give you sticker shock. This was in addition to delivering
the packages to the various drop off points. For me, this meant driving to these locations. I work out of my residence,
not an office.
Perhaps the most most frustrating part of the gig was deciphering and interpreting Byron's hand-written
scores. This was due to a combination of how he writes and what he writes on. One influences the other.
The manuscript paper he uses often forces him to cram things into small spaces which effects legibility. This problem
is compounded by having to rush through a score because of deadline concerns. Not being well acquainted with Byron's
manuscripting style, it took more of an effort to get it right.
Another problem was using features of Sibelius
5 I've not used before and, therefore, was unfamiliar with. This often caused unexpected results, some of which
I fixed, some of which I missed. There were also formatting issues, especially when multiple voices per stave were required,
or when systems ( as in the case of the piano) changed from 2 to 3 staves. Arranging these on the score in a readable
and presentable manner was challenging, as well as on the parts.
Because fertilizer descends the proverbial hill,
schedule concerns trickle down to the copyist. That being said, I often found myself rushing to get a score and parts
to the right people to accommodate their schedules. These players aren't just sitting around waiting; they are working
other gigs usually involving some travel. The window of opportunity is sometimes very small and you've got to aim
true to get it through that opening. This puts you into a feast-or-famine work mode; sitting around for a few hours
waiting, or working lots of hours in a row.
Whatever the ups and downs, it's been an interesting experience.
It's given me a new-found respect for what Byron has to do to crunch out creative orchestrations and compositions,
in an impossible timeframe, for players who are seasoned and skilled at their craft.
But the toll it took on me
was more than I was ready for. I've been retired for about two years now. Happily, I've de-stressed quite
a bit during that time, which is a very good thing indeed. But this project dropped me back in the stress-filled work
world and it made an impact on me. Even though this work involved skills and abilities I have as a composer, that didn't
lessen the stress levels I experienced. It gives one pause to consider whether it's worth it to do this again.
Circumstances would have to be much closer to ideal for me to consider it again, in spite of how much I love Byron as a good
friend. But he knows that too and would understand.
Lessons learned....which is good. You should always
try new things. But you should have the wisdom to be realistic about it. All in all, I'm better for having did this.
Hey, everyone! I'm writing this in the middle of a warm and sunny weekend (at last!). The
winter has seemed endless and everyone around this neighborhood is grateful for the nice weather. Hopefully, for me,
it offers an opportunity to take afternoon walks as a welcome break from my music writing during the day, weather permitting.
Being stuck indoors most of the day has cabin-fever written all over it.
Getting outdoors is also an opportunity
for quiet inspiration, both from my thoughts as I walk and the surrondings I'm walking through. In the area I live,
which is unincoporated, there are no sidewalks, so you walk on the street. Having lived in Cary for over 15 years, I've
seen the amount of traffic increase significantly. What was a more or less carefree walk a few years ago now can be
risky if you're not watching out for passing cars.
But, in spite of all this, it's still great to get out
and about. As I said, doing so helps to recharge my batteries and sharpen my perspective. More ideas come to me
when writing after a walk. Problems with a score I had trouble with seem to reveal solutions that eluded me
before I got off my backside and into the sunshine.
The copyist project I'm now finishing up for Byron should
be done by the end of the week which will bring a close to my first efforts. Many lessons were learned doing this project.
First of all, it's a lot of hard work; you should try to get some upfront money because the out-of-pocket expenses can
be high; you need to be prepared to work long hours and weekends to stay on schedule; more importantly, you need to know if
realistically you can finish on schedule in the first place. This means knowing what's involved and determining
if you can get it done on time.
I had this discussion with Byron, telling him I wasn't sure if I could continue
to do this as I don't have the financial reserve to work from during a project. Frankly, he never considered this
either since he's always just given the scores to the copyist and forgot about it. Working with me, however, has
given him some insight and he now better understands. We agreed that if any new projects come his way, we would talk
about them in detail up front to be sure there's some money in advance and that I could realistically do all the copying
in the time frame allotted.
On another subject, I hope you've had an opportunity to listen to the Music
of Danny Long podcasts. I will be posting a couple more this coming week. It's a mix of Just Us
and some private sessions with Chuck Domanico at Chuck's place in the early 80's. It also includes some tracks
featuring Danny's daughter Trishelle, which are very Jackie-and-Roy in flavor. I know you'll enjoy them.
I briefly visited with my Icelandic friend, Swany, today. We're still planning a follow-up to Voluspa.
She and her husband Bert are attending the opening of the Holocaust Museum where Bill Clinton is scheduled to speak.
I've also got an idea for a Civil War piece with narration using some letters and the like from the era. I'm
also working on the Marilyn Chambers Elegy, adding some material to it this weekend. That's coming around and is
developing into an interesting serial canon and fugue.
In spite of the ups and downs lately, it's still great
to be a full-time composer again. The absolute worst day ever writing music is still better than the most glorius day
working my "day gig". Take care and I'll be back.
Well, we made it past tax day and are ready for a great weekend. Today, I am expecting to receive
the Last Fling which is the final score for the copyist project I've been working on for Byron and Adam.
Admittedly, I'm glad the project is almost over. Being my first copyist gig, it was a steep learning curve.
But the last score was much better than the first, so I've learned a great deal throughout this project and believe I'm
much better at it now than when I started. I feel good about that. It's good to know that, when given a challenge
like this, I can still make it work.
But I welcome being able to get back to my own composing. I've got
a few projects of my own I'm working on. One is an Elegy for string quartet, dedicated to Marilyn Chambers,
who passed away recently. Marilyn was an adult film star. So why would I write something for her? Because
I could, and because I should. I seriously doubt any other composer will be moved to do so. I've never been
judgemental about people in general (except for Blago, who is too surreal not to), and I'm not going to discriminate in
I'm also revisiting an old ballad I wrote in 1963 entitled Johnny Blue. My wife,
Donna, asked me to resurrect it. She actually put lyrics to it way back when. So I'm working on that too.
I'm also going to do a piece for Gary and Lou, as I mentioned in my last blog entry. I also have an ongoing project
working on a pure electronic piece using HighC, which is one of the coolist things I've ever used to make music.
This PC program was a real discovery for me and I encourage any composer to look into it.
It's also a good
time to slow down and do some rreading and some listening. Shortly after I retired, I would feel guilty doing that.
I thought I should be doing something constructive, even productive. I soon realized the guilt trip was just a hang
over from my stressful days workin' for the man. Epiphany one was to realize it's OK to indulge my desire to
kick back and slow down. Epiphany two was coming to terms with not trying to get everything done in one day. Chill!
It'll come together when it comes together. I'll know when the piece is done. It will tell me. Rushing
it will only screw it up.
Yes, it's time for a little of that before I delve into anything too serious.
The weather is warming up as we head into May. It's a good time to ponder the meaning of life and whatever else
passes through my mind. Hey, don't forget to check out The Music of Danny Longon my podcast page.
I've posted three volumes so far....all music, no talk. Enjoy.
I recently got an email from my friend, Tony Guigliano, who is spending some time in Arizona with his wife,
Camille. Tony goes there every year and one of the things he does is visit our friend, singer, pianist Danny Long.
Tony says Danny is doing fine but the trombone player (Gary Carne) and tenor player (Lou Garno) have both passed away over
the last few months.
Danny named his band "Just Us" which also included bassist John Daley, who passed
away a couple of years ago. Danny told Tony that "Just Us" is now "Just Me". I was very saddened
by this news. I loved "Just Us". They had a sound that was a great blend of timbre and soul. They
were guys who knew each other well and played together only as old friends could. They produced a number of CDs that
I featured on my podcasts a year ago or so. I may dig those out and repost them.
Musicians of our generation
had their roots in jazz players that don't get much air play these days, being replaced by the new generation of jazz
musicians. That's OK. It's how it should be. But our generation had its own sound that reflected
those early influences. Art Tatum, Lester Young, Bird, Dizzy, Miles, etc. These were all ground-breaking musicians
that made a dramatic departure from those that came before them. And so it goes.
Tenor saxophonist Lou Garno
had a sound that I felt was a mix of Lester Young and maybe Dexter Gordon or Hank Mobley. It was a smooth sound that
could really cook at times. Gary Carne was a great trombonist. His favorite thing was to interject tidbits from
other tunes into his solos to the delight of everyone. He had a very lyrical sound and wove it around the changes with
a lot of skill. When Lou and Gary played melody, they were like one horn. Perfectly in tune, perfectly in unison.
When John Daley passed away, I wrote a Mass to honor John. I will write something to honor Gary and Lou.
"Just Us" may not have got the attention and recognition many of the New York and L.A. bands did, but they contributed
well to the amazing collection of recorded jazz we have. Starting next week, I will begin posting the Danny Long Podcasts
again. Check out my Podcast page and give them a listen. I know you'll agree they were a hell of a band.
Happy Easter! Since I don't observe the religious side of this day, I view it as the start of
spring time, a time of renewal and re-commitment. For me, of course, this involves music and my relationship to it.
Over these last few years, that relationship has grown stronger, more intimate. My commitment and resolve has also grown
stronger. By that I mean that everyday for me is a new day to explore and realize some aspect of music, be it composing,
studying, doing copy work for Byron, or just listening.
I've been receiving a lengthy thread of emails from
various members of the Society of Composers. The dialogue has been interesting and, at the same time, disappointing.
The majority of the members are involved in teaching. Their perspective is shaped by the world of academia they come
from. Some seem to be trying to make a living as composers.
The running dialogue and debate has been about
different points of view and the arguments for and against. Some of that, in my opinion, was a bit petty and pointless.
Some of it was revealing and enlightening. The discussion evolved toward serial music. The last few emails I read
talked about it being an atheist music for whatever reasons the contributors felt were justified.
writing serial music for the last ten years. I may be an atheist but, as far as I know, my music has no particular religious
persuasion. What is does have is my signature, meaning my aesthetic sense and the sound I envisioned. Serial music
is perhaps more bound by rules than tonal music. But a composer is clearly not enslaved to these rules. I follow
only a few of the established rules. I observe most permutation schemes, some aspects of integral serialism mostly duration-based,
and some of the more elaborate transpositional rules.
I personally believe there's beauty in the numbers.
Mathematics is the foundation of so much that we really can't escape its influence. In serial music, the fundamental
difference from music that came before it is the abandonment of all things tonal and its replacement with all things atonal.
When you look into pitch class sets, you see the changes right away.
Octave and enharmonic equivalency are
the most obvious. In tonal music, key signatures enable a scale to start on any note and use accidentals to follow the
scale pattern. This is where Cb and B-Natural are two different pitches. In serial music, they are identical.
There are no scales, there are series containing all twelve tones of the chromatic scale, ordered so that none are repeated
until all twelve are stated.
This series is subjected to various re-orderings (permutations) to increase the amount
of source material still based on the original series. Instead of using scales and chords based on scales, the composer
uses these series to develop melodic and harmonic material. So the major difference is that serial music uses different
resources in a different way, to the extent that its association with tonality is all but gone.
But the composer
of today has both tonality and atonality at his or her disposal. The pallet to work from is much bigger than it ever
was. We shouldn't get hung up on how we made music but on how it sounds. The ultimate criteria is how an audience
(even if that audience is just you) receives the music. Does it move you? Does it piss you off? Does it bring
you to tears? Or does it just sound good? If it leaves you uninterested, disengaged, then whatever elaborate techniques
and systems you've used doesn't mean anything. The music failed to connect with the people listening to it.
Suck it up, get over it, and figure out why. Then have at it again until you achieve that connection.
Happy Monday! It's April 6th and today we will reconcile the score for Blues Nocturne
so I can make the final changes to it and print out score and parts for everyone. I will also receive the next score
from Byron and will start work on that.
Everyone seemed pleased with the heavy-stock manuscript paper for the parts,
which is 9.5" X 12.5". At $90 a ream, I would hope they like it. The piano part for the previous score
(Balance) was 18 pages long. Since Adam is taping the parts, he decided to make it a booklet rather than a
The problem, of course, is that you have to plan that to ensure you have logical page turns, not
V.S. (Volti Subito). V.S. means "hurry up and turn the damn page!". But, since no one asked me, I didn't
plan for it. Being a virtuoso musician is no garantee that you're a great communicator. You still have to
ask for what you want.
But, that aside, everyone seems OK with my work thus far, in spite of a few mistakes here
and there. The mistakes still bother me. I don't care if that happens now and then. I don't like
it happening to me. Since that's setting the bar quite high for a copyist and ignoring the fact that I'm human,
I'm setting myself up for disappointment. I'm going to screw up and I'm going to beat myself up for it.
This is truly an S&M experience, isn't it?
In between working on Byron's scores, I've been sketching
some ideas for a Canon and Fugue for string quartet. I generated about six 12-tone rows, subjected them to
the 48-row permutation, and will use that as my source material. This isn't anything new, of course, but I like
creating a motif, creating a canonic form from it, then adding a contrapuntal motif and creating a canonic form from that.
I'm also using nested tuplets to create what is effectively multiple tempi within the same four voices.
makes for a busy piece of music, but the internal movements and overlays make for an intriguing sound. The challenge
for me with serial music is to keep it fresh and not repetitive. That's proved to be more difficult than not.
Subjecting other parameters like dynamics and duration to serial techniques helps achieve that because it adds more color
to the music. I also tend to move between different levels of intensity, going from quiet, subdued passages for one
or two instruments, to all-out intense passages for the entire ensemble.
But, I've got to put that aside today
and re-orient my thinking to Byron's style and the content of his scores. One is not compatible with the other,
unless Byron feels some out-there atonal piece will sell CDs....ah, I don't think so.
This is Friday, April 3rd, and I find myself with a welcome break from my copyist project, having finished
and submitted the third score to Byron for review. Sometime over the next few days, we will review the score via a conference
call, and identify what must be corrected and modified. After that, I must print out copies of the score and parts for
both Byron and Adam.
In the meantime, Byron has finished the fourth score and should have sent it to me yesterday
so I get it by Monday. This score is more orchestral and less jazz ensemble. It's shorter, only
14 pages, but much more intense, according to Byron. There will be a fifth score but that will happen after Byron and
his wife, Michelle, attend the funeral of one of Michelle's relatives.
As I said, the break is welcome as I
want to spend some time developing some ideas for my next work. My Icelandic collaborator, Swany, and I were entertaining
the idea of another narrated work in Icelandic as a follow up to Voluspa, which we finished last
year. Swany has continued to promote that piece and, thus far, it has met with enthusiasm by all of those who listened.
Iceland takes the Sagas and Eddas very seriously. There are only a few musical versions out there,
which got ours a lot of attention. I have given Swany exclusive rights to any proceeds that may be realized from the
promotion and sale of Voluspa, as a way for her to make some money from her efforts.
break also gives me some decompression time. The stress of doing all this transcribing was beginning to take its toll
on me. Just before I retired from the work-world, I was experiencing a lot of intense stress-related problems that factored
into my decision to retire. There's only so much one can deal with before one max's out, so to speak.
This copyist project has awoke some of that stress I tried hard to lay aside. But, so far, I'm dealing with it and
should continue to do so, as long as breaks like this can interupt the unrelenting pace.
So, I'm trying
to enjoy this interlude, allowing myself the opportunity to listen to some music, do some reading, and to just "chill".
Soon enough, I'll be back in the mix, doing the copying and keeping to schedule. As I've said in earlier blog
postings, I have a renewed respect and admiration for those who do copy work for a living. It is an intense job, very
dependent on the quality of the manuscripts they must copy from, and their skills at laying out a score that is readable and
I'm going to leave you with a twisted thought for the day....
There are only subtle
differences between "Compost" and "Compose" ....your
moment of musical Zen.