Well, I’m getting ahead of this
flu bug but not out of the woods quite yet. However, it’s not keeping me from working in my studio
and resuming my studies. And I’ve managed to get out of the house a bit, in spite of the frigid temps.
This winter may only be a month old but it may as well be a year old. Maybe I’ll join Danny
out in Arizona one of these days.
I’ve completed the first of the three movements of “Three
Movements for Nine Players” that I’m dedicating to Ruth Crawford Seeger. It’s posted
on the “What’s New” page. Also check out the photo of my friend Tommy Brenner with his
grandson, little Tommy. It looks like Little Tommy will follow in the drumming footsteps of his grandpa
Big Tommy. Tommy and I, along with Jack Burke and Barry Brunner worked in a local band, first with Ronnie
Ross on vocals then Rusty Urso. We played a lot at the Holiday Ballroom in Chicago.
coming Monday, February 1st, I’m meeting with my good friend Tony Giugliano to have lunch and look over Tony’s
score for his new jazz piece. Tony and I worked together at Deltrol Fluid Products about 30 years ago.
We’ve remained good friends, sharing a love of jazz and playing saxophone. Plus we’re
a couple of Chicago Italians. Enough said.
I’m still reading the collected
essays and lectures of Elliott Carter. I’m now into some of his lectures where he took some student
questions about his composing methods. These have proven to be helpful as insight into how he uses form.
I’ve tried to tie that into what I’ve been studying about musical form in modern music and can see some
of the same patterns emerging. I’ve been making an effort to incorporate some of this in my Ruth
Essentially, form is regarded as freely as any other element. There are no
hard and fast rules, other than the classic forms (i.e., sonata). Timbre, linear and vertical elements,
rhythms, and intensity all can be used to establish form. So, essentially, what I’ve learned so far
about form is that it can be whatever I want it to be. This gives me license to try different patterns
using these elements. I’ll post the score as well so you can see what I’m talking about, if
Because my past work life in corporate America was in the field of Quality Management, I felt
compelled to weigh in on the recent recall by Toyota of many of their vehicles. Toyota has long been the
standard bearer of quality and the techniques and strategies they’ve developed over the years are used throughout manufacturing,
in all countries. I’ve put my money where my mouth is by buying Toyotas for both my wife and I.
Having been associated with the automotive industry as a tier one and two supplier, I can tell you that the industry
rules are tough, but the auto makers rarely play by those rules, only demand that their suppliers do. Lack
of rules is rarely the cause of quality problems. It’s usually management decisions, typically driven
by cost reductions. This is true in many industries, not just automotive. Toyota, from
its inception, had a philosophy that quality and reliability were to be tenets of this organization. It
was a model the rest of industry could build upon, if they so chose.
quality is defined as meeting the customer’s requirements, whoever that customer may be. It also
means that aspects of those requirements, like safety, needn’t be specifically asked for. It was
implied that products be safe to use. The method for achieving this quality is prevention.
You have to plan for it and build it into the design and manufacturing methods. You can’t
inspect it in after the fact.
It’s easy to say that Toyota’s quality is slipping as is evidenced by this recall,
but I don’t believe that’s true. What they did with this recall, with the enormous financial
implications involved, was difficult and courageous. I know that the American big three had a lot of quality
problems over the years, far more than Toyota, but didn’t act on all of them as forthcoming as Toyota did.
Cost concerns and profitability factors influenced decisions, even when the potential consequences were very serious.
I can’t see any of the USA automakers having the stones to do what Toyota did. It’s
never been part of their mindset.
The flaw in Toyota’s system, as I see it, is with their supplier
quality program. No, the whole program isn’t broken by any means. But it allowed
a major supplier of the gas pedals to deliver what may be defective gas pedal assemblies. To what extent
design played a role in these problems I’m not certain. But an organization has a strong dependency
on its suppliers and the partnership they form is the foundation of their mutual trust. When that is compromised
in any way, problems like the one Toyota is experiencing are probable.
This is a worldwide malady, which is
even worse in organizations without the financial resources of a Toyota. It takes a top management commitment
to put quality, reliability and safety first above profits. It also takes good management, with a clear
understanding of how to achieve this, to allow it to happen everywhere in the organization. This recall
is an indication of that commitment. Toyota’s management did the right thing, painful as it was to
do it. I’d buy another Toyota.
I know this blog usually focuses on all things music, but
I felt compelled to speak out on this. I can’t simply forget the 40 years I’ve spent in the
quality management field, anymore than I can forget that I’m a composer. Thanks for your indulgence.
Unfortunately, I missed the Boulez lecture
because I’ve come down with a case of stomach flu. I’ll spare you the unpleasant details as
those of you who’ve had this know what they are. But driving down to the Art Institute, parking a
few light-years away from the building, and sitting in one place for an hour or more, is more than I could handle with this
Besides, it’s just wrong at so many levels to hurl while Boulez is making a point
about modernism in music. I didn’t want that to be the memory I took away from this lecture, nor
his. I’d rather not go at all then barf on Boulez. I have too much respect for
him, and myself.
Because this thing has been coming on for a couple of days, I haven’t been putting in
much time in the studio. I did get some work done on the Ruth Crawford piece, but studying was just not
happening. I found myself vegging in front of the TV watching the 4th and 5th showing
of reruns. There’s only so much “CSI” and its spinoffs I can watch before it becomes
worse than how I feel. My wife took the day off from work for other reasons but was good enough to look
out for me while I endured this flu. It was nice to have someone do that. I needed it.
been reading more from the collection of essays and lectures by composer Elliott Carter. I’m learning
a great deal more about him through his words than I ever got from the documentaries I’ve seen. He
was born in 1908 and, as far as I know, is still with us. So he’s seen and heard a lot, and known
many important figures in the world of music, or as he calls it, art music (to distinguish it from popular music).
The stories are wonderful and give great insight into many of the composers he’s encountered and who I’ve
admired for so many years.
As I’ve recounted in this blog, his writings about Charles Ives have been the most fascinating.
Carter knew and admired Ives, and helped him catalog and prepare many of his hand written manuscripts, most of which
were not very legible. Around that time, Ives was very ill, so the arduous task of working on these manuscripts
that often needed clarification by Ives, became even more difficult. Carter didn’t do it all, however.
By his own admission, he didn’t have the temperament for it, so he had lots of help, including from Henry Cowell.
The collection also has references to Stravinsky, Boulez, Varese and many, many other composers, and for a “fan”
like me, they’re a real delight to read. The interesting paradox to me is Carter’s writing
style versus his composing style. His writing is very narrative-like, succinct and with a welcome clarity.
He doesn’t tend towards the flowery, although he’s taught this writer a few new
words, but yet there’s a grace in how he puts his words together. His music, especially his recent
music, is assertive and bold, as if penned by someone much younger and more radical. Therein lies the paradox.
I find it very interesting.
It got me thinking about other composers I admire and the contrasting
differences between their written word and their music. With Boulez, for instance, the differences are
not that great, from my point of view. He writes very precisely, just as he composes, with some of the
same emphasis on the same things. From what little I’ve read of Stockhausen’s words, they seem
more contrasting to his music than Boulez.
I’ve been trying to make sense of these paradoxes.
What, if anything, does this say about these composers? Does it say anything at all?
Does a marked contrast mean that an individual is a better composer than writer, or visa-versa? Maybe
it doesn’t matter one way or another. It’s just an observation on my part, maybe because I’m
weird. But I assume I’m not the only weird one out there, so maybe someone else has that same question.
Let me know what you think. I’d be interested.
A moment of personal pride; my daughter,
Jean, is being considered as managing editor for a firm that develops text books for the cosmetics industry. Jean
has been involved in this industry for many years and has excelled in every position she’s held, especially as an educator.
Having witnessed her in action during a graduation ceremony a few years ago, where she was awarded teacher of the year,
I saw firsthand how good a teacher she is, and the respect she commands from all of her students. I just
wanted to share a father’s pride with all of you.
I hope I’ll soon be feeling well enough to resume
my studies. They’re getting interesting now and the discovery process has been fun. Yes,
I said fun. If that makes me a geek, then I’m a geek, but it’s a subject near and dear to my
heart, so the learning process is relatively easy for me. This is not to say it can’t be difficult
sometimes . It is, and can be really frustrating, requiring me to read and reread several times before
the lights go on. But whoever said if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,
knew about this.
I’ve also been doing a lot more listening; sometimes while I’m studying.
Those two seemed like good candidates for multitasking. Like my studies, my listening has been revisits
to music I’ve loved over the years, as well as adventures in some new music I’ve heard for the first time.
One tends to reinforce the other.
But I take breaks with some frequency
to move around and stave off atrophy. With it being winter, I’m not as inclined to go for walks,
so I keep on the move within my four walls. I’m not an exerciser, although I probably should be,
so this is as good as it gets. I’ll deal with it. Life’s all about compromises,
Peace and love,
I am composing a piece with a working
title of “For Ruth Crawford”. A sample of it appears on my “What’s New” page.
This piece started as an exercise in applying some of the things I’ve been studying and trying to make some sense
of it; transforming the knowledge into action. The ideas, thus far, have to do with form, as I said in an earlier blog.
decided on the instrumentation, which includes: 1) flute, 2) French horn, 3) Cello, 4) piano, 5) synthesizer,
6) Vibraphone, 7) xylophone, 8) timpani, and 9) Taiko drums. I will expand the piece to three movements
which, hopefully, will give me enough to try out more ideas taken from my studies. I also want to include
some exercises in rhythm, timbre and texture, linear and vertical dimensions and various ordering procedures.
recently read an essay by Elliott Carter about Stravinsky, entitled “Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971): Two Tributes”
written in 1971 shortly after Stravinsky’s death. All things Stravinsky interest me as he was the
first composer I really listened to back in the day, and he was the most influential. The “Rite of
Spring”, as it did for so many young composers, inspired me to pursue serious art music, and to leave behind writing
jazz tunes and songs.
But what was one of the more fascinating things Carter mentioned was his visit to Stravinsky’s
home in Los Angeles. He asked Stravinsky about how he went about composing. Stravinsky
took him into his work room where he saw a large book of blank pages with separate roughly cut fragments of music written
on them, shuffled around until he was satisfied with their order, and literally pasted on the large, blank sheets.
Stravinsky would literally cut and paste ideas to a work sheet that contained what would
eventually become the final composition. The staves were hand drawn, sometimes with fanciful curves.
All fragments were derived from one chosen source of material but there was no apparent indications of how these fragments
fit together. But the printed score, which Carter saw much later, had short bits of music interspersed
throughout that seemingly connected things.
So Stravinsky’s process evidently
involved various stages of composing; first pieces of ideas arranged in some order that made musical sense, then pasted onto
a page and, later, transitional and connecting ideas added to complete it. I’m not sure if the instrumentation
was already conceived of or if the ideas were abstract.
This was interesting to me because, as a composer,
knowing how other composers work allows me to compare that to how I work and to see if there is anything that I feel would
be useful to adopt. I think most composers’ methods evolve more due to their circumstances and situations,
rather than a deliberate attempt to emulate another composer’s method.
there may be key elements of the composing method you may want to emulate. For instance, Copland thought
that he should be able to hear the music he was writing in his head and felt guilty that he used a piano to help him give
voice to his ideas. He felt better about doing that when he found out Stravinsky also used a piano.
Being of a different generation, I sit before my computer, with my notation software with virtual instruments, connected
to good fidelity sound equipment, and enter my ideas using a mouse and keyboard. In most cases, this method
requires that I do some preconceiving of at least what instrumentation I’d like to use, but I too could use a virtual
piano if I don’t want to commit to instrumentation quite yet.
I’ve mentioned, I use “Sibelius” notation software which has a feature called “ideas” that allows
you to save fragments to a database of ideas you can later incorporate in a larger work. This is a great
feature that I really haven’t taken full advantage of. It seems akin to Stravinsky’s taking
hand-written fragments and pasting them into a larger musical canvas.
I typically do is first give some thought to the piece I’m considering in terms of what I want to say, and about what
or whom it says it. Because my concepts usually include some aspect of their timbre and texture, I envision
the instrumentation to go with the musical ideas. That may not always be the final choice but it typically
starts out with a definite sound in mind.
Because I compose in a virtual world where there are no live
players waiting to perform my piece, I have to consider what virtual instruments (which are really virtual players) I want
to use based primarily on the quality of the realization. Some samples are better sounding than others.
Usually samples taken from recordings of live players result in a better sounding playback, than samples that are acoustically
constructed. But samples by themselves are not usable without a sampler that processes them.
The sampler I use is “Kontakt” from Native Instruments.
I purchase samples compatible with Kontakt
and use that interface with Sibelius. Of course, that’s only one sampler among others.
In fact, Sibelius comes with a set of samples that can be used directly without a separate sampler. But,
for me, the quality of these sounds isn’t to my liking, so I stick with Kontakt. Another that comes
close to this quality is “Synful Orchestra”, which may be an alternate choice sometime in the future.
nice part of the Sibelius built-in samples is that you don’t have to think about them when setting up a score.
The program automatically selects the samples based on the instruments you choose. They read and
react to all articulation, expression and technique markings available in the program. That’s kind
of nice and is one less technical issue you have to deal with, allowing you to get down to the creative aspects of composing.
most of my recent work is in the twelve-tone method, I do some precomposing. It’s not necessarily
the substance of the piece itself as much as it’s documenting parameters like set ordering. But I
have written down ideas on physical stave paper to be later transferred to Sibelius on my computer, so in some sense, I do
something similar to what Stravinsky did. In thinking about that, there aren’t too many different
methods you can adopt. Again, it’s dictated by circumstance and situation. You
work with what you’ve got.
I think the important thing is to minimize the technical and routine
tasks of documenting and recording your music, and maximize the creative, inspired elements that results in the actual composing.
This requires that you create an environment where this is possible. If there’s too much distraction,
the creative flow may be impeded. This not only includes the technical issues I spoke of, but may also
include external things like telephones, emails, and other such things that compete for your attention.
been able to work sometimes when the TV is on at a lower volume, as long as there’s not any music playing.
The music tends to compete for space in my head and will often supplant the music I’m creating. That’s
a pain in the tush and usually prompts me to either shut the TV off (not a good idea if my wife is watching it) or put on
my headphones (which usually blocks out enough background sound to allow me to focus). In a day long since
passed, I was able to make on-the-fly changes to sheet music while the group continued to play (the need for which came about
because I screwed something up). But I can’t self-isolate like that anymore; part of the price of
getting older, I guess.
But now that I’ve taken a fresh look at my work habits and style, I don’t see a
need to deliberately change anything at this point. Any changes will have to evolve in response to changes
in my circumstances and situation. I’m comfortable with the way I work and that’s more than
half the battle. Sometimes if it works, don’t try and fix it; you’ll probably screw it up even
more than you’ll actually improve things. If the creativity still manages to flow to your satisfaction,
you’re good to go.
This coming Tuesday, January 26th, my wife and I will be attending a lecture by Pierre
Boulez, as I’ve mentioned. We are looking forward to this for many different reasons, but mostly
just to see the man who has been such a significant presence in modern music. “Le Marteau sans maitre”
was the first serial piece I heard and made a substantial impression. It was a key milestone in the chain
events that led me to begin composing using the twelve-tone method. For that alone, it is important to
me to hear what he has to say.
Take care of yourselves and please donate what you can to the people
of Haiti through whatever outlet you’d prefer. The simplest is to just text the word Haiti
to 90999 to donate $10.
Peace and love,
If you’ll permit a personal note,
today, January 20th, is Chuck Domanico’s birthday. He would have been 65 today and I know
he was more than ready to retire when we talked last in 2002, just before his death. He had already filed
his paperwork with the musicians union to make that happen. His wife, Enid, died less than a year after
Chuck. They both were looking forward to that time together.
We talked about having the time,
when we were both retired, to get back to our roots and share more music. He didn’t have the time
to make that happen, and it is one of my greatest regrets. We were as close to being brothers as you can
get and not be related. Although he was a year younger, he always looked out for me like a big brother. I
still miss him and wish we could be sharing new music and our life’s experiences, like a couple of Chicago Italians
that we were.
I hope you have the opportunity to hear Chuck in some of the
tracks on the Danny Long Podcasts. I will feature the Mitchell Roberts Trio in upcoming
podcasts, with Byron Olson on piano, Bob Mitchell on drums, and Chuck on bass. These
recordings, from 1962, clearly show the level of talent these guys had and were to eventually develop into so much more.
I’ve mentioned, I have been studying, covering certain aspects of music that I wanted to refresh. Much
of this I’ve studied years ago, but after so much time that has passed, I thought it was a good idea to revisit some
things. There’s also things I didn’t formally study that I felt the need to study now.
Twelve-tone theory in its many variations is one topic I focused on. But other things like musical
form is a subject I wanted to revisit.
My work thus far has not followed classical forms, even though
I’ve titled some works as Concertos or Sonatas. In fact, they haven’t followed the established
patterns that define these forms. For instance the Sonata form.
The Sonata includes the following sections.
The Introduction; this is optional and may be reduced to a minimum. Exposition;
where the primary thematic material for the movement is presented. Development; which
usually starts in the same key as the exposition ended, and may move through other keys during its course. Recapitulation;
is an altered repeat of the exposition and consists of the first subject group, transition, second subject group and the codetta.
Coda; which will contain material from the whole movement, like a musical resume.
As you can see, the form, if followed, can be somewhat rigid. One of the distinguishing elements
of twentieth century music is the loose interpretation of the classical forms or their abandonment altogether.
When you consider all the elements in the Sonata form, it’s easy to see why eighteenth and nineteenth century
compositions were so long.
Personally, I think things evolved this way because there
were no other forms of entertainment. There was no TV, Internet or Smart Phones to compete for your time.
Multi-tasking wasn’t something you had to get good at in order to handle the stream of input coming at you.
People took the time to spend an hour or more in the concert halls listening to the lengthy, formally structured
music of the time. And it was very pleasant to listen to; no dissonance or other such things to shake you
out of your complacency. The term banal comes to mind. Now I know there are a lot of
folks who still love this stuff and that’s fine. I’d rather you listened to something than
But all I’m saying is that it was this way because times
were more lay-back and less cluttered. Maybe when the intensity of life today gets to be too much, we all
like to fall back into that comfort zone to find some relief. This is clearly understandable and justified,
but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t expand your mind by listening to more adventurous music while still
getting the calming and revitalizing effect you’re looking for.
Composers are still motivated by the
same things today as they were centuries ago. There is still the mix of artistic and commercial impetus,
both capable of yielding some remarkable music as well as some really ho-hum music. What’s different
is the times the music was created in and the reflection of those times that reveals itself in how it sounds.
it would seem the classic musical forms are still valid but, more often than not, liberties are taken that result in variations,
sometimes so extreme it’s a stretch to still call it by its original name, like Sonata. Other forms,
like Symphonies, are not necessarily as rigid and are still used when the composer’s vision is for something on a grander
Chamber music is another term that is a carry-over from times past, when music was performed
in people’s homes, in their chambers. Today, it’s more like in our garages and basements.
But I don’t think basement music will catch on. However, garage band is something we all know
about. There’s even a music software package with that name.
in the book I’m studying from (Aspects of 20th Century Music, edited by Gary Wittlich, now out of print),
the first chapter is about “Form in Twentieth Century Music” by Mary Wennerstrom. She analyzes
the elements of form as practiced by 20th century composers. The book was published and copyrighted
in 1975, so obviously doesn’t include works since that time.
does show how form is interpreted and how it contributes to the overall structure of modern music, at least as practiced by
the composers whose examples she cites. Essentially, this recognizes that the music of today doesn’t
follow the classical forms of yesterday, at least not strictly so. But, more importantly, she shows how
musical form has evolved and how it relates to today’s music. For this reason I find it worthy of
This book covers some other worthy subjects I intend to study, like Timbre and Texture, Rhythm,
Melody (linear dimensions), the Vertical dimension, and Sets and Ordering procedures. All of these are
still relevant regardless of what compositional methods you use (i.e., twelve tone). So they’re still
pertinent to how music is structured and, therefore, something I can draw upon to structure my own music.
Returning to my studies has been an enlightening experience, more than just the acquisition of knowledge, but a guide
to how to put that knowledge into practice. Without that, the knowledge wouldn’t have much purpose.
I also find that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.
first, I saw this as some sort of failing on my part. But I soon realized how egotistical that thinking
is. It’s OK to challenge yourself and set high expectations, but it’s also important to be
realistic, understanding that you can’t eat the elephant in one bite. Pace yourself but remain persistent;
the tortoise and hare analogy. You’ll get to where you’re going and probably in better shape.
I finally received the recordings I ordered
from Amazon that feature the music of the Ultra Modern composers I’ve been talking about in this blog. The
first is titled “American Ultramodernists 1920 – 1950” (SceneDG label from Germany). The
compositions include:- Tetragram No. 8 Primavera (1928) by Dane Rudhyar (1895 – 1985)
Preludes (1924 – 1928) by Ruth Crawford (1901 – 1953)
- Angels (1922), Evocations (1937 –
1943), Organum (1944 – 1947) By
Carl Ruggles (1875 – 1971)
- Pieces for Piano (1924), The Snows of Fujiyama (1924),
Homage a Rudyhar (1922), The Harp of Life (1924) by Henry Cowell
All of these compositions were written for piano and performed by Steffen
Schleiermacher, who is known for his terrific interpretations of twentieth century music.
This is my
first encounter with the Ultra Modern’s music and I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. It’s
one thing to read about this music and see the examples that Straus included in his books, but hearing it completed the experience.
It was difficult for me to try and listen to it in the context of the time period they were written. You
can’t help but bring your total experience, up to and including today, to your listening experience. It
subconsciously sets your expectations for what you’re about to hear.
But I found the music interesting in
spite of that conditioning and could even relate it to the time period, with the help of the knowledge I gained from Straus’s
books. I don’t intend to review the CD in this blog; that’s not my intent. But,
rather, share my impressions with you. What stood out was the elegant way they all used dissonance and
rhythmic patterns to say what they had to say. It’s worth the purchase.
CD featured the compositions of Wallingford Riegger (1885 – 1961) performed by the Louisville Orchestra (First Edition
Music label). It included the following compositions:- Variations for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 54 (1953)
Variations for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 71 (1960)
- Symphony No. 4, Opus 63 (1956)
These recordings are all world premiers of these works.
I found Riegger’s music even more interesting. His music was more like what I expected, this
being the first time I’ve heard any of his work. This, too, was worth the purchase.
third CD I bought, which was not about the Ultra Moderns, was from Sony Records and conducted by Pierre Boulez, whose conducting
career easily matches his composing career. It featured works by two composers, both of whom I love.- A Symphony of Three Orchestra by Elliot Carter
Equatorial and Hyperprism, all by Edgar Varese
This is an excellent CD. Boulez, throughout
his conducting career, has presented many modern works in his programs, which is typically frowned upon by the powers that
be. They prefer the usual, standard fare for their patrons so they can feel comfortable and not be forced
to actually use their minds. So, in that regard, I applaud Boulez for championing contemporary works.
a career standpoint, a composer of contemporary, Avant Garde music has as much chance earning a living from just that, than
I do as a brain surgeon; and believe me, you don’t want me operating on anyone’s brain. It’s
one of those things that I would never try my hand at, and I’ve tried a lot of weird and bizarre things.
My point, of course, is that the modern composer almost always makes a living doing something else, usually teaching
In one of his essays, Elliott Carter addresses this point and essentially says the same thing,
so it’s not just my perception. All of this reinforces my resolve to remain an independent composer.
I answer to only myself with respect to my compositions and how they sound. I respect my listeners
and greatly appreciate the support they show by visiting this website and downloading its content. I earn
my living doing other things as well.
Until the attitude changes in this country, composers will always
have a rough time getting performed. Fortunately, the academic world becomes the place where composers
both learn and are given opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. But, unless you get into teaching,
this is a short-term situation. At some point, you have to go out in the real world and that’s when
it’ll hit you.
However, today there are more opportunities through other outlets and venues. The
biggest is the Internet. This is essentially a world-wide distribution platform and there are many sources
out there to help a composer promote their work. And, of course, you can, as I have, start your own website
and promote your own work, or invite other composers to share their work on your website. The possibilities
To my mind, this is the future for composers. The concert halls with their
subscribers dictating how much or how little of new work they want to hear, will not be the place composers can turn to for
performances, at least not beyond the one or two, if they’re lucky. That whole scene must radically
change before it improves. I’m not sure how many times we must hear Mozart et al, before we’ve
heard it all, in all its subtleties and nuances. It’s time to give today’s composers a shot
at the big time.
So I am asking any composers out there, who would like to present their work, to drop me an
email if you’d like to do that on my website. If not, I would encourage you to start your own website.
The costs to start and maintain one are low. If I can afford it on a retiree’s income, you
can to. If you’d like specific details on how to get started and what the costs are, drop me an email.
I’d be delighted to share my experience with you. You can also visit my host’s webpage
at www.register.com for more info.
Peace and love,
I’ve added some new podcasts featuring
the music of Danny long and his group “Just Us”, which was comprised of Lou Garno on tenor sax, Gary Carne on
trombone, John Daley on bass and, of course, Danny Long on piano and vocals. I’ll have a few more
podcasts of Danny’s music in the coming weeks.
Unfortunately, Lou, Gary and John have all passed away
in recent years. As Danny told me recently, “Just Us” is now “Just Me”.
But I have much of Danny’s recorded work with the band that I’m going to share with you in these podcasts.
There’s also some home recordings of Danny with our dear friend Chuck Domanico, recorded at Chuck’s
house in West Hollywood.
All in all, this is a fine collection of some very special music by a very good friend.
I met Danny over fifty years ago in the Chicago area and we became good friends. Together with Chuck,
Byron Olson, Bob Mitchell and Danny’s bass player at the time, Ray Neapolitan, we were a bunch of musicians and composers
who loved jazz and enjoyed sharing it with each other.
Today, Danny’s out in Arizona and plays a few nights
a week at the Remington with Judy Roberts and her husband, Greg Fishman; Byron is out in New York composing, orchestrating
and arranging for a variety of music projects, and playing piano as well. He’s still very much in
demand; Ray is still out in California. I saw him last in 2002 at Chuck’s memorial
service; and Bob Mitchell is out in Maine.
Even though the years have taken each of us down different
paths, we still remember those days with great fondness. It was a coming of age time for all of us and
we were like sponges, absorbing all things music. I’m still very much that way today, maybe more
so. I know the same is true for Byron from the many conversations we still have, and the music we still
I know all of you who read this blog regularly will enjoy these podcasts. I
felt the need to share Danny’s music with all of you, not so much because he’s my friend, but because it’s
just damn good music. Enjoy!
I’m continuing my reading about Ruth Crawford Seeger
and the Ultra Moderns. I’m also reading a collection of essays and lectures by composer Elliott Carter.
The one that stands out is also about the Ultra Moderns, which was a treat to discover. It adds
a lot of additional information to what I’m already learning from Joseph Straus’s books.
recordings of some of the Ultra Modern composers and have ordered them online. I’m anxious to hear
the music I’ve been reading about. It’s interesting that the ideas and approaches they took
were very similar to what the second Viennese school was taking in the 1920’s and 1930’s. For
me, it is clearly a school of musical thought that I want to know more of, so I can relate it to what I’m doing.
here in the Chicago area, we’ve come out of the deep freeze and are enjoying temps just above the freezing mark.
Hey, it’s an improvement we can feel. 35° is a lot better than 10° any day of the
week. I even got out of the studio for awhile and enjoyed being outdoors for a change. Snow
blowing a foot of snow from my driveway is not the same thing, even though it was outside. Kauai is looking
better and better.
Peace and love,
I’m sure you’ve all heard
the phrase “Better late than never”. Having been involved in music, as a player and a composer,
for many years, I’ve been introduced to many different composers and many different types of music. This
happened through my own studies, from my musician friends and by listening to a lot of music.
recent discovery of a group of American composers from the 1920’s and 1930’s, who called themselves the “Ultra
Moderns” was a real revelation (hence better late than never). These composers, seemingly independent
of what was happening in Europe, developed a style of composing that was as Avant Garde as you can get, with dissonance in
melody and counterpoint, unique rhythms and so many brilliant musical ideas.
The Ultra Moderns included Adolph
Weiss, Wallingford Riegger, Carl Ruggles and Ruth Crawford Seeger. At the hub of this group and clearly
a big influence was Henry Cowell. Another influential composer was Charles Seeger, whom Ruth Crawford
eventually married. As an aside, Ruth was folk singer Pete Seeger’s step-mother.
learned of this group from reading Joseph Straus’s “Twelve Tone Music in America”, which I’ve referred
to in earlier blog entries. Straus also authored a book about Ruth Crawford Seeger which I am reading now.
Between these two, I am learning about this amazing group of composers who were at the forefront of modern music in
America, along with their contemporary, Charles Ives.
I am now taking time to read about these composers and
the in depth analysis of some of their work that Straus presents. It has lead me to obtain other books
from Cowell and Charles Seeger that were the foundation of the Ultra Moderns work. I feel I owe it to myself
to understand these composers and their work, and examine it in light of my own work.
said many times, we are the result of the music we’ve learned and heard. No composer springs forth
a “virgin”. We’re all conditioned by what we’ve experienced. Hopefully,
expanding my musical fund of knowledge will lead to inspiration for new and different music.
to take a moment to acknowledge a friend of mine who I worked with for a few years in a group featuring singers Ronnie Ross
and Rusty Urso. His name is Tom Brenner, who played drums in our band. Tom now works
for Illinois Department on Aging.
Tommy recently reached out with some kind
words about this writer and this blog; words that were very much appreciated. It reminds me, and hopefully
all of you, that old friendships are like rare coins, they’re a little worn around the edges and some of the detail
is fuzzy, but they’re worth so much. And there’ll never be any like it again.
January 26th, my wife Donna and I will be attending a lecture at the Art Institute given by serialist pioneer,
Pierre Boulez. It will be a thrill for this writer as Boulez’s music was the first serial music I
ever heard and inspired me to pursue Twelve-Tone composition. I’m going to bring my study score of
“Le Marteau” for him to sign, if I can get him to do that. My rock stars are different than
other rock stars, to paraphrase that Intel commercial.
Since I’ve completed “Dance of the Tiny Spiders”
for woodwind octet, I’ve been doing some reading and studying, as I’ve mentioned. But I’m
also playing with some ideas, using a string quartet as the vehicle. I’m not necessarily interested
in having it become a stand-alone work, but I am interested in trying out some different techniques and precompositional schemes
to see if they are worthy of using in a composition later down the road.
However, I took some time to reflect
on the past two years or so, since I retired, and review the compositions I wrote. I was taken aback by
how prolific I’ve been, which is really due to my having the time to focus on my art. Without too
many outside distractions, I’m able to get a lot done, thus the volume of work has been greater.
also realized that to continue working at this rate of output can be detrimental. I can easily become redundant
and go down the same road too many times. Taking a break from composing for a little while is probably
good for me to do. I want to use this time to listen, to learn, to read just for fun. It’s
OK to do that. When I first retired, I was still in the mode of needing to do something “productive”
each day to justify my existence.
Now my existence is justification enough. “Productive”
is something I’ve redefined for myself. I answer to myself now and learning how to do that took some
getting used to. It’s OK to say that today, I don’t necessarily have to cure major illnesses,
fix the economy or even fix that messy storage rack in my studio. I can do what seems right to do at that
moment, for that reason alone and not because it contributes to some grand plan.
Working for over 40 years in corporate
America as a Quality Management professional taught me that most companies don’t give a damn about quality, only about
making money. In spite of a few outstanding moments in my career, most of it was spent
trying to tell management to do the right thing when they had no desire to do so. So you wound up being
only as good as your last achievement. Continually reinventing yourself was essential to surviving.
it’s not that way anymore, thank God. Returning to music has given me a new lease on life, and rediscovering
a voice I thought I’d lost. So I’ve decided that it’s OK to pace myself; in fact it’s
good for me to do exactly that. I have more blogs to write, and podcasts to create in the coming weeks,
so I look forward to that very much. Thanks again for your continued support and I hope you find your visits
to this website rewarding.
Peace and love,
A recent thread of emails
from members of the Society of Composers, of which I am a member, talked about the use of notation software (such as Sibelius
and Finale) versus hand-writing music. That got me thinking about my own history of notating music in the
many years I’ve been composing.
Up until about 1999, I hand wrote everything, from the simplest lead sheets to full orchestral scores, mostly because
I wasn’t aware of any software to help me with this. A guitarist friend of mine, Steve Johnson, turned
me on to a program called “Pro Audio”.
After I purchased it, I started doing simple pieces, using the midi feature with a Roland hardware synthesizer connected
for playback. At first, I was blown away by the ability to do all of this on my computer. Where
had this been all my composing life! But, as I got into it deeper, I realized what the limitations were
of this particular program as a notation tool.
In fact, it was a multi-track recording software that happened to have a limited
feature notation capability, more as a convenience than a primary feature. I quickly ran it to its limits
and started to get frustrated. I discovered that that makers of “Pro Audio” also made a stand-alone
notation package called “Overture”. This seemed to have the capabilities I was looking for
but didn’t find in “Pro Audio”.
I purchased “Overture” and began using it. It had the same playback features as “Pro
Audio”, so I could still hear and thus edit my work as I went. Writing by hand, at a keyboard, for
me had its limitations. I am not an accomplished pianist by any means, so realizing all the rhythmic, as
well as, harmonic and melodic aspects of what I was writing fell way short of real time. I still relied
on what was going on in my head to tell me if what I was writing was what I intended.
“Overture” made it possible to hear what I wrote
in real time. But it wasn’t as capable of adding in or hearing all the dynamic or expression markings
I wanted to add to my scores. I began searching for something else. I saw an ad for
a program called “Sibelius” and, although it was much more expensive than the programs I was using, I took the
plunge and bought it.
found the input features much more user friendly, as I primarily used the mouse for that purpose, not a midi keyboard as many
others did. It proved to be a better, feature-rich program than “Overture” was and, after a
period of time and a considerable learning curve, I got better at using it.
I also discovered “Finale” at that time and decided to buy it via
a competitive upgrade deal where I went from “Overture” to “Finale” at a much reduced cost.
But the interface and input for “Finale” was so totally different than “Sibelius”, I realized
that I would have to go through another lengthy learning curve to even begin mastering it. I also felt
the interface wasn’t as intuitive as “Sibelius” and didn’t align more with how I had been working,
even in hand manuscripting.
I found myself going back to “Sibelius” to do my work. About the time I started to
wish for more features, an update would come along that added those features and then some. This solidified
my preference for “Sibelius” and soon I didn’t even try “Finale”, although I kept up with the
upgrades in hopes it would be more intuitive to use in its revisions.
So today, some ten years later, I use “Sibelius” exclusively.
In its latest iteration, with VST support and many usable features added, it is as intuitive to use as anything else
out there and provides, via a software sampler and great samples, realistic playback ready to master to a recording.
I still write my scores with all markings
added as though it will be played by a live orchestra. I consider things like breathing, fatigue and other
human considerations for the players. This helps a lot when doing copyist work where the score will be
played live and part of my responsibility is to provide a ready-to-play score that is as close to mistake-free as I can get
But with “Sibelius”
being able to faithfully playback a score with almost all markings being playable, putting all markings in is essential to
a accurate realization. Since this realization is my finished product that I post on this website for everyone
to hear, I want it to be as close to a professionally recorded and mastered piece of music as I can get it with the tools
line; those critics who claim something is lost when going from hand manuscripting to computer notating are right.
But it’s not any skill or ability unique to hand writing. It’s the tedium of doing everything
by hand, the time it takes to do it and the inability to effectively edit out any mistakes. It’s
a pain in the butt! The learned skills and techniques of composing are ported over to the computer method
from the hand written method. None of that gets lost. In fact with some of the built
in error checking these programs have, it helps you avoid a lot of mistakes that are inevitable because we’re human.
The computer and the music software
designed to take advantage of it, have been tremendous additions to a composer’s tool kit. Without
it, things would be so much more tedious and error-prone. No one’s complaining about going from gas
lamps to electricity, or from the horse and buggy to the automobile, even though there are elements of these older methods
that are quaint and elegant.
Ultimately, we are always trying to improve things; to make them easier and more effective to do; to allow us more
time for other things, and less for the routine tasks. That’s a natural human tendency and has helped
The same holds true for the musician. Ways and means to improve how we make music is essential
to its evolution. It gets us to the next plateau so we can explore new ideas without the mechanics of making
music getting in the way. Musicians need to embrace these changes and adapt to them. Standing
still is the same as going backwards. Everyone and everything goes past you and you effectively fall behind.
I consider myself fortunate that at
this point in my life, being an older musician still means being a wiser musician who is not afraid of change.
Keeping your mind in shape is as essential as keeping the rest of you in shape. That’s why
I always encourage people to listen to new things. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and listen to
music you’d normally not bother with, especially the music today’s composers are creating. It’ll
do you good. Even if you end up disliking it, you’ll at least have given it a try. Keep
Happy New Year!
I hope 2010 will be better for all of us. Hopefully the economy will improve and businesses will
be able to hire more people. When unemployment goes down, and people feel more secure about their jobs,
they’ll probably spend more and that’ll be good all around.
As for the music scene, I hope funding increases for school music programs,
and people will begin returning to the concert halls and other venues where live music is being played, so that musicians
will continue to work. I also hope that more recorded music will be made and purchased, and people will
be able to continue to enjoy music in all forms, whether it’s CDs or Internet downloads.
I also hope that all of you who have visited my website continue
to do so in the coming year. I will continue to present new music, podcasts, videos, scores and writings
for all of you to check out. I spend the better part of my days working on these things, so I can present
them to you. The rest of my time is devoted to my family and friends, all of whom I am also very grateful
This year begins
another year of friendship with my dear friend and fellow writer, Byron Olson, who I have spoken of often. Suffice
it to say, we go way back. I hope the coming year brings more commissions for his wonderful arranging and
orchestration skills. Personally, I’d like to see him compose more of his own work. He
has such a gift for creating music that the world will be a better place with more of his work in it.
As for my dear friend, Danny Long, who is a talented and gifted
singer and jazz pianist, now living and working in Arizona, I wish the very best. He and I also go way
back. I’m going to share some of his music with you on some upcoming podcasts. I
know you’ll really enjoy it.
As for my other musician friend, Tony Giugliano, I hope this will be a healthy and happy new year for him and his
family. I look forward to helping him with his new jazz composition for saxophones and rhythm section.
Tony and I go back to 1980 when I worked for him. He went from my boss to my good friend.
We’re share a love of jazz.
As for me, my hope is to continue to learn and grow musically, and to compose a lot more music. I
want to expand my horizons and experiment more with electronic and mixed media forms in my music. I also
want to take even greater advantage of the arts and culture that a city like Chicago has to offer and get out and experience
more. I also want to continue to pursue photography, which I’ve loved for years, and blend that with
my music in the form of videos.
Personally, I want to continue to manage my weight and overall health so I’m able to do all these things with
some reasonable level of energy and endurance. I know, losing weight winds up on everyone’s list
of resolutions, but it’s one of the keys to better health. Throughout 2009, I’ve lost some
weight and have noticeably improved my health. I know continuing this will help even more.
Finally, I wish for everyone to be
healthy and happy and to continue enjoying life. Don’t forget to make enjoying music part of that.
I’ve heard the argument that music and the other arts aren’t that necessary, and that it’s more important
to teach our kids about life skills that they will need to earn a living.
Yes, they need these skills because they do need to earn a living.
But the arts teaches them about life. It teaches them to communicate in ways they’ll never
learn anywhere else. They don’t need to worry about language barriers, or even cultural barriers.
The arts transcends all of that and touches your heart and soul. It helps you to have a better appreciation
for the beauty and joy that you’ll find in everything you experience.
Support the arts whenever and however you can throughout this coming year.
Remember, every culture from around the world, throughout all of history, had some form of art; because they knew they
had to feed their souls as well as their bodies. We need this now more than ever.
Peace and love,