Because I’m not going to do another Eliot
poem for awhile, I’ve decided to call the new piece I’m working on The Canticles of Diaphonia.
You may ask, “What the hell is the Canticles of Diaphonia”?...and I would say it’s a very
good question. 1. It’s
not about an ancient place called Diaphonia.
First, let me tell you what it’s not.
2. It has nothing to
do with any sort of sex toy or Kama Sutra position.
really is a legitimate word; Google it.
4. It is not the result of my indulging
in any sort of herbs.
5. It’s not in any way reminiscent of Wagner
It’s not a secret code that’ll prove the Mayans were right
What it does mean is:
Canticles (means songs). Diaphonia
(means dissonance). Together they mean Dissonant Songs. See? It
wasn’t all that cryptic, actually. And when you put that title in the context of the kind of music
I write, it makes perfect sense. My music is very dissonant, and sometimes a little frightening.
I see this as an attribute, not a detriment. But I’m biased. Hey, it’s
my music. If I don’t like it, I can’t expect you to like it.
included a sample of it on my What’s New page, if you’re brave enough to listen. My
attorney says I’m not responsible for any involuntary bodily functions that may occur upon listening. Maybe
my music didn’t make you sick. Maybe you were sick to begin with. That’s
what my lawyer said and after all, he should know. He’s makes me sick sometimes.
I’m going to be really surprised if this piece actually triggers the 2012 calamity, but it’s unlikely.
I usually play back my music a lot when writing it and the neighborhood is still standing, so I think we’re safe.
But you know, the neighbor’s dog stares at me kind of weird. Maybe he’s been listening.
He looks stunned….I bet he’s been listening.
I stopped posting podcasts. I’m having
issues with my host and have decided to shut it down. Fertilizer occurs (I cleaned that up for you).
I’ll continue to post my compositions on my Music page for all to listen to and download (see the above
caveat). I know some of you download my music because I see that in the stats. Thank
you. It’s greatly appreciated.
I also see that I’ve had visitors from the country
of Belarus. Welcome to my website! I hope your experience has been
favorable. Come back anytime. There’s always something new and strange going on,
worthy of a curious look-see.
I also hope all
of you have had a chance to listen to the music of Hildigunnur
Rúnarsdóttir that I’ve posted on my What’s New page. She’s an
Icelandic composer and very talented. I like presenting the work of a fellow composer because it helps
you listen to something new, as I’ve been ranting about for some time now. I think you’ll find
her work exciting.
I’ve purchased a CD of T.S. Eliot reading his poems. I
wanted to hear how he paced his reading, where he put emphasis, how he conveyed the verbal imagery. My
friend Byron really liked how I read Prufrock, but I wasn’t as enthused, in spite of the steps I took to enhance
my voice. So I thought it would be good to hear the poet read his own work. It’ll
be a good frame of reference for any future reading by yours truly.
I also acquired a book on Stravinsky’s
late music, which is primarily his serial work from the early fifties to the end of his life. To me, that
was his best work since Le Sacre du Printemps and the most interesting. His neoclassical work,
spanning all the years in between was, in my opinion, still musical but banal. Nothing
too exciting but evidently very entertaining to the audiences of the time. But being a twelve tone composer,
the serial period in his career is the most interesting to me.
I’ve also been reading Milton
Babbitt’s lectures at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Babbitt’s mind is a curious thing.
He tends to ramble and string long sentences together, but his knowledge of twelve tone music is astonishing.
But I have to re-read his writing several times before I can find the essence of what he’s saying.
Sometimes that’s a mixed blessing. It’s exasperating trying to follow his rambling,
but a revelation when I finally get what he’s saying.
I’ve also acquired the Charles
Eliot Norton lectures given by Italian serial composer Luciano Berio, given between 1993 and 1994. The
book containing the lectures is titled Remembering the Future. In these lectures, he invites us
to revise or suspend our relation with the past and to rediscover it as part of a future trajectory. I’m
interested in learning about Berio’s views.
Back to The Canticles of Diaphonia.
It’s scored for flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon, celesta, piano, synthesizer (warm pad), vibraphone,
marimba, tree bells, wood block, and synth drums. This instrumentation presents an interesting mix of timbres
that lends itself nicely to my style of serial writing. I’ve been varying the intensity from quiet
to explosive. When you check out the sample, you’ll see what I mean.
Tomorrow, we’re going to
see my friend Tony Giugliano and the Geneva Jazz Ensemble performing in Batavia, Illinois. We saw them
a year ago at this same venue and, frankly, that performance wasn’t that good. They played Blues
for Tony that I wrote for them and dedicated to my friend Tony. I’m anxious to see if the band
has improved over this past year.
They are basically a “basement” band,
comprised of local players, most amateur, who enjoy playing big band charts of familiar jazz tunes. I wouldn’t
mind writing another jazz tune for them but that remains to be seen. It kind of depends on whether or not
Tony would be interested. Nevertheless, my wife and I are looking forward to hearing the band and seeing
our good friend Tony and his wife, Camille.
They are Danny Long fans as well and regularly
go to Scottsdale, Arizona to see and hear Danny. We’re all going to see Danny and bassist Nick Schneider in a dinner
concert on Sunday, July 18th. That should be a terrific show and we’re looking forward
So I’m wrapping this up for now and will post another blog entry in a few days.
Thanks for visiting and reading my rants and ravings. As Duke Ellington would always say…”We
love you all madly!”.
Peace and love,
As June comes to a close in a couple of days,
I’ve taken a moment to reflect on what I’ve accomplished this year so far, and what I hope to accomplish for the
remainder of the year. I think it’s a good thing to stop now and then and do that. My
tendency is to continue moving ahead without looking in my rear view mirror. But knowing where you’ve
been and what you’ve done helps in determining where you’ll go and what you’ll do next.
mentioned in this blog several times, I like to write every day, irrespective of what will come of what I’m writing.
It’s a discipline I established for myself since I retired in 2007. Writing music is now my
“job” in the sense that it’s the primary focus of my daily efforts. When I was working
in the manufacturing world as a quality management professional, that was my focus and writing music was something I did along
with that. But it didn’t get the attention I felt it needed.
I vowed that when I retired I would return
to writing music and give it the attention and focus necessary to result in the music I was looking for. I’m
very pleased with myself for accomplishing that, at least to the extent I have. I’ve always been,
more or less, goal driven, but not with a blinders-on approach.
Even as a business manager, I stayed focused
but was aware of the changing climate and how that affected my goals. You have to recognize that sometimes
it’s a moving target and you have to shift your aim if you’re going to hit it.
taken that same approach to writing music. I’ve learned to recognize when the climate has changed,
especially now that my world is much smaller. Essentially, I’ve learned a lot about myself.
I’ve learned to put things in a different perspective, one that’s pertinent to today.
in the business world, with people answering to you and you answering to others, your goals, of necessity, includes other’s
goals, and those all align with the organization’s goals. Everyone’s goals are connected and
driven by the main business goal. Now, my goals are the primary goals and affect only me. I
get to determine what they are and how I’m going to achieve them.
The other side to that is what the impact
is of both achieving and not achieving your goals. In the business world, consequences of both scenarios
are vastly different. Achieving your goals may mean a pay raise, bonus or promotion. Not
achieving your goals may mean a demotion or, worst case, getting fired. It can be dramatic and affect your
I think the worst fate is to fall off of the company’s radar, meaning
you’ll never be challenged with any new goals or given another opportunity to show you can get the job done.
You’ll just be left to wither and eventually die or go find another job someplace else. It
can be brutal and heartless, but that’s typical in business.
Having navigated through all of that for many
years and finally getting to this point in my life, that’s not something that concerns me anymore. What
concerns me now is establishing goals that are really meaningful to me personally because, yes, it’s personal.
My music is something I take very personal. Being satisfied with what I’m accomplishing is
very important to me. I have no one else to satisfy except me.
I’m gratified when someone really likes what I’ve written and tells me so. But, for every person
that likes my work, there are others who don’t. When I start listening too close to all of them and
not to myself, I’ll start writing what I think they want and not what I want. I can’t let that
happen. Keeping my musical independence is very important to me. I never pursued making
a living writing music for a lot of reasons, one of which was to remain independent.
you accept money for your work, you give away some of that independence. Sometimes your “client”
makes minimal or no demands and leaves you to essentially do your own thing. Sometimes they have very specific
demands and want very specific things. You have to determine if you’re willing to meet those demands,
and what compromises you’re prepared to make to do so.
And, for me, it’s not a case of fearing
the competition. Every composer is different. Their talents are unique, giving them
each a unique voice. Choosing a composer for a project is not about who’s better technically, but
who is better suited to what the project is all about. My “voice” may be better suited to a
particular film or ballet than someone else’s. Conversely, another composer’s music may capture
the essence of a project far better than mine would.
So it’s not a competition thing because the playing field
is anything but level. What causes a particular composer to be chosen for a project is more about personal
preference, politics, and simply being in the right place at the right time. There’s no singular
frame of reference like a medical degree for a physician. I wouldn’t see an unlicensed doctor just
because he or she is a nice person and lives in the neighborhood. He or she has to meet the educational
and certification criteria first and foremost, then the other criteria may come into play.
For a composer, the educational and certification
criteria is still a factor but not nearly as important as it is for a physician. I am not conservatory
educated. I have been educated through private instruction from very knowledgeable and competent music
educators who, themselves, were degreed and licensed to teach. I did not get a formal degree, but I certainly
got the same level of education. My post-graduate work was basically just me continuing my education, mostly
through self-study. It was an individual choice for me to go that way.
I don’t get very many opportunities for
a project mostly because I don’t put myself out there as available. If the right one were offered,
I’d probably accept it, providing it was a good fit for what I do. If I were putting myself out there
and making myself available for projects, and not getting any offers, I’d be doing some self-examination as to why.
But that’s only important if my goal was to pursue making money writing music. It’s
not, so I don’t sweat not being chosen for anything. It’s really not that important to me.
What I decided
was important was to make my work available for all to hear, and to do that without any strings attached. I’ve
been taken to task by friends and family for not selling my work and just essentially giving it away. I’ve
lived too much of life and seen too much commercialism where money rules above all else, including over the integrity and
worth of the product being sold. I think a lot of other people may feel the same way.
I look at outlets
like iTunes where music is available for sale by the track or the album (kind of like pizza by the slice or the whole pie)
and realize that it’s not for me. I don’t consider it wrong to do that. In
fact I think it’s a great way to distribute and sell music. I’ve always considered the internet
as the ultimate opportunity for today’s music distribution and sales.
Artists are clearly entitled
to get paid for their work as long as there is a commercial demand for it. That’s part of the music
business. Before the internet, an artist relied on the record label’s own promotional people to push
for sales. But their motivation had little or nothing to do with the artist, and more to do with the label’s
profits and their own jobs. So the internet is a quantum leap forward for the artist.
For me, it’s a tremendous
opportunity to get my work out there for anyone who so chooses to hear and enjoy it, no strings attached. While
my work, like everyone’s work, is copyrighted, I don’t care if you download it or use it for your particular purpose,
or even sample from it for your own work. I know I wrote it; you know I wrote it. That’s
what counts. I guess that’s my “mission statement”.
So having said all that, I’m looking at
the latter part of this year and asking myself what I hope to accomplish. Clearly, I will continue to write,
but what I write is what my goal will be all about. I’ve been a serial, twelve tone composer for
many years and expect to continue writing in that style. I don’t see me making a radical departure
from that, like going tonal or experimental like John Cage and the New York school. While I admire them,
I don’t want to emulate them.
But I do want to further explore some of the techniques I’ve been learning about.
I want to see if they work for me. I want to determine if they enhance my musical language and enable
me to say more than I am now. I look at that as an important step in my musical evolution.
Rather than learning a new language, expand and enhance the language I already know; use that to say what I want to
say in a new and better way. That’s both a worthwhile and attainable goal, and one that makes sense
for me at this point in my development.
But the biggest difference between goals I had in the business world and
goals I have now is accountability. In business, I was accountable for achieving those goals to my boss
and the organization as a whole. Now, I’m accountable to just myself. But I’m
usually harder on myself than anyone else has been or will continue to be.
So I get to kick my own
ass when I veer off course and go too far astray, unless that’s an indication the climate’s changed.
Then it’ll be time to regroup and take aim anew. Some things never change, do they?
After some consideration, I’ve decided
not to pursue another musical setting for a T.S. Eliot poem at this time. I may attempt the Wasteland
later but only after I’ve done the necessary background research. After re-reading it, I at once
realized how significant and complicated a piece of literature it is, with many references to certain books and other sources.
To do it justice, I need to understand this background and relate it to Eliot’s words.
is a much bigger and more significant work than Prufrock and the music will require several movements to correlate
with the sections of the poem. It’s also a more difficult piece to read and, because of that, one
I don’t want to narrate. I know I was able to make the Prufrock narration work with the
approach I took, but Wasteland calls for something beyond that.
I’ve ordered a CD
of Eliot reading his own poems, so I can get a better feel of how it should sound, its cadence and tempo, voice inflections,
and pronunciations. The latter is very important as there are passages and specific names in other languages,
and I’m not familiar enough with these to pronounce them correctly. I’m not about to struggle
through those and compromise the integrity of the reading. It needs to be done right by someone who knows
I will continue with the music, however. I’ve changed some of the instrumentation.
I’ve added some small percussion (tree bells, wood block and synth drum), and removed the timpani and xylophone.
I’ve kept the vibraphone, marimba, celesta and piano. There’s also a woodwind ensemble
(flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet and bassoon).
The piece is still serially constructed, but I’m taking
more liberties with the sets, expanding them and augmenting them wherever it makes sense to do. Essentially,
it’s more of a free-form serialism, rather than my usual stricter adherence to the set’s orderings.
I’m loosening up, so to speak, and attempting more of a blend of atonal and chromaticism.
made Leonard Bernstein happy, as he strongly advocated a return to tonality. I would have been a big disappointment
to him. Even his Kaddish symphony, which is done in twelve-tone, is mild compared to some of my
stuff. Hey, not everything can be West Side Story! Besides, I could never see
myself doing a musical theatre piece; better him than me.
Anyway, in laying out the Wasteland music, I will use
the same approach I did with Prufrock, where I indicated timecode at each bar and inserted double-lines and rehearsal
marks at the beginning of each section of the poem to be read. I established the duration of each reading
and factored that into each section of the music. This made synching the narration with the music much
easier when I did the final mix.
In talking to my friend Byron about this, he told me he did something similar for a piece he did for
vocalist Carmen McRae, only that was performed live. That made synchronization more intuitive and less
preplanned. He said Carmen was very pleased with the performance and praised him to everyone she knew for
the great job he did. She said no one else could have done it as well. Unfortunately,
the record company decided not to re-release the album on CD, and the vinyl is out of print. I would have
loved to hear that.
We also talked about how our approach to putting a piece of music together was very similar in
essence, even though we each use dramatically different techniques. Byron has worked in a lot of different
environments; live stage performance, jazz clubs and similar venues, and the recording studio. But his
favorite is the recording studio where he has the most control over the output.
likes to be able to “tweak” (unfortunately, the term has also come to mean what meth users do when taking
that drug) each element of the performance to get it right. He’s at the mercy of the players,
however, and their ability to take direction and perform according to that direction. That’s something
that doesn’t always work out the way you’d like.
But sometimes, he’s been pleasantly surprised,
especially when a player or players seems to plug in to what Byron wants and it all nicely comes together. However,
those times are more the exception than the rule. More often than not, it takes considerable rehearsal
time to get it right. That’s the “job” part of the job.
In my case, I do
things in a similar fashion. My composing efforts have two distinctly different parts to it.
First, there’s the creative part that puts my ideas on the score, assigns the instruments to play them, and establishes
the general shape and form of the piece. This is what most composers do and it usually ends there.
But because I also create my own virtual performance, I take it a step further and go back to the score,
play it back, then make the necessary edits to get the performance the way I want it. I may not be doing
this with human players, but the net effect is the same. I may modify parameters like articulation, intensity
and expression until I achieve the sound I want. I will introduce ritardandos and accelerandos to change
the tempo here and there to simulate how a conductor may interpret the score.
What Byron does in real time with live players,
I do with virtual players in virtual time. They are essentially the same thing. I find
that interesting, especially because Byron and I come from similar backgrounds musically. He pursued a
conservatory musical education, I pursued private instruction. However, we both went through the same regimen
of learning the basics of tonality and music in general. What influenced us took us in our respective directions.
The demands of his musical career dictated, to a large extent, what he would be writing.
I chose not to pursue
a similar career, even though Byron and Chuck Domanico urged me to move to LA with them and get into film scoring.
Instead, I chose to remain in Illinois and pursue a career in industry while continuing to compose for myself and occasionally
others. Eventually discovering (and being strongly influenced by) serial music, I pursued composing predominantly
in that style, while still writing some tonal pieces.
Those choices and circumstances brought each of us to the point
we’re at in our evolution. We enjoy each other’s work, more so because they’re so different
from one another, but also because they’re so similar in other ways. Byron has a far better command
of the arranging and orchestration aspects of music than I’ll ever have. I have a far better understanding
and command of the serial, twelve tone language than Byron ever will, as well as its unique orchestration challenges.
We’re both good at what we do.
I would not want to do what Byron does because I know I’m not that
good at it, although I could get by. Byron does not want to do what I do because it’s so far from
the mainstream of what he does that attempting it would require considerable catch up, supplementing the twelve tone system
education he got from composer Paul Glass years ago. For each of us, it would take us out of where our
mainstream is at these days and put us in a more demanding element. We each could do it, but rather not.
here are a few more items from Premieres gone bad…
1912 – Vaslav Nijinsky/Claude
Debussy – The Afternoon of a Faun
“We are shown a lecherous faun, whose movements
are filthy and bestial in their eroticism, and whose gestures are as crude as they are indecent…”
(In this case, the choreographer, Nijinsky, took
the biggest hit.)
1912 – Arnold Schoenberg – Pierrot Lunaire
“One must first learn the new alphabet
to approach this new frightful Schoenberg…”
“The conductor Zehme performed, while the players discoursed
the most ear-splitting combinations of tones that ever desecrated the walls of a Berlin music hall…”
– Igor Stravinsky – Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)“Never has the cult of the wrong note been applied with such industry, zeal and ferocity…”
“Does Stravinsky really believe that a melody would become
more intense if it is doubled for fifty bars by a second above it, a second below it, or both?...”
The audience protested so loudly that the Ballet
Russe dancers were unable to hear the music; fist fighting broke out and verbal insults were heard throughout the theatre.
Conductor, Pierre Monteux, continued conducting the orchestra through all of this melee at the urging of impresario
Serge Diaghilev. Diaghilev may have been the first concert promoter to understand that there’s
no such thing as bad publicity, as the controversy increased attendance of the Ballet Russe after that fiasco took place…kind
of like Ozzy biting the head off of that bird.
We continue to see, as we move into 1913, that audiences and critics have
not yet cultivated an appreciation for this new music, and are as intent as ever to let everyone know that. It
seems surreal looking back on it, but it was very real and devastating to these composers to have to endure such assaults.
As we’ll see in things to come, it only gets worse.
Peace and love,
My wife and I experienced something that we usually
hear about happening to others, but not us. My wife’s email was hacked into and used to distribute
links to internet pharmacies selling prescription drugs illegally to several people on her contact list. Once
we discovered what had happened, we made every effort to cancel the email account, as it is a web-based email address.
We weren’t able to do that. Suffice it to say, it’s complicated and very frustrating.
What we did
instead was to, first of all, setup a new email account elsewhere; secondly, send an email to everyone announcing her new
email address and informing them to not open any emails coming from her former email, and apologizing for what happened. Most
everyone was understanding, fortunately. Next, we deleted all listed contacts from both her old and new
email accounts. Without a contact list, hackers can’t distribute illicit materials.
this rude awakening did for me was to point out in a very personal way how vulnerable anyone with an internet-connected Windows
PC really is. It also forced me to rethink my decision to get a Windows 64-bit system for my composing
needs. I’ve decided that, in spite of the significant price difference, I simply can’t put
my primary studio computer in harm’s way.
I will wait until late August and get the
Mac Pro I originally wanted. The Mac is notorious for being resistant
to viruses, hackers and the like. Since my Mac Pro will need to be connected to the internet for registrations,
authorizations and updates, I feel safer knowing that it won’t be hacked. I’ll keep my PC for
the rest of my internet needs.
During a darker period of my life, I knew a guy who was a hacker and had an enormous amount of software
and movies available for sale or trade. He was part of a band of hackers who regularly raided other’s
computers and took programs they wanted. I learned how amazingly simple it is to do. He
asked me if I wanted to join in, but I declined. We are talking about a federal offense and the “man”
routinely patrols cyberspace looking for hackers.
He showed me an article about a group of hackers that had just got
busted by the feds; some were doing time. I said no thanks, I prefer staying out of the slam and didn’t
need the grief. So, knowing this, along with what happened to my wife’s email, convinced me a Mac
Pro is even more of a right choice than ever.
Besides, it’s also based on an Intel® Xeon Quad
Core “Nehalem” processor. In fact, the version I’ve been considering has two of these
processors. That’s an 8-core machine with 16 GB of memory. If I can’t get
it done with that, I should give it up and try knitting or bird watching. So, in the final analysis, I
opted for the superman machine with the best defense against the bad guys out there in cyberspace.
It’s a sad
commentary that this kind of thing goes on, but just bitching about it isn’t good enough. You’ve
got to armor up against it. Make sure your security settings are right for what you’re doing; make
sure you have an effective firewall to keep the nasties out; routinely run maintenance programs that scan for viruses, malware,
spyware and all those vicious bits of code that’ll mess you up.
Prevention is important
here. You can help yourself by doing the right things, but know that in spite of that, some of this crap
can still get through. That’s why the majority of the updates you get from Microsoft are security
fixes. Windows is an incredibly vulnerable operating system. I hoped after umpteen iterations,
they’d finally get it right, but it looks like they’ve got more work to do.
Another advantage of the Mac Pro, for me, is
that it’ll run my notation software (Sibelius) and the sample libraries (East-West) much more reliably than Windows
can. That makes for a much more productive, hassle-free environment to work in. With
the tremendous number of virtual instruments available in these libraries, I hope to be able to score pieces for larger, more
varied orchestras and not have to always fight the incompatibilities and conflicts I deal with today.
Byron Olson has his website up and partially running. The web address is www.byronolsonmusic.com and is definitely worth a visit. He’ll have it fully functional before too long, so check in
on it every now and then. I’m waiting for his music samples to be available for listening.
That’ll be very cool.
Spent a good part of today working on Wasteland, which is the title of another T.S. Eliot poem I’m
setting to music. It’ll be similar to Prufrock but will have more woodwinds and no strings.
It will have the same mallet and keyboard instruments except for the xylophone. I’ll narrate
again, even though I’d rather get someone else to do that. Maybe I’ll gently coerce someone
into doing it. What can I use as a bribe?
Next posting, I’ll include more from the Premieres gone
bad collection of stories. Take care of yourselves.
Peace and love,
I thought I’d start out with our
first look at Premieres that went bad. These are excerpts from a book by Richard Burbank titled
Twentieth Century Music, published by Thames and Huber © 1984. This is the same book I used
to quote Nicolas Slonimsky in some earlier postings. The book is laid out as a chronology of events
in twentieth century music, starting in 1900.
In summarizing the notes on the various premieres
and first performances with questionable reviews, I intentionally left a lot of detail out and focused on what was said.
At this point in time, who said it isn’t as important as what was said. My intent is to show
that, even for works by composers, who would become prominent and very influential to generations that followed, initial reception
was often less than kind and clearly biased by prevailing concepts of what music should be. Today, we would
say these critics couldn’t think “out of the box”.
Here are just a few examples…
(Paris) 1908 (America) - Claude Debussy - Pelleas et Melisande
“The effect is quite bewildering, almost
amusing in its absurdity…”
“The work is worthy of inclusion as a curiosity in all music libraries…”
“The music is vague, floating, without color and without shape, without movement or life…”
“When it pretends to caress, it scratches and hurts…”
“Debussy eliminates the melodic element,
and this marks a step backward…”
1905 (Paris) 1907 (America) – Claude Debussy
– La Mer
“The composer, by a preconceived notion,
avoids all that might resemble a melody…”
“One encounters here and there some phrases lost in orchestral
“It was not so long, but it was terrible while it lasted…”
“The dreariest kind of rubbish…”
“That painted mud-puddle…”
“Debussy’s ocean was a frog pond…”
1907 – Anton Von Webern
(This is the first time his music is reviewed by a critic)
“The principle theme, while not badly invented, lost
itself very soon in wild confusion…”
1908 – Arnold Schoenberg – String
Quartet No. 2 in F# Minor
“If I nevertheless abandoned my customary reserve, I only proved by it that
I suffered physical pain, and as one cruelly abused, despite all good intentions to ensure even the worst, I still had to
It’s safe to say these composers took a verbal bashing when their works were performed for the
first time. And at that time in history, people took these reviews to heart and opinions were often swayed
by what the critics had to say, more so than now. But what this also says is that the prevailing concepts
of what “good” music was in those days, was the yardstick used to gage the new music. The techniques
and approaches used in these new works were considered aberrations rather than being seen as part of music’s evolution.
as I said, I came away from my research with a better understanding of how and why “new” music is often received
in such a negative light. It’s not just about the Avant Garde, atonal music, typical of what I write
these days, it’s about a general resistance to anything different from what people are accustomed to hearing.
And it’s been going on for a very long time.
But, if history teaches us anything, it’s
that there’s reason to believe what is viewed negatively today will eventually become accepted later. Works
like La Mer are considered classic examples of French Impressionism that influenced the direction music took afterwards.
I know hindsight is always 20/20, and it’s part of human nature to reject what isn’t comfortable and familiar.
I fully expect new works to come will meet the same reaction.
But I hope, in presenting
these glances at past premieres, along with my ongoing advocacy of listening to new music, that I can plant a seed in your
heads to be more objective when encountering music out of your comfort zone. It’s OK if you don’t
like it and rather not listen to any more of it. I only want you to reach that conclusion after giving
it an honest, objective hearing.
I listened to an entire album of Elvis Presley music, and even
played some of his songs on gigs (with Rusty Urso singing), before I concluded that it sucked, and I thought I was
being generous. So, I’ve done (and do) the same thing. But I walk my talk.
I give it an honest listening. There’s been close to a 50/50 distribution of eventual acceptance
and continued rejection. That’s what I would expect, statistically speaking. If
you don’t like what you hear, don’t say it’s “bad”, say you don’t like it.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and in light of Byron’s favorable comments about it, I’m considering
setting another of T.S. Eliot’s poems to music. I think Gerontion might be a good choice.
I considered Wasteland but that’s a lengthy poem and I’m not sure if I want to write something
that ambitious right now. Gerontion isn’t as long but still has that modernist feel to it,
with the imagery Eliot is famous for. Maybe later I’ll tackle Wasteland.
like, from a financial standpoint, I’ll be getting a Genesis PC from Puget systems. With its Intel®
Core i7 processor and Nehalem Microarchitecture, it’s the right CPU for the job. Configured with
a couple of fast hard drives and 12 GB of Ram, it should handle samples with no problem. My only concern
is that it will run on 64-bit Windows 7 Professional. Windows has had a dubious history when it comes to
reliability and functionality.
But the Genesis is about half the cost of a Mac Pro and would be a replacement rather than an addition.
There’s only so much room available to me in my small studio, so that’s a big concern. It
would’ve been an awkward situation sharing a keyboard and monitor through manual switching between the Mac and PC.
Having a single computer is an advantage, and having a PC means I don’t have to purchase Mac versions of editing
and multi-track recording software.
I’ll have internet access but only for software registration and activation purposes.
I think I’ll relegate tasks like email and online banking to my laptop. It depends on how
effective a firewall I can have to keep the bad guys out of my system. I wouldn’t have to worry about
that with a Mac. I guess there’s always tradeoffs. You’d think I’d
be used to that by now, but I’m continually pushing for ideal. But, hey, that’s me.
Happy Father’s Day to all
the dads out there. It’s nice to have a day set aside to celebrate fathers and all that they do.
I know there are some dads out there who don’t deserve to be dads, just as there are husbands out there who don’t
deserve to be husbands. The typical view of husbands and fathers in the media, especially the glut of TV
ads and commercials, show them as irresponsible, uncaring and selfish, usually with the intelligence of a stone.
deserve this. Most do not. Most of us give of ourselves, love unconditionally, make
sacrifices so that our families are taken care of and, believe it or not, actually have a brain in our heads.
Most of us do all of this in the background, without fanfare or acknowledgement, and we do it willingly.
Some of us don’t really care if we’re portrayed as uncaring idiots because we know better and so do our
families. Others take exception to it.
The truth is that there are both men and
women who are guilty of being questionable spouses and parents, and exhibit the kind of behavior that’s portrayed in
those TV ads. We are all unique and defy categorization. We all make choices in life
and have to take responsibility for those choices. If you choose to behave like an idiot, you’d better
be prepared for the consequences. If you choose to behave responsibly, do it for the right reasons.
If you’re expecting a lot of positive feedback and accolades for your efforts, you’ll be disappointed more
often than not. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.
completed the Moments in Time piece I’ve been working on. I’ve posted it on my Music
page for listening and download, if you’re interested. Admittedly, the piece wasn’t so much
inspired by an event or a person, as it was an opportunity to apply the time-point technique. In doing
so, I gained a better understanding of how it works and how it fits within a composition. Wuorinen
was right when he said it’s to be used with due consideration. It clearly can’t be the prevailing
technique throughout the work as it would quickly become monotonous. You’ve got to sense when it’s
to be effectively used. It’s an artistic choice the composer needs to make.
But like most techniques,
it’s one more tool that can be used to help shape a work. And, like most techniques, you’ve
got to know when to use it and when not to. This isn’t much different with classical, tonal music.
There too, many techniques are available to a composer and he or she must choose what works for the piece they’re
I’ve been doing some research into the premieres and first performances of what we now consider seminal works
by the likes of Debussy, Stravinsky, Varese, Schoenberg and others. In many cases, the reaction of the
audience, and the critics, was very negative, at times scathing. It occurred to me to compile some of these
and share them with you in this blog. I will begin doing that in an upcoming posting.
It gives you insight with
respect to how modern music was received at the time it was introduced. What I took away from
all this is that not much has changed over the years. There’s always someone giving you crap about
what you’re writing. Actually, some of the insults are nicely crafted, even though they’re
short-sighted and incredibly biased. I think you’ll find it interesting. I did,
especially when some of the music they’re bashing was so influential to me as I was coming up.
I haven’t as yet
decided what my next composition project is going to be. I’m leaving some room for a couple of projects
I’ll be working with my friend Byron Olson on. One will be to add another three tracks to the original
five done for Adam Unsworth. Byron will arrange and orchestrate these, and compose one of them, and I’ll
do the copy work, providing score and parts for the recording session.
The second will be a project involving a bassoon
soloist and a chamber ensemble, that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. I will again be providing copyist
services as well as mixing a virtual realization on CD from the score for auditioning purposes. Knowing
that’s what I do for all of my compositions, and liking the results, Byron asked me to do that for this project as well.
also kind enough to give me some feedback on my Prufrock piece and podcast, where I talked a bit about T.S. Eliot
and the poem itself. Presenting the work in that context provided some good background information that,
hopefully, made the narration of the poem more enjoyable. It always helps to put a piece like this in perspective,
otherwise the words don’t carry the same impact.
But the two projects for Byron won’t happen until very late
summer or early fall, so I have time for another project of my own. What remains is to decide what that
will be. I will be on a short vacation in early August and will not do any work during that time, nor will
I post any new blog entries. Even I can take some time off I guess, strange as that sounds to me.
I haven’t done that since I retired from my day gig three years ago. I’ve never been
out of the studio for more than a day or two.
Our plans are to see family in northern Wisconsin. Mostly
it will be time spent visiting and catching up, but we will probably work in a visit to Bayfield and a boat ride out to Madeline
Island, which we love. Lake Superior is an awesome body of water that I never get tired of gazing at.
Maybe there’ll be some inspiration there for another piece.
Peace and love,
My piece, Moments in Time, is progressing
nicely. I’ve posted a sample, which I’ll update from time to time. It’s
located just above this blog. I’m making extensive use of the time-point system in the strings,
with the bassoon playing a motif that floats above them. With the particular series I’ve chosen,
the randomness of the attack points and sustains (which comprises the time-point) makes for an
interesting sonority when I structure it in canon form. Babbitt was on to something with this technique.
Another approach is to layer the time-point passages, first with the prime series, over the retrograde,
then over the inversion and finally over the retrograde inversion. This creates a four-layer contrapuntal
section using the four main variations of the series, which I’ll assign to the 2nd violin, viola, cello and
bass. I’ll have the 1st violin and the bassoon share a motif to float over the counterpoint,
maybe doing some counterpoint themselves. That’s going to make for a very busy piece.
resisting the urge to make this a piece that features the bassoon with the strings as accompaniment. It’s
not that kind of piece. I’m not trying to showcase the bassoon with any sort of dazzling cadenzas
and virtuosic displays. It’s another voice among the voices. Maybe I’ll
add a section of Vuvuzela horns. That ought to get everyone’s attention. But my
music evokes a negative enough response as it is. Adding those annoying horns would only make things worse…..I’m
Lately, I’ve been in a slump, as far as my writing is concerned. Having written
so much music in the last few years, I find myself really searching for new and different sounds, and some fresh, new ideas.
It feels like I’ve reached a saturation point. When I read about other composers, their output
wasn’t nearly as prolific as mine seems to be. Very often, it takes them a couple of years to finish
a piece; it sometimes takes me just a few weeks.
Granted, my pieces are usually shorter in duration and almost always
for smaller ensembles. I can get more done based on this. If I were to tackle a full
orchestral piece, I too would be taking a lot longer to write it. The scope of the project always dictates
how much time and effort goes into it. Webern, who was the master of miniaturization, wrote very short
pieces. One movement was only 38 seconds long! And he became the most influential of
the second Viennese school, eclipsing his mentor, Schoenberg. Go figure!
So, the prevailing thought here is that less
is more. I think that should apply to most things these days. Back when, compositions
were much longer because going to the concert hall was the thing to do. No TV, no Smartphones, no internet.
You got dressed up, went to the concert hall, listened to some unbelievably lengthy symphony, and tried to be seen
by as many other people as you could.
Come to think of it, concert goers today are doing the same thing! Talk about being
in a major rut! No wonder audiences went crazy when some new, dissonant piece was played. It
was like taking an axe to a Rembrandt. They couldn’t handle the change. I think
any composer of “new” music is condemned to ridicule and nasty reviews. I’m kind of glad
that my stuff doesn’t get performed by live players for a live audience. I like presenting my work
as I’ve been doing, on this website and free of charge.
But, I digress. My point is that the less-is-more
approach has as much to do with today’s audience and their short attention span, as anything else. Yesterday’s
audiences had just a few activities to compete for their attention. Today, there’s a glut of things
to see and do, and just as many venues presenting it. Definitely an overload.
a lot of things, especially music. It’s easy to see why music is much shorter in duration.
If you tax an audience for too long, you’ll lose them. Then you’ll get coughing, nose-picking,
out gassing and a veritable cacophony of bodily sounds to go along with the music. I think we should leave
that to John Cage. He did it in 4 minutes 33 seconds better than anyone I know.
Today is the time of a
TV screen showing a program while news and weather reports crawl along the bottom and previews of upcoming shows spin away
in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. What the hell do you watch first? Can everyone multi-task
that well, to take in all of that and retain anything? Maybe I’m getting older, but I’m not
that demented. It’s definitely information overload.
So the traditional concert goers are not only
looking to be seen by society as uppity, they’re trying to slow things down to their own speed. I’m
betting they’re not really good multi-taskers either. They like their music long and slow.
Today’s audience likes it short and quick. That leaves them time to tweet and check their
Facebook page, and text their friends, of course.
I’m an annoying texter. I don’t use
the usual shortcuts; I write out each word and get the punctuation as close to right as I can. Of course
this takes forever, which usually annoys the person I’m texting. I kind of like that. It’s
a sort of anti-establishment thing. I don’t think the younger generation realizes they’ve become
the “man”. What a long, strange trip it’s been.
It’s obvious that stream-of-consciousness
has its hazards. It got me to this point in my blog without knowing how the hell I got here.
I do remember starting out talking about my Moments in Time and what techniques I was using to structure it.
I’m not sure if I’m having a senior moment or a sixties flashback. Maybe it’s
The point I think I was making is that the fast pace of today’s society and culture has spawned the kind
of music we have. It goes by too fast for the typical concert hall experience, but just right for the internet,
computer-based mediums that comprise today’s mode of presentation.
I’m afraid I’m
more a product of this fast-paced environment than the concert hall, even though the concert hall was the venue I grew up
with. I like being edgy. It keeps you in the moment. I haven’t
fallen back on familiar ways as yet, since retiring, so I don’t really see myself doing it now or in the future.
Someone once said “if you’re not on the edge, you’re taking up too much room”.
I tried to find the value in this statement, relative to what I was talking about, but it just sounds stupid so ignore
So, I need to deal with this slump I’m in. I need to reinvent myself and re-establish the
direction I want to take. I need to rediscover my Karma, and all that other new-age, eclectic psycho-Babel.
I need to snap out of it! I’ll do exactly that right after I finish Moments in Time
and maybe a pepperoni pizza.
Peace and Love,
wife and I are going to Ravinia on father’s day to see Jethro Tull. My wife has waited a lifetime
for this event, so it’s a thrill to share it with her. Ravinia is a great venue. It
was there that I saw both Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky conduct their own works, which was a thrill and a half for this
composer, believe me.
I’ve begun work on the new piece for bassoon
and string ensemble (see the sample above). The first part establishes a time-point passage in
canon form, based on P0 thru P11, in the strings, which transitions to another time-point passage based
on R0 thru R11 at letter A. It’s at this point I introduce
a passage in the bassoon, derived from a completely different series. I think the layering of the time-point
passages in canon form with the bassoon melodic line makes for an interesting sound, but that’s just me.
most of you haven’t got a clue what the hell I’m talking about but, that’s OK. I still
like all of you except for that weird guy who thinks this is a new age gardening journal. To that person,
I’d like to say….after harvesting, hang the plants upside down for a few days. It always worked
I decided to call this piece Moments in Time because that’s essentially the way it was put together,
at least so far. I could have called it Time Point Rhapsody but that would’ve been over
the top. I don’t mind going over the top now and then. It keeps you in touch with
your inner insanity, which is necessary to balance your Karma. But that title was even too weird for me.
So it’s Moments in Time. It has an esoteric sound, doesn’t it?
Like it’s all about some higher spiritual connection. Nope! It’s
just some crap I threw together. Reality is such a trip!
Besides my friend Danny Long appearing
at the Chambers Supper Club in Niles, Illinois, he’ll be putting on a live concert and dinner show on July 18th
in Bloomingdale, Illinois. I’ll be going to that as well. It will also feature
bassist Nick Schneider, who is one of the top players in this area. Nick and drummer, Rusty Jones,
are usually with Danny at the Chambers. The dinner concert is $30 per person by reservation only; call
(630) 529-6232. It starts at 6 pm. That’s a good deal!
My plans to get
a Mac Pro may have to be postponed or even set aside altogether. You know, there’s only so much bread
to go around and other things tend to pop up, demanding my disposal income, making it my disposed income. However,
I’m looking at a Genesis PC from Puget Systems as a possible (less expensive) alternative. It uses
the Nehalem Microarchitecture from Intel (the Intel Core i7 processor) which is supported by East-West and their
It will run Windows 7 Professional 64-bit with 12GB of memory.
Yes, it’s a Windows system (gulp!) but sometimes you have to make compromises. I see this
as a test of my character, or maybe proof that I’m a character. What it does show is that I’m
an example of my own rhetoric, that being doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Maybe
sometime next year I’ll get an eight-core Mac Pro for my studio.
If you have a chance, go to the What’s
New page on my website and check out the four pieces from Icelandic composer Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir.
It’s some interesting stuff. Thanks to her for allowing me to post it on my website, and thanks
to our mutual friend, Swany Getchell for obtaining the audio files for me. It’s always a
treat for me to present the work of a fellow composer, especially a woman composer.
I’ve actually reached a point where I’m
at a standstill with my studies. I experienced an overload condition a couple of months ago (scholastically,
that is), so I started reading some biographical, historical writings about music and composers. That’s
more narrative and much less technical, allowing my brain to reset before I torture it some more. One of
the things I read about was audience reaction to some early works by the likes of Debussy.
The audiences and critics both really beat
the hell out of him! Compositions like La Mer, which is as easy to listen to as any piece of music
I know, took a bashing for being too radical and too much of a departure from what they considered normal (whatever
the hell that is). It was kind of good to read about that because it put things in perspective for me.
I don’t feel too bad for having my music thought of in such positive ways (that was sarcasm,
if you couldn’t tell). It’s been suggested that an exorcism be done on my studio to cast
out that demonic music. Guess what, it’s not in the studio, it’s in me. I
have a birthmark that looks oddly like “666”. That answers a lot
On a completely different note, I am now one of maybe three or four people on the planet that doesn’t have
a cell phone. I trashed mine. You see, the phone numbers cell companies give out as
new are actually recycled numbers. That means they belonged to someone else before you got them.
I’ll give you a moment to ponder all the bad ways this scenario can go. So, turns out the
number I got belonged to some dude who sold “things” that sound like they’re not exactly legit.
When I called
my cell company and told them about the problem, they said the wrong number calls usually stop in a couple of weeks.
But this isn’t a situation where Aunt Millie is still trying to call little Billy and can’t figure out
why he sounds so different. This guy’s number is on a boatload of people’s contact list, for
reasons that are more the subject of law and order episodes.
So I decided not to deal with it and got rid of my cell phone.
I declined my cell company’s offer of giving me yet another recycled number presuming that, with my luck, it
probably belonged to some sex offender. You have to know when to keep driving and when to park.
At my wife’s insistence, I did get a prepaid phone to carry with me when I’m out and about, but that’s
for emergency use only, like if I crash my car or have a compelling urge for a pepperoni pizza.
As I mentioned,
I’m at a point in my studies where I’m going in circles. The overwhelming majority of the text
books on serial music try to identify the different techniques and systems from samples of composer’s works and then
try to explain them. It makes me wonder how much of these techniques and systems the composer actually
used in writing their music or were they even aware that what they were writing actually came out of a technique
I think that, in a lot of cases, they were just composing, following whatever guidance their training
and experience gave them. They weren’t aware that they developed a technique, with the exception
of Schoenberg. He did develop the twelve tone method that serialism grew out of, but
everyone else was doing their own thing. So what I’m saying is that the exposition of all the techniques
and systems in these text books have been gleaned from examples from composer’s scores.
Call me crazy
but I’d like to see a text book that explains the technique, with the examples showing how the technique
was used. If you’re trying to find the technique hidden in the example, without really knowing if
the composer knowingly used the technique, you’re speculating. I think some of the text books on
serial music do exactly that. I regard those as essentially useless as a teaching tool, although they’re
interesting as reference material.
This is the reason I’m now going in circles. The truly useful books I’ve
already read. The speculation books I don’t really want to read. There’s
not too much left. I think I’ll revisit some of the useful books and reinforce the lessons I’ve
learned. That should burn them into what’s left of my brain even deeper so they become easily recalled.
point of these studies was to acquaint myself with serial music and all its techniques and systems that have been developed
over the years, from Schoenberg to Babbitt. Ultimately I wanted to apply some of these to my own work.
I don’t think that’s too complicated. But so much of the literature is overly verbose
and short on substance, not unlike a balloon full of hot air and not worth much when you let the air out….hmmmm.
Now that I’ve completed The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock, I’m moving on to another piece for solo bassoon and string ensemble. I’ve
chosen this instrumentation because I feel it better lends itself (especially the strings) to passages subjected to the time-point
system, which I wanted to further explore. Now that I have a better understanding of this system, I want
to use it both in canonic form and as a contrapuntal element.
By creating a time-point passage based on the P0
thru P11 sets of the prime, and repeating this for I, R and RI sets from that prime, I will have material for a
considerable contrapuntal segment that can serve as the foundation on which to overlay various motifs for the solo bassoon.
It will be an opportunity to create some juxtapositioning that will, hopefully, add one shape to the other shapes that
will comprise the piece’s overall form.
I intend to do a great deal of preplanning and precomposing with
this piece. Besides the series themselves and the 48-set matrix and the time-point passages, I
want to map out the overall shape, including all the sub-shapes that will be constituents of the larger shape.
The shape will also influence the patterns of tension and release throughout the piece. This will be further influenced
by varying the timbral qualities of the instruments themselves by exploring various articulations, expressions and techniques.
Paying attention to changing dynamics will also contribute to the overall shape.
In the past,
I would limit my precompositional actions to simply developing the series and all its iterations. But I
now realize it’s OK to go beyond that to other elements, like the time-point passages. I
know that just as much creative energy goes into the precompositional process as does the composing process. They’re
really all part of the same thing and relate to the finished piece as intuitively as any other inspired composing I would
It’s not necessary to always follow the same compositional processes, the same way, every time you work on
a project. In fact, when you explore other options is when you tend to make discoveries of new techniques
and approaches to writing music. If what truly matters is how a piece sounds, what emotional response it
evokes, then it shouldn’t make any difference how you get there, or what strategies and techniques you use to do it.
is a great deal of personal opinion as to how to approach composing, with numerous methods cited as the best and only ones
to consider. Well, that’s only partly correct. Yes, there are a lot of methods
and approaches but, no, there isn’t one that’s the best. It depends on what the composer chooses
as the approach that best suits him or her, and the project they’re working on. It’s a personal
choice because composing music is a personal experience.
When you write, you are alone. It
is you and the music you’re writing with nothing or no one else directly involved. You make choices
based upon your artistic persuasion and the inspiration that guides you. If that means precomposing some
elements and later integrating them into the final piece, then that’s what you should do, as long as it leads you to
where you want to go. When your objective is to create a piece that achieves the overall sound you’re
looking for and/or the emotional response you want to be experienced, then the means justifies the end.
So, with that in mind,
I’m proceeding with this piece, developing and integrating precomposed elements as I get to where I’m going, making
no apologies for or needing to justify what I’m doing. I ignore the pretentious axioms of past practices
because, more often than not, they were born of personal biases and preferences. What
worked for one composer doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work for another. One size does not
fit all, one way is not the only way.
Another element I’ll consider is the serializing of duration. I’ve used
this technique many times before. It’s a carry-over from the days of Integral Serialism, back in
the 50s with Messiaen, Boulez and the whole Darmstadt crew. Duration serialization is similar to the time-point
system, in terms of how it sounds. The major difference is duration serialization is based on note values,
usually in increments of the base value, and the Time-point system is based on the note’s attack and where
that occurs in the measure that’s divided into 12 equal parts.
This piece was also conceived out of the need to
express my feelings about some things I’ve been experiencing that are actually very positive. It
has to do with coming full circle and finding the way back home after a tumultuous journey. Sometimes there
are moments like that in your life that are very powerful and need to be expressed. For me, that has always
been through music.
On a completely different note, my good friend Danny Long will be playing and singing his unique brand
of jazz at the Chambers supper club in Niles, Illinois on July 16th and 17th. The
sets go from 8 pm to Midnight. If any of you are in the area on those nights, I invite you to stop by.
You’ll be in for a real treat. Some of you may remember the podcasts I did that featured Danny
and his group, Just Us. If you do, you know what a delight is in store for you. I,
of course, will be there both nights! Wouldn’t miss it for the world!
My roots in music go back
to my days as a jazz musician in the late 1950s, early 1960s. I met Danny back then and he’s been
a good friend ever since. It’s so great that 50 years later, we’re both still in the mix, and
making our own brand of music; his being jazz, mine being Avant Garde. Our friend, Bob Mitchell, always
said “Prov has always been out there”. He’s right about that and I wouldn’t
have it any other way.
Peace and love,
Work continues on Prufrock.
The sample posted on the What’s New page includes the first 25 verses of the poem. I
hope to complete the piece this week, then mix and master it. I will first publish it on the What’s
New page, then after a week or so, move it to my Music page. I’ll post the score as
I’m not sure if this will be the last project until late August,
when I get my Mac Pro, or if I’ll start a small project between now and then. I like to write everyday
and would like to do a short piece that would take me through the first half of August. I’ve been
giving some thought to a piece for a solo instrument with a small chamber group in a free-form atonal style. I’ll
probably work on that after Prufrock.
I spoke with my friend Byron yesterday and he’s asked me
to transcribe his score for solo bassoon and chamber ensemble that he’ll be doing soon for a good friend of his that’s
also a terrific bassoonist. He not only wants a score printout, but a CD of the virtual realization to
play for her, to give her an idea of how the whole thing sounds.
This will probably happen after my Mac Pro arrives and will be
a good project to “break it in”. Byron and I have a symbiotic relationship when it
comes to his music projects. I have the computer and notation software expertise and he provides the score
he writes at the piano with his usual signature sound that everyone loves.
By transcribing his hand-written scores and creating
a virtual realization for him, he can work directly with his clients, providing a recording close enough to actual to give
them a very good idea of how it will ultimately sound. This also happens early enough in the process for
changes to still be made and a revised recording produced for approval.
Working with a computer-based composing tool,
like Sibelius, and the wonderful samples from East-West, the virtual realization will have all the qualities
of a live performance without the costs and hassles of rehearsals. Project budgets are virtually non-existent
these days. In fact projects themselves are becoming scarcer and scarcer. So anything
that can be done to reduce the total processing time and be able to produce a demo for audition and approval is a good thing.
The race goes to the swift.
For me, this is something I’ll do for Byron gratis because he’s funding the project out
of his own pocket. Besides, It gives me additional experience with Sibelius that I may not get
from my own work. Based on what I typically compose, I use certain features more than others.
Doing work for Byron, I get to use features I don’t normally use, because his style and the project requirements
call for different things. This will help round out my Sibelius skills and be helpful for some
of my own upcoming work. With Sibelius, like everything else, I know enough to know I don’t
know enough. There’s always more to learn; always improvements I can make.
In its latest iteration
(6.2), it’s the best it’s ever been, and I’ve been using it since version 1.2. There
are so many helpful features that simplify score creation, it eliminates most reasons for doing it manually. There
are far less probabilities for errors using Sibelius than the pen-to-paper approach, and I know this from experience
with both methods. So anyone out there still writing scores by hand, give Sibelius a try.
You won’t regret it.
I’ve been spending some time listening to some of the Italian serialists like Bruno Maderna,
Luigi Dallipiccola and Luigi Nono. Their work has a unique sound among the serialists of
that time. With so much music to listen to, I felt it would be better to focus on one thing for awhile,
to get a better sense of what they were saying. This is the next step in my studies. You
can read about music until your eyes cross, but it is no substitute for listening.
Byron told me when he listens, he devotes exclusive
time to it, avoiding all other distractions. He feels, and rightly so, that to really experience the music,
you have to give it your full attention. I’ve been doing that with this listening education I’m
doing. If the essence of the music is in how it sounds, not how it’s made, then I should learn more
about it when listening to it. I need to trust my composer instincts to be able to connect to the music
at that level.
I’ve also revisited the works of the American experimentalists from the 1950s, like John Cage,
Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown. Taking a fresh look at their work is also part of my education
process. There are qualities there that are worth better understanding to consider blending into my own
atonal work. They did more than liberate dissonance. They liberated music from its usual
form and redefined it. It was a very exciting time in music’s development.
It’s been some time
since I’ve composed an electronic piece, or even a mixed media piece. The last one was Echoes
from a Parallel Universe, which was for a mix of sound sources. I haven’t been compelled to
create another one for some reason and I wondered why. I’d been using HighC, a program for
the PC that has a graphical interface allowing you to paint the sounds on a grid. The grid is
a timeline in its horizontal mode, and a pitch canvas in its vertical.
One of the problems, at least for me, is that
I can’t control enough of its parameters to get it to do what I want. It has a dynamics control ranging
from ppp to fff but it doesn’t allow me to edit that for each segment. That’s
very frustrating and removes a creative element I felt was necessary. So I find myself turned off and not
using the program, and as a result, not creating any new electronic pieces.
One of the things I will do is look into what’s
available for the Mac, it being a more music-oriented platform, and one I’ll have soon. It would
be nice to find something a bit more intuitive to use that would give me the wherewithal to again create electronic music.
Having something like Sibelius for conventionally notated music, I’ve become accustomed to its set of
capabilities. I’d like something like that for electronic music. It needs to offer
control over most of the parameters that help create the result.
One of the realities that must be dealt with is the huge investment
of time to learn how to use this software. Most that I’ve seen, when browsing the web, use a programming
language (i.e., C++) and gaining a working knowledge of that will require a lot of studying, almost at the exclusion of all
other studying. I’m not sure if I’m prepared to do that. I need to decide
how deep I want to go into this. What will be my ROI (in this case, time investment versus creative satisfaction)?
Will the results justify the means?
This adds another requirement to my search. The program needs
to be intuitive enough so that it allows me to create without having to know a whole new language. The
software needs to do its thing in the background so I can work within its interface, like I do with Sibelius.
The fact is, I’m spoiled using that wonderful music program and expect other programs to be just as powerful
and easy to use. Am I asking for too much? I guess I’ll find out.
Today, June 6th, is the anniversary
of D-Day, the invasion of Nazi occupied Europe, when the allies landed at Normandy in France. We should
all take a moment to remember those who fought that day and all the days that followed. Many never came
home. My wife’s uncle Hank, who is in his 90s, was there that day 66 years ago. He
fought in that and all the campaigns that followed up to the end of the war in 1945. This was a struggle
where our lives and liberties were at stake in a very direct way. It was a day that ended many lives and
saved the rest of us.
The second world war was not only a pivotal time in history, it was a significant time in music.
During the reign of the Nazis throughout Europe, much of modern music was banned, including the music of Schoenberg,
who fled Austria in 1933 to come to the United States. As a jew, he would have been destined to lose his
life in the Holocaust, as millions of others did. Only Wagner was revered by the Nazis, more because of
his anti-Semitic political views than his music.
The end of the war in 1945 not only left Europe in shambles,
it left the music scene in disarray. It was fertile ground for the post-war composers, like Messiaen, Boulez
and Stockhausen, to develop a new music that would be free of the influences of the past. They took the
twelve tone system developed by Schoenberg to new levels, serializing many other parameters besides pitch.
teachings at Darmstadt, a whole new generation of composers discovered serialism. The 1950s were a particularly
fertile time for this new music, with some of the most important serial works written during this period.
became expatriates and found their way to America, where they could write their music without fear of oppression.
A lot of very important music came out of that time, much of which is still played today, more so than the serialists
of the Darmstadt era. The extreme reaction to the music of the past eventually found its way back to a
more relaxed time as the effects of the Nazi oppression wore off.
The extreme reaction to the past, that was at the heart of the
serialist movement, was no longer justified. People rediscovered the music that had been banned during
the Nazi era and began enjoying it again. Without the restrictions of that time, more of it found its way
to America. It was OK to listen again, for some, too young to remember, it was the first time.
So serialism, to some
extent, did contain the seeds of its own destruction. But it didn’t completely go away.
A few composers continued to write in this method, not only in Europe, but in the United States and elsewhere.
Serialism continues to be a musical force that influences many of today’s composers, including this one.
interesting to see that music today is more of a blend of old and new than ever before in history. Although
much of it still is tonal, it doesn’t strictly follow its rules. Conversely, much of it is atonal,
yet doesn’t strictly follow those rules. It would seem that music has become freer than ever, casting
aside most of the rules that govern each respective method. This is a very good thing. We’re
now much more concerned with how music sounds, rather than how it’s made. It allows the myriad of
styles to coexist, each with its own audience, even occasionally cross breeding.
I think that, as early serialism was a
reaction to the time it came out of, today’s music is a reflection of our society and the global nature of things.
We still relish our national heritage, but celebrate how international we’ve become. This
is perhaps truer for music than any other human endeavor. Music remains the common language understood
by everyone on the planet, as does all the other arts.
It’s why I’m so saddened that music
and art programs are among the first to suffer when schools lose funding. As a society, we don’t
place the kind of value on these programs that we should. We don’t realize how important they are
to our children’s development; how they help make them better members of the world community they live in.
It’s not just about teaching them skills they’ll need to earn a living later in life. We’ve
got to feed their souls as well. Never ever bitch about the music your kids listen to. It
would be much worse if they didn’t listen at all.
I’ve posted an updated sample of Prufrock on the
What’s New page, this one is expanded to include the first six verses of the poem. I’ve
also mixed it a bit differently, though those changes are subtle. The project, so far, has been interesting
and a departure from how I usually work, which is a good thing. You should never allow yourself to get
Also on the What’s New page, I’ve posted a short piece by an Icelandic vocal ensemble called
Vox Fox. These are friends of Swany Getchell, who first played the clip for me. I
immediately asked her if she would send me the audio file so I could share it with all of you. I think
you’ll like their sound and the unique way they approach the music. It’s clearly a mix of native
Icelandic influence with popular music. Check it out.
We recently visited my daughter and her family
in their new house. It was the first time we’d seen their new place since they moved in.
Very spacious and in a very nice community. It was good to hear that the school my grandsons will
be attending still have a music program. It’s one of the benefits of a more affluent community where
funding is adequate. It’s a new beginning for them; new home, new school, new job for my daughter.
A chance to start fresh.
I’ve begun winding down as far as composing projects on my current computer are concerned.
Prufrock will be the last project I do on it. Sometime in late August, I’m planning
to get my Mac Pro. This will become my composing machine, with 16GB of ram and an eight-core processor.
I will keep my old Windows computer to do all the post production work like editing, mixing and recording.
It’s adequate for that. I’ll also keep all the everyday things on it like online banking,
email, photos and the like.
My challenge will be to incorporate it into my studio environment. There are some
resources, like my monitor, that will be shared. This has more to do with available space than anything
else. The Mac Pro will also be Wi-Fi ready, so I can tap into my home network. This
is primarily for registering software and accessing updates. I see this Mac Pro as viable for a few years
to come, so I don’t have to be concerned with upgrades for quite awhile. It has the horsepower to
run what I need for some time to come.
With that addition, my studio will have its first significant upgrade
in a few years. The last one was when I went from analog synths (hardware) to VST instruments (software).
This upgrade is actually something I’m looking forward to. That’s definitely something
I’m unaccustomed to feeling.
Overall, my experience with Windows computers in a digital audio
environment has been disappointing at best, disastrous at worst. It’s cost me more time and money
than I had to spend at times and, at best, I maintained status quo, not improved things. I am so ready
for an actual improvement! It’s way overdue!
Peace and love,
I’ve posted a third podcast featuring Passages
for Brass Ensemble, which is dedicated to the memory of Frank Lisanti. You can find a link
on my podcast page on this website, or you can go directly to my podcast website at http://serialsatan.podbean.com. Either way will get you there. You know I always appreciate
your support. Thanks for listening.
Work on The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is continuing.
I recorded all the narration and divided that into 41 separate sections, corresponding to the verses of the poem (with
some liberties taken, mostly splitting some verses). I timed each verse and created corresponding rehearsal
marks in the score at the corresponding points in time. Now the score, with timecode displayed, correlates
to the verses of the poem, section by section, even though many of these sections are contiguous.
I wanted to know where
each narrated section would begin and end on the score. Then I could create something unique for each poem
verse or combination of verses, as inspired by the imagery of each. This is a new approach for me and one
that I’m finding very interesting to work with. It meant I had to do more preparation work than normal,
but it gives me better visibility of the work in its entirety, both words and music.
As for the narration, I recorded all of it in
my normal voice, then did some experimenting with altering each section with a vocoder plug-in in Sonar 7. This
gave it a deeper tone, deeper than my voice normally is. This sounded OK for the first verse, spoken in
Italian (from Dante’s Inferno) but didn’t work for the remaining verses, at least according to my wife whose opinion
I asked for. I left these remaining verses in my normal voice, not that there’s anything normal about
my voice, but I ranted about that last time.
I haven’t decided if I want to make any other modification to the
recorded narration. I need to understand if the mod will be to improve the overall work, or to eliminate
that annoying noise I believe my voice to be. I would like to be objective about this but am finding that
difficult. What I need is a professional narrator who’s got “great pipes”, but there’s
no room in the budget (not that I had a budget to begin with). I’ll post a sample soon so
you can tell me what you think.
Overall, this has been an interesting project, and one that’s presented some new challenges.
That’s a good thing. I’m not interested in the same old same old. If
you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got. I’ve used that line
in my career as a Quality Management professional, and it seems to fit here as well. The counterpoint to
“if it works, don’t fix it” is “if it works, break it anyway and make it better”.
Got an email
response from Jonathon Loving regarding Sibelius sound sets for the EWQL Symphonic Choirs for Play. Jonathon
said that he’s planning new sound sets for all the Play products including choirs. The hang
up is waiting for East-West to finish the new version of Choirs with Wordbuilder built in. That
sounds exciting, as the current version of Choirs has Wordbuilder as a separate app requiring virtual midi
in and out mapping.
This makes it as dysfunctional as it was before when it was a Kontakt library. Integrating
Wordbuilder will, hopefully, give it more usability, especially from within Sibelius. I
haven’t given up hope for having my virtual voices sing words. Thanks to Jonathon for all his efforts.
I’m going to make another donation for sure. Without his efforts, Sibelius wouldn’t
have nearly the functionality it has with his sound sets. Sibelius Essentials is a “nice”
library, but doesn’t come close to the quality of the East-West libraries.
I’ve reached a plateau in my studies at
this point. There’s still more on the Time-Point system to learn, and some of the other
techniques Milton Babbitt developed. But after that, I’m at a dead end. Because
I’ve chosen not to go deep into all that’s been written about pitch class sets, I’m not going to
cover some of the nitty-gritty details. I don’t feel they’ll help me to be a better composer.
I don’t need to be totally conversant in pcs language to make use of its essentials in my work.
I leave the in-depth analysis of some serial piece to the musicologists who eat that stuff for breakfast.
more interested in learning things that will help me to be a more articulate composer. Techniques and applications
that can add a creative dimension to my work is what I usually seek out. I don’t want to know something
just to say I know it, or to gain one-upmanship points in conversations with other composers. That’s
typical among a lot of musicians. Back in my jazz playing days, it was common practice to “cut”
another musician who played the same instrument as you did.
I went to one jam session where there were three other saxophonists
present. We went the whole evening and never took our horns out of the case! No one
wanted to be first! No one wanted to get “cut” by the other guys. If
you never took your horn out, you left some doubt in people’s minds. Where you another Bird?
Were you just an average, ho-hum player? It was crazy! We elected to make NO
music, rather than yield to a superior player. How stupid is that?
I’ve since become the guy who’ll
start things going and let everyone else deal with their egos and machismo. I’d rather be respected
as a musician than this technical whiz kid, mega-virtuoso type. I don’t have chops
like that and I know it. But I enjoy playing and just do what I do. If I help someone
else feel superior, that’s good. They obviously need to feel that more than I do.
the same with conversations about music. As with my jazz playing, I’m not the L’Enfant terrible.
I don’t know every detail and nuance about music theory or all the technical feldergarp that goes with it.
I’m a composer. I know what I need to know to be a good composer and am willing to learn what
more I need to be a better composer. I put my music out there for all to hear without any reservations
or qualifications. I am who I am, my music is what it is. If you like it, great, I like
you too. If you don’t, thanks for stopping by and have a nice day.
This is not to say I’m a light-weight when
it comes to knowledge, especially of serial music. All my studying has given me a broad base of knowledge
regarding serial music that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Believe me, there’s not much that’s
intuitive. But I can hold my own in conversations with other composers. I probably wouldn’t
do as well with musicologists, or teachers because they’re more interested in analyzing than creating.
serial system, like tonality or any other musical system, is a means to an end. And that end is the music
you, as a composer and artist, create. I think music analysis has its place as a learning tool, but it
doesn’t do much to improve a listener’s ability to find something in the music that rings a sympathetic vibration
That has to be there in the first place, and that comes from the composer’s
art, his gift, his ability to connect at the higher level. If he could do that with random bursts from
a whoopee cushion and assorted noises from a box of rocks, it would still be music and the connection would still be made.
The oboe and cello (or whatever your favorite instrument is) are incidental to the music. It doesn’t
matter what instruments or sound sources you use. Music made with passion will communicate with you at
some level that reaches your soul. The study of this music is intellectual, but the listening and feeling
I hope with my next blog post, I’ll have a sample of Prufrock for you to hear and, maybe, another
podcast published. I appreciate your visiting me, reading my blog and listening to my podcasts.
I will try to add more content on a regular basis to keep things interesting. As always, I’m
open to suggestions and welcome your input. Thanks again.
Peace and love,
May has come and gone and, for me, hasn’t
been too eventful. It was life as usual; wrote some music, studied, did my usual domestic things around
the house, spent a little time visiting with friends, published my first podcast and posted a bunch of entries to this blog.
I did have a moment where I considered blowing off this website and just write for myself and a few of my closest friends,
but got talked out of that by some of my closest friends. So, I’m still in the game.
it’s June. With Memorial Day behind us, summer has begun. School’s out (just
ask Alice Cooper), and I’m working on the Prufrock project. I’ve decided I’ll
do some, if not all, of the narration. My problem is, of course, that I hate the sound of my voice!
Granted, everyone says that when they listen to themselves on a recording. “Do
I sound like that?” is the usual response. I usually say “Yes, you do sound like that!
Sometimes you’re even more annoying than that!” That usually shuts them up.
when you speak, you’re never really aware of how you sound. It’s only when you or someone else
records your voice that you sound different to yourself. It’s not the same when you’re recorded
on video. When there’s sight and sound, it doesn’t sound that different to you, but when it’s
your voice only, it gets weird. Why? I don’t know. That’s
something to Google; I have no clue.
On the 20th of June, my wife and I are going to
Ravinia to see Jethro Tull. Later in the month, we’re going with my daughter and son-in-law to do
some ghost hunting. Yes, you read it right. Ghost hunting! There’s
a couple of sites very nearby that are among the most haunted in Illinois.
I’m hoping to find
the ghost of Webern, first, so I can apologize for that GI shooting him in 1945, and, second, to ask him some questions
about serial music. Hey, I can live with the haunting if he can answer some questions about his canonic
forms. When we’re done, I’ll drive him to the light so he can go back home.
weekend, my daughter and her family moved from Cary to Pingree Grove. My two grandsons spent the night
at our place so they wouldn’t be underfoot during the big furniture procession. They’re into
a much bigger place, in a nice area about 45 minutes from our place. Sadly, the school they’re leaving
in Cary will be discontinuing their music program due to budget cuts.
However the school they
will be attending still has one and, hopefully, will for awhile. Music education isn’t just about
learning music; it’s about building character and expanding the kid’s horizons in ways that no other activity
can even come close to. Check out VH1’s Save the Music project and make a contribution.
It’s very important.
I’ve changed how I record narration these days. I use a portable MD recorder
and do it away from my studio. MD (Minidisc) is probably a somewhat obsolete media, giving way
to digital, direct voice recording. The Minidisc is a Sony invention and, because it’s a disc, records
with virtually no artifacts. I also have a Tascam MD-350 Minidisc deck patched into my studio.
I use that to play the MD and record it directly into Sound Forge 10. From there, I clean
it up and get it ready to overlay onto the music.
I bought a Sony portable digital recorder for my wife to capture ideas
as they happen, to be transferred later to writing. Donna has always had an interest in writing, so I thought
this would be helpful. This is exactly the kind of technology that replaced the MD, which is expensive.
My portable Sony MD recorder originally cost nearly $400. The Sony digital was under $90.
I might try it for narration one day soon. It does have the advantage of direct transfer to the
computer via USB 2.0, but I don’t know what the sound quality is.
Chasing technology can be both frustrating and
expensive. If you’ve simply got to have the latest and greatest, it will cost you. Improved
function will have less to do with your decision to upgrade than the allure of the now and wow. When you
have a studio, as I do, its purpose is clear. For me, the tasks I ask of it are to assist me in the preparation
and composing processes, the preparation and carrying out of all post-production processes, and to produce the final products
including a high quality MP3 recording and a score (both as hardcopy and a PDF file for distribution).
The equipment I need for
that is what dictates what I purchase. Most of the equipment I have is not new, either in age or technology.
But it does what it needs to do, for the most part. Where I’ve decided to upgrade, it’s
been for improved functionality and performance. I will keep the old computer I have, running Windows XP
Pro with SP3, to do the post production and finalizing of my music. It interfaces nicely with the printers
I have, including a wide carriage HP 9800 to print my scores full size. I also have a few PC-based software
apps to edit and multi-track record that work just fine and I don’t necessarily have to update, other than the incremental
updates I get from their manufacturers.
I will get a Mac Pro with a 64-bit OS to use for composing. With
its ability to handle more memory and the multi-core CPU, I can use the new Play system samples from East-West along with
Sibelius to be able to score for larger ensembles without the hassles of a PC-based, 32-bit system. I’ll
integrate the Mac Pro into my studio setup so that everything works relatively seamless, and I can still have access to all
functions. With all this convenience and functionality, I’m not sure I’ll know how to act!
composing music is not only 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration, but 5% composing and 95% fixing computer issues.
The creative side of composing gets overshadowed by the technical problems to overcome. I have great
expectations for a Mac Pro solving these issues and clearing the path for a more focused composing effort.
for the Prufrock project, things have been going smooth. I’m using a tried and true sample
setup that I know works with what I’ve got, so I’ve been able to concentrate on the creative aspects of composing.
Of course, there’s the outside things that can mess you up, but no amount of new and improved technology will
change that. My family is plugged into my life, so they feel free to upload and download whenever they
need something. My three cats don’t care what’s going on; they need to be fed, watered and
their litter box cleaned, regardless if I’m composing, cooking dinner or anything else.
But these distractions
are actually all welcome and I’ve been pretty good about planning around such things. I also enjoy
the break to visit friends, whether in person or over the phone. I’m clearly not complaining
about any of that. I just want my studio gear to work right!
Peace and love,