Friday, October 28, 2011

Dickinson Concert

This week I had the absolute pleasure of working with New York based soprano Danya Katok and pianist Nana Shi in an all Dickinson recital at CSU Bakersfield. This was a project that Danya, Nana and I have been working with for about 18 months. Originally it was part of a grant proposal (that we didn't get) but luckily we have been able to get a little bit of life out of the idea.

The set is absolutely amazing. Along with my 5 songs from Dream Cycle Danya sang several selections from Copland's 12 poems of Emily Dickinson, along with some Previn, and the amazing cycle by Juliana Hall Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush (using some of Dickinson's many letters). Nana also presented Leon Kirchner's piano cycle Five pieces for Piano (all inspired by Dickinson poems).

It was truly an amazing experience to work with artists of this caliber. They are both a delight to listen to and to hang out with. Both are working on their DMAs in New York.

Earlier in the day Danya presented a brilliant master class with members of the CSU Bakersfield voice studio. We all learned some valuable information in that session. It really was a treat.

The recital was recorded and I will post some video as soon as I get it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

WTC 9/11

I received my SIGNED copy of Steve Reich's new CD with his new piece WTC 9/11, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet (and many other people). Being one of the few pieces I have heard in commemoration of that event from a composer that actually lives (and has lived for 25 years) in lower Manhattan, I was expecting a very poignant portrait of the event in a more personal way from what I have heard from other composers. Overall I believe Mr. Reich delivered. The first two movements where in typical Reich/Kronos collaborative fashion of voice manipulation coupled with strings mimicking said voices. And although subject-wise very poignant, especially with the voice tapes he decided to use, musically it was very similar to say, Different Trains. However, the third movement is quite beautiful. Although it follows the same guidelines as the first two movements as far as the voice mimicking goes, it is quite different. In this movement the strings are mimicking some beautiful singing of psalms and from the Torah. The third movement is about the shimira that was enacted for the bodies of unidentified victims (a 24/7 vigil for 7 months). This was the poignancy that I was looking for, not just in this piece, but in most of the 9/11 oriented compositions that I have heard.

Also on this disc is Reich's Mallet Quartet for two vibraphones and two marimbas. A spectacular piece from back in 2009.

Lastly on the CD is his Dance Patterns (2001). A lively piece that is fun to listen to.

If you are a Reich fan, as I am, definitely give this a look.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vocal Music

I have had a long time feeling that my best work has always been that which is directed by text (sometimes that is vocal music sometimes it is not). Now one would think that this would direct me to write more music for voice. This has actually not been the case. The act of taking text and setting it scares the living daylights out of me every time I attempt to do it.

A great text will sing itself... but I almost feel like an impostor, or at least a defiler, every time I try and do something vocal (or text driven).

And yet, I am drawn to vocal music more than anything else.

Sometime soon I will get up the gumption to visit my poetry books and proceed to pounce all over someone else's words.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Discoveries

Over the course of the last year I have been.... well disappointed in my work, to put it one way. I could not quite put my finger on what was wrong. I just didn't like what I was putting out there. I have been feeling, during this time that I needed to go in a different direction. I just didn't have a clue as to what to do.

Recently I was reading Morton Feldman Says (a brilliant book, if you have not read, I highly recommend, he was such a great and large character) and in reading his ideas on sound, structure, and his relationship to what he does, it struck me. I knew where I needed to go with my work (sort of). Not to say I am following in Feldman's footsteps by any means, my voice is very different than his. It was his approach to what he did that made the difference to me, and it was my past approach to what I did that was no longer giving me satisfaction. Part of this was recently becoming a father, and the realization that time was no longer on my side. I must find a new way to work, which led me to Feldman. His idea of absolute focus and allowing the material (as he never called anything an idea) to unfold in an organic way struck such a nerve. I had grown so weary of this idea, leads to this idea, goes back to that idea etc... There just wasn't any gratification in it for me anymore.

And so, I have struck out in a slightly different direction with a different approach, and only time will tell what good will come of it. I have just finished the first piece in my new mindset and so far I am enjoying the new direction and I am very happy with the product thus far.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jason Seed Stringtet

I was sent this album not long ago and have given it several listens. And then when I was done I had to give it several more.

The Jason Seed Stringtet has put out a collection of music that is really quite remarkable. Throughout the album you get everything from a Piazzolla-esque tango to some bluesy grooves to some Edgar Meyer-like virtuosity. All packed into some exquisitely crafted compositions.

The ensemble itself is remarkable. Guitar, Violin, Viola, Cello and Bass in various quartet combinations throughout the album. The guitar adds such a great color it changes that traditional string ensemble sound into something far more dynamic. It is obvious to me that each of these players can soar through the music with great ease and filled with the joy of playing and you can't help but follow. They take you on such a journey and when you arrive at the destination you can't wait until you can travel with them again.

This album is prime example of what one can do with great compositions and fantastic players. I have not been able to take out of my stereo for some time.

I highly recommend.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

R.I.P. Milton Babbitt

The musical force that is Milton Babbitt passed away today at the age of 94. Wether you enjoy his work or not, you cannot deny his influence and impact on 20th century music.

Fare thee well Mr. Babbitt. I will be listening to some babbitt now.