Saturday, December 9, 2017

Restful Time

This video is the best matching of slow music and visuals I've ever come across. For full screen go here and click at the bottom right.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Composer's Diary

Here lately I've had the great good fortune of having some of the music I've composed over the years performed for audiences larger than the usual handful of musical friends and family members. What has most surprised me about the audience reactions has been the number of people telling me how emotionally moving they found the music. In writing music, trying to evoke feelings in the audience is not something I'm consciously trying to do. My main concern is with coherence, that the music flows with some sort of organic unity, all the while maintaining the audience's interest.

What these audience comments about the emotional nature of the music makes me realize is that I must make the decisions as to where the music goes based on how it feels to me, not just what makes structural sense. The thing is, though, the main thing I'm feeling when writing music is what effort it takes to keep at it through numerous false turns and detours before something I'm happy with emerges. The audience, on the other hand, is blissfully unaware of all that, and gets to flow along with the music and have various emotions evoked by all the little choices I made along the way which ended up working.

One other reaction to my music that absolutely made my heart sing was from Charles, who plays oboe in Rapidan, conducts the Orange Community Band, is a fine composer himself, and who instantly nailed the Darius Milhaud influence on Timepiece when I gave him the link years ago to the Fringe Festival performance. At a rehearsal leading up to our playing the orchestral arrangement of Timepiece he came up to me and said he was really enjoying it because it was "fun to play." For a music therapist, it doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Timepiece Orchestration

The original Timepiece is a woodwind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon) written for a friend back in 1996. The title comes from my having loved Dave Brubeck's Time Out album in my early teenage years. Its most famous track is Take Five with five beats per measure, but there's also Blue Rondo รก la Turk with nine beats a measure, with some measures in a 1,2; 1,2; 1,2; 1,2,3 rhythm. The idea of mixed rhythms stuck with me and when I started composing music thirty years later, they were fun to work with, and let me write music that has a fresh sound without being abstrusely avant garde.

The first movement is in measures of 1,2,3; 1,2; 1,2, which is cleanly stated by the bassoon in the opening measures. The second movement is in plain old triple time - measures of 1,2,3. The third movement is in measures of 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3,4 with the clarinet laying out the rhythm in the opening measures.

Two summers ago I was able to commission Tal Benatar, a former Rapidan conductor, to orchestrate the piece and these fall concerts are the first performances of that orchestration.

(This post is a first go at writing something for the program. For audio of the original quintet, more history, and early performance notes, go here.)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Performance Diary

Here are two pics of the Kenwood Players at the annual Fall Festival in Gordonsville, which supports the local volunteer firemen. It's always the first Saturday in October and we've been doing it for years.

After we did two sets, the Rapidan Pops came and used the same sound system, which is why there are so many mics.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Performance & Composer's Diary

On 9/16/17 we had an afternoon of music I've composed and arranged. Jeff Poole of the Orange County Review, and a great photographer, was there in a private capacity and took these pics so unobtrusively I never noticed he was taking them. (Thanks, Jeff!)

Here's the music room with the 1923 Steinway where it all happened.
While people were gathering and getting their drinks, I played some of the piano pieces I wrote back in the late 80's and early 90's

Here's Karla, our hostess with the mostess, welcoming her guests.
The first number was Mosaic, dating from around '93 or '94, with Dr. Andy playing the lead on cello.
Then with Heather joining us on clarinet we did "Encumbrances of Angels", a poem by Dr. Andy's wife Janet I set to music sometime in the late 90's.
Here's Janet reading "My Tale", a poem of hers I set to music last year.

This pic shows Karla singing "My Tale" with Benjamin joining us on violin. 

I doubled Karla's vocal an octave down in the alto flute.

Lama Tashi was here from Arunachal Pradesh and we did the Mandala Offering and the Om Mani Peme Hung chant from Mantra Mountain, with Stephen joining us on cello.




From this pic it looks like I neglected to give Benjamin the music and he's having to look over on to Dr. Andy's music

Here's one section of the audience with top row from left to right my sister-in-law Carolyn, cousin John, his wife Kate, cousin Ada and cousin Wallace.

In this pic Heather, Andy and I are playing "explorations", a trio I wrote three or four years ago.

Here are Sage, Patrick and Benjamin playing Karlalied, which was written two years ago.

These three are all students at James Madison University and really fine players and here you can see them playing with a wonderful ensemble feel . . . 

. . .  and with marvelous expression

That feeling when you hear your music being played by others and you can just sit back and listen and hear them take it places you hadn't realized it could go.

Taking a well deserved bow

The last piece on the program was Mosaic again, but this time with Heather playing the lead and Dr. Andy playing an accompanying line I added just a few months ago

Monday, July 31, 2017

KarlaLied 1st movement

Here's an attempt at doing a video with the score and then putting on YouTube and then embedding. Been so long since the last, and there have been changes in the how to. This is the first recording of the first movement of KarlaLied.



(After posting) Well . . . seems to work OK.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Fun Factor

In the same conversation mentioned in this post, the importance of having fun with music came up. The music educator talked about how most, if not all, high level students and performers go into music in the first place because it's fun, but somehow along the way that can get lost. That really resonated with me because:

1) - I started the Fun Band because so much of the therapeutic value of music making can come from simply having fun doing it, especially with others. Working with easier material and exploiting what technique is already there can yield out sized therapeutic results.

2) - One problem I always had with community band was we never completely "owned" a piece - it was always "mostly" getting something and then moving on to something else and rarely, if ever, coming back and polishing it up. That's a great way to proceed if your aim is improving technique and nothing else, but I always felt interpretation and self-expression got short shrift because all of the grappling with technique left no room for that side of music making.

3) - Part of the problem brought on by recorded music is that before it came along, people could have fun making music and could only compare themselves to others making live music. Now there are always numerous examples of every piece of music recorded "to perfection", making home made music sound rough around the edges in comparison. If you're making the music yourself, though, and having fun doing so, it matters less in the moment how close it comes to error free recordings.

4) - Lack of fun can have a negative effect on the impact of very high level music making on the listener. My cello friend Dr. Andy loves the joke of someone coming up after a performance and telling the player, "I never knew how hard that piece was." Sometimes it sounds as though high level players get so caught up in the technique of it all it seems they forget there's more being a good musician than simply having killer technique.

5) If the Music Room succeeds, both players and audiences need to be first of all having fun, which can then lead to other benefits. The first step of music therapy is engaging the client, and keeping things fun has a lot to do with that.

ADDED 7/25/17 - One thing I meant to mention and forgot is that over the years I've been caught off guard several times by very high level players being the ones the most enthusiastic about my easy, but fun to play part books. I'd assumed that being able to play at a high level was something of it's own reward, and surely it is (though there are people who burn out). My guess is that playing music not full of technical challenges lets high level players fully unleash the interpretive and expressive sides of themselves that grappling with technique issues can push to the background.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Performance Diary

     Here are some pics of the Kenwood Players last month at the Art Center In Orange's 20th anniversary. We did one set of standard Dixieland and one set of big band tunes I've arranged for our small combo. The pics are especially good because 1) they were taken by Jeff Poole, who is a great photographer as well as putting out the local paper and 2) the lighting and the decorations had us feeling we were in a fishbowl, because at the first meeting to start the Art Center 20 years ago, all the donations were put into a fishbowl. 





Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Instrument Petting Zoo and Beyond

There is in the works a non-profit aimed at nurturing music making here in my hometown of Orange, Va - and once the details are more settled, there will be posts on what it is and how it will work. For now there'll be a few posts like this one thinking through various aspects of such an undertaking, and the tag for these posts will be "The Music Room".

I'd seen on the FaceBook page of the Charlottesville Municipal Band that they often have an instrument petting zoo before concerts, where members of the band let all comers, mostly children judging from the photos, try out various instruments for themselves. 

Then, in conversation with a high level music educator, he suggested something similar to that at The Music Room as a way to draw in people to the possibility of making music themselves instead of just being a listener. Hearing the idea in that context reminded me of something I often noticed back in my private practice days, that people with zero experience in making music are very often drawn to a very particular instrument and if you can work with them on that instrument, their progress and joy in music making seems amplified.

There's also the idea I came across back when researching a music program for Montpelier - that back in James Madison's day, taverns very often kept instruments on hand for patrons to use extemporaneously. 

Then that led to the idea that if there were instruments on hand, maybe some of the many people who played in high school band, and then gave it up, could play along with easy Fun Band tunes arranged as they are for beginners.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rapidan Orchestra Rehearsal Photos

We had a husband and wife team of photographers come to the last rehearsal before our fall concerts to take some informal pictures, without using flashes, as that would probably have been too distracting.

Here's our new conductor Benjamin, who is just terrific. His knowledge of the music is so phenomenal he can sing anyone's part instantly, and his verbal and gestural suggestions convey the gestalt he's after, as well as the details.

Charles W., our concertmaster, like many of our members, plays in a number of other groups, one of which specializes in Russian music.

Michael, besides his musical activities, restores WWII aviation radio equipment for the Smithsonian.

Brian is recently retired from the U.S.Navy.

Carol and her husband Roger (cello) have been with us from the beginning.

Jenny recently retired from teaching and is enjoying spending more time with violin.

Kelly on viola is a Montessori teacher over in Charlottesville and her husband John plays trumpet with us.

Here's Roger (husband of Carol/violin) on cello.

Joe B. grew up over in Barboursville and recently returned when he retired and just joined us this semester.

The other Joe B. on string bass wasn't with us at this rehearsal as he had a performance with another group, so I dug out this pic from several years ago of him with a Dixieland Jazz group - he played great that day, even when given the wrong chart for a piece and just played by ear.

Karen is one of those many M.D.s that somehow finds time to make music - and has college age sons majoring in music.

Don on flute is a retired accountant, professional photographer and holds a music degree in flute performance.

Lynne, when not playing flute, is a veterinarian working on emerging infectious diseases for the CDC.

Charles T. is the volunteer director of the Orange Community Band (and the longest serving one) and an assistant conductor and first oboe in the Charlottesville Municipal Band. His playing of the oboe in orchestra rehearsals and concerts has taught me more about "musicality" in classical music than any other single thing - especially his full, rich tone and his ever alive phrasing. (His wife Theresa wasn't present when these photos were taken - she plays piano/keyboard for us, and percussion in the Orange and C'ville bands.)

Heather, a homeschool mom and former band director, was a founder of the orchestra and does more work than anyone else keeping us going - and has gorgeous tone on the clarinet.

Don plays clarinet in a number of groups, as well as recorders in my Fun Band. His duet with Heather in the Bizet was a highlight of these concerts.

John retired to this area after a star studded pro career in both the classical and jazz genres.

Pete has been a mainstay of the Orange Community Band, and I'll always be grateful to him for being such a gentleman 12 years ago when I sat next to him and was a rank beginner on the horn - he handled the sounds I was making with great aplomb.

Grace is from Charlottesville, a college student, and will be off to New Zealand soon for a year abroad.


Here's me.

Nick is the music director over in Greene County High School and plays trombone, trumpet and horn for us.

Charles H. is a local dairy farmer who finds time to play with us, as well as being in the Orange Community Band and the Charlottesville Municipal Band - his touch in the timpani rolls is wonderful.

And here's Karla, who helped found the Orange Music Society over 25 years ago, organizing house concerts of classical music, and was good enough to join our board when we were getting started. She organizes the ads in the local papers and sends out by mail something like a 100 flyers for our concerts to people she knows, as well as putting them up all around Orange and Madison.

And here's a group shot from the choir loft.