New / Different Car!

I bought an Elderado yesterday! Lovely inside (mostly) and out. The lady told me the brakes were funky, but I didn’t expect them to fail completely as I drove it home for the very first time! Luckily I was able to slow it down and coast to a stop – with the help of a curb – without hitting anything other than bushes and shrubbery. It was more than a little scary considering everything from where I live is downhill!

Caddy on a Truck

So here it is on the tow truck this morning. I was happy to have the heated seat while I waited in the 53 degree rain!

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Insane? Or Most Sane?

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End of Semester Wrap Up!

Very pleased that I ended the semester with a 3.766 GPA! And surprised that I got a B+ in Graduate Theory Analysis. I totally did not get the final analysis project, and instead of writing up the analysis, I wrote up what I did know and what I had found (which wasn’t much) and how I thought what I had found related to what I was supposed to be analyzing. Prof. took that into account I guess – So I’m happy with my B+.

The public performances of my works (finally!) during the academic year were:

  • March 15th – Four Shakespeare Sonnets, Opus 16. Tenor Michael Celentano, pianist John Isenberg and bassoonist Rachel Celentano did an excellent job!
  • April 5th – Adagio, Flute Music No. 1, Opus 10b. Flautist Jacqueline Robins and pianist Chai-Kyou Mallinson made a memorable performance.
  • April 5th – Flute Trio with Piano, Opus 14. Beautifully done!
  • May 8th – Opus 14 again at the Student Recognition Midday Concert.
  • May 8th – “Wisdom” for Women’s Chorus, flute, and Piano, Opus 9. The BU Women’s chorus under Dr. Borton, with pianist Wm. Lawson and flautist Georgetta Maiolo gave a wonderful performance. I was very, very pleased with their rendition.
  • May 11th – Two of the three songs of my Opus 18, Three Songs. These three songs are scored for mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and marimba. The performers were mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Horner Kwiatek (of the Emmy Award-winning group Anonymous 4), flautist Georgetta Maiolo, professor of flute at Binghamton University, clarinetist Timothy Perry, Professor of Music at BU, violinist Joe Vanderpool, a classmate and fellow-wiseass of mine at B.U., cellist Xander Edwards (who graciously filled in when the concert had to be rescheduled and my original cellist, Prof. Stephen Stalker, had a conflict and could not perform with us), pianist (and accompanist extraordinaire!) Pej. Reitz, and percussionist Michael Compitello, head of the percussion department at Cornell. The performances of “There is a Community of Spirit” and “I Am Part of the Load” were beyond my expectations – I was very moved, as were some others in the audience. The third song, “I want a Troublemaker for a Lover” was not performed.

So many projects going on I can hardly keep track of them all. Here are the ones in progress:

  • String Quartet listening and analysis. The New Music & New Voices (composition seminar) be hosting a string quartet next academic year, so the big project will be composition of at least one string quartet. Performance is almost ensured for me – I’ll be the only 2nd year composition student in the grad program. So I’ve chosen 29 different string quartets and am going through them – pretty much phrase by phrase – learning about spacing and texture and register and rhythmic modes and scales and all sorts of things. I’ve chosen a broad spectrum, including Purcell, Haydn (of course), Beethoven (absolutely), Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Debussy (rather boring), and Ravel (ravishing textures!). But the list is heavily weighted to Bartok (all six), Prokofiev (surprised he composed only two), and, the great 20th century master, Shostakovich. Much to learn, much to learn.
  • Composing a cello piece that I’ll probably file away somewhere. It’s not standing up.
  • Continuing working on “Che Bella Luna,” a piece for string orchestra, chorus and soloists. I’ll probably set this aside until after the string quartets are written – I’ll know much more about how to write it at that point.
  • A quartet of some as yet undefined instrumentation – another that will probably be filed in the “keep this for ideas” folder.
  • Revision of the eight unaccompanied Americana songs I wrote for Jake Stamatis.

Recently completed (like the last three days) compositions:

  • A setting of “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay for soprano and piano. It’s different from anything else I’ve written. I like it a lot. Opus 29
  • An Intrada for Viola and Piano. Again, very different from anything else I’ve ever written. it’s minimalist in a way, but hugely Romantic in others. The piano treble moves slowly and in small steps while the bass moves almost completely in (small) leaping intervals, both with extensive use of grace notes. And while the signature is F minor, the tonality is something wholly different. This piece might form the Adagio of the string quartet I’m going to write. (I’m probably going to write more than one string quartet before this project is finished.) Opus 28
  • An Adagio for Three Cellos and Four Bassoons. There are other instrumentations, but I doubt I can find two oboe players, an oboe d’mor player and an English horn player in this town! So bassoons it is. :) It’s quite dark with all those low sonorities, but beautiful, of course. It grew out of a piece I wrote for a film at the end of the semester.
  • Five Pieces for Piano, Opus 27. There are two preludes, two humoresques, and a Chorale & Allegro. Nice pieces. I’m especially pleased with the first humoresque because I employed a scale system I’ve never used before, and some rhythmic techniques that are new to me. I don’t know if I’ll find anyone to play them, but I’ll ask around during the summer.
  • A song called “Sin Theories” which is a combination of two poems I got permission to use from an Eastern European punk poet. I’ve also connected with a poet in The Netherlands who writes some very nice poems.

So that’s what went on, that’s what’s going on and that’s what I’m working on. I do have to get a job for the summer in order to get my car fixed (again!) and pay the rent and eat for July and August. I’ve got a couple of church gigs that bring in about $260 a month total, so any part time job should suffice to make up what I need.

Ciao! I hope all is well with you!

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Wow – I thought I was a little busy…

… but now I KNOW I’m busy!

Two of my works premiere Day after tomorrow at the Binghamton University Flute Trio concert:

  • Flute Music No. 1, Opus 10b, an adagio for flute and piano.
  • Flute Trio with Piano No. 1, Opus 14.

Setting up rehearsals for the premiere of my “Three Songs: Texts by 13th Century Persian Poet Rumi” opus 18. These premiere on Thursday, May 1st. I’m very excited about this premier. It’s scored for and wll be played by:

  • Flute – Prof. Georgetta Maiolo, head of flute program at Binghamton university. Recently retired (after over 40 years!) principal flautist for the Binghamton Symphony and Tri-Cities Opera. She’s one of the most professional musicians I’ve ever met.
  • Clarinet – Prof. Dr. Tim Perry, professor of conducting and clarinet (and a world-class clarinetist himself!) at Binghamton University.
  • Violin – Joe Vanderpool, a talented, adorable and wise ass senior music major at Binghamton University.
  • Cello – Prof. Stephen Stalker, head of the cello program at Binghamton University, and a widely-respected professional musician. A most excellent cellist and teacher.
  • Marimba – Prof. Michael Compitello, head of the percussion program at Cornell University and highly respected percussionist and teacher.
  • Piano – Either my friend Bill Lawson, an excellent accompanist, erudite and polished coach and mentor to many vocalists at Binghamton University, or Pej Reitz, one of the best accompanists I’ve ever met. She is amazing. 

I’m working on a revamp of my SSA piece, “Wisdom” – a setting of a poem by Sara Teasdale – graciously included on the Spring Concert program by Dr. Bruce Borton, director of the choral conducting program at Binghamton University and conductor of the BU Women’s Chorus. I heard the piece live for the first time last Monday and was surprised to hear that the right hand of the piano is obviously not for piano, but for flute. I don’t know how I missed that. So I have to write a flute part and revise the piano part and make a few other small changes so it’s in shape to be performed at the concert on May 8th.

A new piece I’m working on is for solo piano – a rather saucy and playful A-B-A thing I’m calling a “Dialogue for Piano.” I have no idea who will play it – ever. But I’m enjoying writing it. It is Opus 22!

As if all this isn’t enough on my plate, I’m appearing in a film – just a tiny non-speaking role – for my friend Jared Buiono, a cinema major at BU. We took Montieth Mccollum’s excellent sound manipulation course together. Filming commences tomorrow at 2pm and should be over (for me!) well before dinner.

But the BIG new thing is a project cooked up by Montieth Mccollum and Daniel Davis (head of the composition program at BU and my composition teacher). Mccollum’s students have produced nine new short films for which we composers and perfomers in the New Music & New Voices class (composition seminar) are going to create scores / original music / soundscapes / soundtracks in collaboration with the film makers. Very exciting stuff! 

So I’m a little busy – and thriving. Damn, I love grad school! 

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Spring Semester at Binghamton University – Or Fester Got His Groove Back

It’s been a very exciting Spring semester for me at Binghamton University. After more than a year of trying to get my music looked at and played, I find myself swept up in an avalanche of happy!

First, my compositions are going full speed. Here’s a list of what I’ve been working on:

   – A series of unaccompanied folk-like songs for Baritone. This project is a commission brought about by setting a poem by Robert Penn Warren. I was having a lot of toruble with the accompaniment and finally just deleted it altogether. Then I played the melody by itself and it worked so very well that I said the hell with the accompaniment altogether. It is lovely. I gave a few copies around and Jake Stamatis (watch for that name!) liked it so much he asked me to do a series. :)
   – A piece for cello and percussion that – while probably not being performed by itself, I’ve mined for use in other works.
   – I’m setting my elegy for the moon (“Che Bella Luna”) for chorous, full orchestra and four soloists. A big work, but I think it will be beautiful.
   – “Once More” is a setting of the “once more into the breach” speech from Henry V, III, 1. It’s scored for tenor, bassoon, horn, trumpet, piano, cello and percussion. This was part of the Shakespeare project I got started on last Fall. Michael Celentano, a baritone transitioning to tenor, asked me to set some Shakespeare sonnets for him, and then suggested I do this as well. More on this later.
   – Four Sonnets by Wm. Shakespeare. I set five sonnets in six days (!) and they turned out rather well. I finally withrdrew one of them because I didn’t like it so much, but the other four were premiered just Saturday on Michael’s masters recital. They were put at the end of the program and were received well. I’ll post a recording when I get one in the next couple of weeks.
   – My first piano sonata. The first movement is a chromatic wonder – playful and fun. The second movement is a highly romantic adagio, so complex it had to be written on three staves. The third movement is a (poor) rondo that will have to be replaced. Pianist (and fellow collaborator forty years ago) Stephen Zank is planning on performing it – but I don’t know when.
   – Three settings of Rumi poems. I’ve only recently discovered Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet. This project is intimately connected with a visiting mezzo-soprano named Jacqueline Horner who sings with the female a cappella group “anonymous 4″. They record older music of the Renaissance mostly. She also does a lot of avante garde music. There are three songs, set for combinations of Mezzo, flute, clarinet, marimba, piano, violin and cello. They are really very nice and will be featured at a concert called “New Music & New Voices” on May 1st. The very cool part is that many of the music department staff want to be in on this – so I’ve got the flute professor, the clarinet professor and the cello professor all involved! This is going to be great! Horner was here a few weeks ago for a master voice class (two of my songs were workshopped, the Robert Penn Warren, and another, a Christmas Lullaby that I revised from a piece I wrote in the early 1980’s.).
   – Two of my flute pieces – an adagio for flute and piano adapted from all that piano music I wrote last summer, and a piece for flute trio and piano, also adapated from that same piano music – are going to be performed in concert in early April.
   – I set a Sara Teasdale poem, “Wisdom” for women’s chorus and piano last summer. Prof. Borton has put that on the women’s chorus program for May 8th!

So it’s all coming together! Three songs workshopped at four different venues, the Shakespeare Sonnets, three Rumi poems, two flute pieces and a choral piece all performed at legit university venues – just this semester! 

Things could hardly be going better! :)

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Only One Week to Go!

I can hardly believe break is nearly over – only one week left!

I was happy with my grades last semester: Three A’s and a B+. The B+ was in Music History / Research. And I passed the exams for Theory III so the retread was a success. Onward!

I moved back to Riverside Drive just before last semester ended and am regrouping to move again next week. I found a room in a woman’s house on the south side – way up on a hill. She rents rooms to grad students. Nice room, not too big, share the bathroom with one other guy who has a regular 9 to 5 job (he just graduated in May). Everything is included for a very good price: heat, hot water, internet, cable, and – the deal closer – central air! Looking forward to it!

I’ve been composing up a storm, as usual:

  • I finished my first piano sonata.
  • I’ve set two Persian poems (Rumi, 1203-1276) to music – a third will be done, I haven’t selected the poem yet. One is set for flute, violin, soprano and piano; the instruments’ lines are very dense against a mesmerizing elongated soprano melody. It’s mesmerizing and trippy. The other is set for cello, marimba, soprano and piano; there are descending chromatic motifs for the cello, and it also supplies counterpoint for the soprano at cadences. The piano provides a foundational rhythm and tonal center and also mimics the cello lines when the cello is busy doing other things. These three songs will be for the New Music & New Voices course next semester – which is the upgraded version of what was composition seminar.
  • I wrote “Vision” – a setting of Robert Penn Warren’s poem that starts “I shall build me a house”. It’s unaccompanied.
  • I’ve finished revising two of the Shakespeare sonnets.
  • I’ve started setting “Once more unto the breach” from Henry V, Act III, Scene 1. Bassoon, horn, cello and piano.
  • I’ve started work on a piece for cello and percussion – for New Music & New Vocies class.
  • And a new piano piece took over my brain yesterday – I think it’s a raphsody. We shall see…

In addition to “New Music & New Voices” I’ll be taking Graduate Composition II and Master Theory Review next semester. I’m looking forward to Theory Review for several reasons: 1) there are only three students in the class! 2) it’s all about form and structure 3) it should dovetail nicely into my work for the other two courses!

And I’ve gained a graduate assistanceship. $2,500 for the semester! The work will consist of being available to rent instruments to students, data entry for the music department’s semester audition/jury process, and perhaps managing a few recitals or recording some recitals. I’ll also be building a database to tie instrument database to the rental records and student IDs, along with the required reports.

So that’s what’s happening! Ciao.

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End of Semester Crunch…

Wow. What a semester! I composed settings for five Shakespeare sonnets for piano and tenor, my first orchestral piece, and started my first piano sonata. Doesn’t sound like much, but it was a hell of a lot of work! I learned how to research sources for a scholarly paper and participated in a history review basically from 1600 to the present. Did close readings of passages from six orchestral works, interviewed five professors, read many papers and articles – I can’t now comprehend that I did that! But there are my notes! Revisited chromatic harmony and binary, ternary, sonata and rondo forms. Revived my understanding of augmented sixth chords and various methods of modulation. Attended at least 22 different recitals and programs, most of which were not bad, a few of which were revelatory, and only one that stank out loud.

I do wish I had kept track of how much time I spent working on the orchestral piece. It was a huge chunk of time!

And I made a bunch of new friends. :) 

But the semester is nearly over now, and It’s coming down to this:

  • Give a presentation of my MUS501 research paper on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Revise my research paper for MUS501 Music History / Research. Due before noon on Friday the 13th.
  • Write a report on my Independent Study “Instrumentation”: To include summaries of my interviews and a report on bowing and how it affected (for better or worse) the BU Symphony’s reading of my orchestral piece. Due before the end of finals week.
  • Prepare for MUS501 final exam: Make up a list with summaries of all the articles we read for MUS501: authors, titles, topics, summaries of arguments. 
  • Prepare for Theory III final exam: Ternary form, Sonata form, Rondo form, augmented sixth chords and realted figured bass and voice writing.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it! I’m looking forward to the holiday break so i can do more composing!

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