Talking About Dancing

I just wrapped up a six week stint composing at the Brevard Music Center up in the mountains of North Carolina. The program is intense in the sense that one has to write a lot of music in a very short amount of time. I think is is good overall to sort of view composing as both a job in which you have to clock in some hours everyday as well as an artistic discovery process. Of course, "inspiration" doesn't come everyday while working but I feel as though composers have to supplement that void with whatever the compositional equivalent of scales and etudes are (the Piston Counterpoint and Harmony exercises are my go to). Being around instrumentalists who work on fundamentals intensely everyday made me look back at what I do as a composer. I think we as composers need to focus on "craft" more. 

Anyway, I came out of the Brevard experience with two new pieces; Elysian Fields and Nijinsky Dances. The latter of the two was a piece that's been swirling in my mind for awhile now and has a great deal to do with the Music Center itself. After seeing a performance of Stravinsky's Petrushka in 2012, I wanted to write a big ole flashy dance overture. What came out was a piece that starts with a wink wink nudge nudge to Russian overtures that then veers off into a sort of ghostly atmosphere where fragments of famous ballets emerge and disappear. The rest of the piece combines both Russian overture music with quasi pop/rock/modern dance rhythms. There is a great recording of the piece by the Brevard Sinfonia with David Dzubay conducting on the Nijinsky Dances page. 

I will wrap up by saying that the best part about attending these festivals, especially Brevard, is that you get to meet, interact, and work with high caliber composers. I have met so many talented and all around great people here. There are links to many of their websites in the "etc." page of the website. Check out their music and play it!        

Read More

General Update(s)

Quick composing update: I'm currently hard at work writing my first string quartet. Because I got it into my head that I wanted text involved with this quartet (and I couldn't look back for some odd reason), I am now scurrying about the internet maintaining poetry rights. Ah, the joys of creativity and "art". 

Freedom Songs premiere went quite well. Members from the first class of Carnage Middle were in attendance which consisted of a former Vice-President of UNC, an Alvin Ailey dancer, and a basketball player from the Jimmy V. years at NC State. Very humbling. The piece is now available for purchase here

I'm also getting really deep back into my Steve Reich catalogue. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with that music, mostly because I find Reich's rather blunt views on music somewhat similar to that of early Pierre Boulez. Reich has, to some degree, dismissed music between 1750 to about 1913. That's all good and well (not my own opinion) but to say you absolutely refuse to listen to leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not to go on a tangent about composer's musical opinions, BUT, I always find it difficult to separate a musical personality from the music itself. This goes further back with composers like Wagner who desperately needs the audience to separate his radical anti-Semitic views from his deeply spiritual music. It is hard for me to not listen to Boulez without seeing a giant middle finger to the "standard rep." which he wanted to, at one point, abandon. Just some thoughts. (If you are not familiar with Reich, here is Tehillim and Music for 18 Musicians)     

Read More

Food for Thought

For the past 3 years, one aspect I really have missed about being away from home has been the ability to cook. The first two years, I was confined to a college dorm room which lent itself to making coffee and heating up soup. I considered briefly trying to "cook" with my coffee maker (re: NPR article) but I quickly dispelled the thought of mandatory coffee flavored [insert food]. The third year of college, I shared what could possibly be described as "a kitchen" with seven other people. This being said, I was next to impossible to get any cooking time down there excluding building a sandwich or heating something up quickly. However, this year, I have my own kitchen and it has/continues to be glorious! I'm now constantly thinking of menus and perfecting certain dishes. The stars have now truly aligned now that Netflix has uploaded America's Test Kitchen! Netflix has never been a big thing in my life until this happened. I'm constantly jotting down recipes in the very specific and detail orientated way Chris Kimball lays them out. My manuscript note books have now equal parts musical ideas and recipes. Tonight, I have a friend coming in for the weekend and, in typical Ina Garten fashion, I ran out to the store and bought the *good* wine and the *good* loaf of bread. The menu for tonight is pesto (again courtesy of America's Test Kitchen) with farfalle pasta. Dare I say, because of this kitchen, I enjoy entertaining and just generally cooking with/for people. It's been a great excuse to get people over to the apartment and have some good conversation. 

Also, in shameless plug news, the premiere of Letter Writing is tomorrow afternoon (1:30) in the Recital Hall at UNCG. Additionally, Kelsey Paquin and William Hueholt are taking the show on the road, as it where, to Wilmington, NC (new and current home of my sister) and performing the very literal east coast premiere of Letter Writing!!! Hope to see you there. 

Read More

In the Near Future

I'm currently wrapping up a really bizarre score for a new production of Sophie Treadwell's Machinal for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Theatre Department. It's a strange mix of sound design, music, and a collage of abstract aural images. The show opens October 22 at Brown Theatre on UNCG's campus. Here is a link for more info. 

Additionally, Ian McKenzie is putting on a truly fantastic program of clarinet music on November 14 including my brand new baby, Letter Writing. The much better pieces on the program include Brahms' Second Clarinet Sonata (Letter Writing's big brother) and Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen. The stellar pianist Will Hueholt performs Letter Writing along side Ian at 1:30 in the UNCG Recital Hall. If you are in the Greensboro area, come out at least of the Brahms and Schubert. 

Read More

New Stuff

I am now a (semi)-published composer! My piece B'rit from 2013 is now available from Murphy Music Press. The great thing about Murphy Music is that they keep the graphic design or "look" of the score and parts instead of what most (band) publishers do which is slap a corny stock photo of musical instruments on the cover. I do wish they put more information about the piece on their website BUT you can read more information about the piece here

On the topic of stuff moving, I moved! I'm now in a much larger apartment with plenty of space to put my books and records and miscellany. (That is indeed Morning Joe on the tube...what else?) 

Read More