Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cadence Podcast: Something New for Musicians to Ponder

Indre Viskontas, the neuroscientist-soprano who hosts the "Inquiring Minds" podcast about science in our lives, has started a new podcast devoted to music and the mind called Cadence. It looks (and sounds) promising, so I thought I would share information about it here. I have listened to the first of three new episodes. There will be many more to come.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Dances for Two Violins

In celebration of the season! You can get the music (for free) on this page of the IMSLP.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Brother, My Self

I have been contemplating the "why" of composition lately. After years and years of addressing the "why not?" of composing music, I find myself at an interesting point of pause. And today, after a rather busy few months spent in navigating the hows, whys, and wherefores of music written by other people (with a lot of emphasis on the hows lately), I realize that almost every piece I have written has been a "working out" of something.

I suppose that I have always thought of pieces of music as a way to work through thoughts and work out ideas. Sometimes those thoughts are veiled representations of people, places, stories, and characters. Sometimes those thoughts involve interaction between abstract ideas using instrumental voices. Sometimes those thoughts involve the behavior of characters in history or fiction that do their interacting without words, and sometimes those characters work out their "stuff" with the help of a text.

I used to think that everybody who wrote music did this, but now I am beginning to think that doing this might be a family trait.

My brother, Marshall Fine, wrote program notes for his music. In those program notes he gives explicit details of how he wove the contradictions and concerns in his personal and professional life into the music he wrote. His Rock Etudes for Solo Viola, for example, concern specific events in his life that he connected with particular rock songs from the 1960s and 1970s. (You can read the notes in the IMSLP listing.) I believe that he used a logical organization of things musical to try to work out personal frustrations and experiences in his life that he could name but could not understand.

Every person on the autism spectrum has a unique set of challenges that make interpreting the workings of the world difficult, but because of Marshall's particular make-up, his particular "off-the-charts" set of musical gifts, his outspoken nature, and the relatively small size of his communities (the community of violists, the community of classical musicians in Memphis and Branson), he loomed large.

He certainly always loomed large in my world (and still does). Understanding something of this brother-sister bond through our shared attitude toward creative work gives me strength. My perception of the world is (as far as I can tell) that of a "neuro-typical" person, but the musical "working out" of interactions and ideas is nevertheless the reason that I like to write music.

The Italian violist Daniele Colombo's recording of Marshall's Rock Etudes will be coming out in the Solitudes label in the not-too-distant future. Daniele plays them spectacularly.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Creative Changes

I guess that creative outlets change from time to time. For years and years I put a great deal of creative energy into composition. I found a crazy fulfillment from writing. It was the first thing I wanted to do when I woke up in the morning, and I would put off other tasks in order to work out ideas. I even enjoyed working out ideas and then discarding the product. I did put time and energy into trying to become a better violist and a better interpretive musician, but not having to attend to the physical production notes on an instrument in real time is a great "ladder of escape." When you write a piece of music it is usually another person's responsibility to make it sound good. It is also another person's responsibility to determine what it "means."

Lately I have been getting intense enjoyment from playing old notes and old phrases written by people I probably never would have met had I been alive when they were alive. I really get a kick out of figuring out how I want phrases to "go." It is as if some switch has been turned. I still have the skill to write, but lately I prefer to devote my time to listening more carefully and becoming a better player. The music running through my head these days is mainly music written by other people (sometimes it is music that I am arranging, but more often it is music I am practicing). And I feel oddly at peace.

I sometimes ask myself if I am still a composer when I am not in the process of writing something. I also wonder if I am less of a composer because I tend to neglect the business-related things that composers have to do in order to have my music played. The answers to these questions don't matter at all.

It is simply a pleasure and an honor to be able to be a full participant in musical life, even when it is physically exhausting. I can't think of a better way to spend my days.