Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sleeping Beauty Waltz

I really enjoy the way these young Californian musicians play my transcription of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Talia Trio for Oboe, Viola, and Piano

My love for granddaughter Talia just grows and grows, and, as you can see, it bursts out in sharps and flats. I finished this piece today. I don't think that I have ever written anything this happy. Having Talia in my life brings happiness to a whole new level.

You can follow the link above, or you can listen to the first movement here, and the second movement here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Roger Sessions "From My Diary"

I have enjoyed reading Roger Sessions's book The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener (the source of the "guest post" from a few days ago) a great deal. I used to be afraid of Sessions's music, but now that I have read his prose about music, I am no longer afraid.

In fact, I like Robert Helps's performance of these Sessions piano pieces so much that I'm sharing them here:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Fulcrum Point New Music Project Concert Wednesday, November 15 at 6:00

I am very excited to hear Stephen Burns and Kuang-Hao Huang play my Trumpet Sonata this Wednesday in Chicago. The concert is part of Fulcrum Point's "Hear and Be Heard" series, where people play new music and then members of the audience have an open discussion with the composers.

The other composer, who wrote her Notturno for Trumpet and Piano in 2016, is Lawren Brianna Ware.

The concert begins at 6:00, and takes place in Gottlieb Hall at the Merit School of Music, 38 South Peoria in Chicago, Illinois. Admission is free.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Roger Sessions, Guest Blogger

I picked up a copy of Roger Sessions's The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener at a library sale last month. It is a collection of six lectures that Mr. Sessions gave at the Juilliard School of Music in 1949. I thought that, being a small book, it would be something I could read on an airplane. I think that I'll just keep it with me all the time to read and re-read wherever I happen to be. Here's a sample from the second chapter, "The Musical Ear:"
As happens so often in speaking of music, the facts are much simpler than the words found to describe them. No one denies that music arouses emotions, no do most people deny that the values of music are both qualitatively and quantitatively connected with the emotions it arouses. Yet it is not easy to say just what this connection is. If we try to define the emotions aroused by specific pieces of music, we run into difficulties. I have referred elsewhere to cases in which the emotional purportedly expressed in a given work have been defined by different musicians in quite different terms. For instance, Beethoven's Seventh Symphony has been described by three composers, including Berlioz and Wagner, as "heroic" or "warlike," as "pastoral," or as the "apotheosis of the dance." This is a celebrated example, since two composers of genius and many musicians of lesser stature have been articulate about it. But you have only to read the various interpretive comments on almost any well-known work to find the same result.

Does this mean that the "message" or "emotional content" of music is an illusion, and that actually a given piece of music conveys one thing to one man, another thing to another, and that our illusion of specific emotional content derives entirely from the quite adventitious associations which we are able to bring to it? I do not believe this for a moment and I thoroughly dislike the terms, indeed the whole jargon, in general use. On the contrary, I believe that music "expresses" something very definite, and that it expresses it in the most precise way. In embodying movement, in the most subtle and most delicate manner possible, it communicates the attitudes inherent in, and implied by, that movement; its speed, its energy, its élan or impulse, its tenseness or relaxation, its agitation or its tranquility, its decisiveness or its hesitation. It communicates in a marvelously vivid and exact way the dynamics and the abstract qualities of emotion, but any specific emotional content the composer wishes to give to it must be furnished, as it were, from without, by means of an associative program. Music not only "expresses" movement, but embodies, defines, and qualifies it. Each musical phrase is a unique gesture and through the cumulative effect of such gestures we gain a clear sense of a quality of feeling behind them. But unless the composer directs our associations along definite lines, as composers of all times, to be sure, have frequently done, it will be the individual imagination of the listener, and not the music itself, which defines the emotion. What the music does is to animate the emotion; the music, in other words, develops and moves on a level that is essentially below the level of conscious emotion. Its realm is that of emotional energy rather than that of emotion in the specific sense.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Concert in Valencia, Spain

I'm very excited to report that three pieces of mine: High Speed Rail, Three Reflections for Flute and Strings, and Dances from the Harlot's House, will be performed in Spain on November 19th by an orchestra connected with the Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Valencia conducted by Josep Ribes. All the pieces on the program were written by women. The conductor asked me to send a 3-minute video recording of me talking about women and music to a group of young musicians, and I thought I'd share some of the text here:
When I was a child during the 1960s I was part of a very music family in Boston. Every piece of music I encountered was written by a man. Sometime during the 1970s a friend of my family started playing concerts that featured the music of Mrs. H.H. Beach. Amy Beach, we now know, was a very important composer in Boston during the early 20th century. She began her musical life as a pianist, and started writing music at an early age. After she married, her upper-class husband would not allow her to “work” as a concert pianist, but he was fine with her continuing to compose. Many of her works were published, and one was even performed by the Boston Symphony, but as her music went out of print, she was forgotten as a composer.

During the early part of the 20th century it was acceptable for a woman to be a great teacher, a great pianist (particularly an accompanist), or a great singer, but only a handful of women were accepted into professional orchestras. This began to change in the 1950s, and finally in 2017 we see equal numbers of men and women in professional orchestras.

Professional orchestras in America rarely program music by women. It is not because of lack of repertoire, it is due to lack of knowledge. Because I am curious, and because I am always looking for new music to play, I learn about new women composers from the 19th century and the 20th century all the time.

We are making progress: college composition programs in the 21st century admit as many women as they do men. And more and more people realize that when it comes to music, it is the voice of the individual that matters, not her gender. I would imagine that if you were to play pieces of lesser-known music written by both men and by women to people without revealing the gender of the composer, most people would be unable to guess the gender.

The quality of a piece of music is not reflected by how well known it is, just like the quality of a performance is not reflected by how well known the performer is. Fortunately programs like this one make it clear that even if you haven’t heard of a composer, her music can be enjoyable to hear and to play.

I hope you musicians have enjoyed working on these pieces, and I hope that your audience enjoys listening to them.