Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Fantastic Performance of my Trio for Violin, Viola, and Piano

Thank you to pianist Sarah Wang, violist Martina Weidner, and violinist Nora Markowski-Block!

I love everything about this performance, including the video production. You make it sound even better than in did in my wildest inner-ear dreams!

"In an Old House in Paris" from my house in Charleston

Saturday, September 26, 2020

In an Old House in Paris: a piece for two musicians to play together over the internet

This is an antiphonal piece that follows the rhythms found in the text of Madeline, a children’s book written in 1939 by Ludwig Bemelmans. The words that correspond to the musical phrases can be found in the book, which can be found in many libraries and bookstores.

During this time of social distancing, musicians have been looking for ways to play together by way of video communication. Truly synchronous two-way communication is not yet possible, so this piece explores the horizontal musical communication that is operative in antiphonal music.

I have found that the piece works better on a direct communication platform like FaceTime than it does on a conference-based platform like Zoom.

I have made modular settings so that this piece can be played by two violins, two clarinets, violin and clarinet, two violas, viola and guitar, oboe and guitar, flute and guitar, violin and guitar, violin and viola, viola and cello, oboe and viola, flute and viola, bassoon and cello, bassoon and viola, two cellos, and two bassoons.

I wrote this piece so that musicians can have the pleasure of communicating with one another in real time, which is a necessity in times of social isolation. In the time that follows the Covid-19 pandemic (whenever that may be), this piece could be performed in a way that injects freedom in the sections marked “allow for random cacophony.”.

This music is on this page of the IMSLP.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A story about music you may not have read

This brilliant short story by Julio Ramón Ribeyro may be fiction, but it rings true. So I'm sharing a link to it here.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Singing Together Over Zoom

This past weekend I had had the pleasure of singing "happy birthday" to our one-year-old granddaughter in California along with her other grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins elsewhere in Illinois as well as in Boston. I believe there were two choruses. Michael and I followed someone somewhere, and eventually each chorus came to an end.

It was a glorious birthday party!

We also had Friday night and Saturday morning services for the High Holy Days via Zoom, where Michael and I, being the instrumentalists, are the ones responsible for leading the congregational singing. When doing this we have to be careful NOT to follow anyone who is singing, even if they seem to be ahead of us (yes, there are people who sing ahead even under non-Zoom circumstances).

I came to the realization that if we, as the instrumentalists, pause at the end of every phrase in order to let all the phrases of all the congregants finish (thus ending phrases at the same time), we can all begin the next phrase with a feeling of togetherness. During the pauses between phrases, I started imagining the great cathedrals of Europe, with their vaulted ceilings and thunderous echoes. The musicians who worked in those vaunted establishments during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance also needed to manage physical time lags.

The antiphonal part of the Rosh Hashanah morning service is the Shofar service. Hearing the "Takia" caller and the resulting Shofar blasts was a remarkable experience through Zoom. That such an ancient exchange could be accomplished across several states and time zones boggles the mind.

I wonder if it might be possible to write a piece of antiphonal music that could intentionally be played together over Zoom. Allowances would need to be made for a wide variety of time lags, and there would have to be a way to set each microphone to allow for different dynamics. A great amount of indeterminacy would have to be written into the piece.

I don't know if it is something I could do, but I would certainly be interested to see what kinds of new chamber music emerge from this time of social distancing.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Kinderscenen: the completion of a project

The thirteen short movements that make up Robert Schumann’s Kinderscenen were a musical response to a comment Clara Schumann made in 1838 about her husband being like a child.

His original title, Leichte Stücke, suggests that the pieces are easy, though when played at the metronome markings indicated in the Breitkopf and Härtel edition, they are very challenging.  I would venture that the title of the collection is a comment on the gentle and melodic nature of the music and the straightforward way that the pieces are organized rather than the technical abilities of their intended audience of pianists. 

This transcription for violin and cello is also not easy, and these pieces would be impossible to play on bowed string instruments at the tempo indications in the original edition. 

Clara Schumann’s 1880 edition of her husband’s complete works omits metronome markings entirely. I imagine that she did not approve of the fast tempos in the 1845 edition, so I have left the tempo choices in this transcription to the musicians who are playing. There are places marked ritardando that do not have corresponding a tempo markings. I imagine that Robert Schumann wanted to allow for freedom with tempo.

Robert Schumann added the titles for the individual pieces after all the pieces in the set were finished. The titles are indications of character, rendering usual Italian tempo indications unnecessary.

You can find the score and parts under the "transcription" tab on this page of the IMSLP.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Träumerei for Violin and Cello (the beginning of a project)

A friend asked me to make this arrangement to play at a memorial service. I enjoyed working on it so much that I plan to arrange all thirteen pieces of Robert Schumann's Kinderscenen for violin and cello. I will put the whole set in the IMSLP when I'm finished, but I thought I'd share Träumerei now.

Unforgettable Banana Bread

 I'm sharing this recipe here so that I don't forget what I did yesterday while making (up) a recipe for banana bread!


6 over-ripe bananas
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant expresso
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In one large bowl mash the bananas, and then add the rest of the wet ingredients. In another bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix well.

Pour into two greased loaf pans, and bake for an hour.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020