Thursday, May 13, 2021

Price “Adoration” on Tuba!

It's so great that Cristina Cutts Dougherty, my new favorite tuba player, was able to use my transcription for flute and piano to play "Adoration" on Tuba! Sometimes it feels like this piece has grown into a "super organ" piece, with magnificent options for registration that Florence Price, as an organst, might have only dreamed about. And every performance is different, which serves as a constant reminder that as a composer (and arranger) I only play a small part in the whole dance of music making.

I only wish I knew where and when she wrote the piece. It was first published in 1951, and the copyright wasn't renewed. In short it was forgotten. Thank goodness the Sibley library entered it (along with their other public domain holdings) into the IMSLP, or it could have had a fate like "To A Wild Rose," if Marian MacDowell, according to legend, hadn't it fished out of her husband's wastebasket.

While I'm thinking about it, let me recommend The Heart of a Woman, Rae Linda Brown's new biography of Florence Price, which my husband gave me as a birthday present, and I am currently reading. I first learned about Florence Price from an article Rae Linda Brown wrote for an issue of the Maud Powell Signature, which she expanded into this excellent biography. The only thing that seems to be missing from the book is any reference to "Adoration"!

Dr. Brown is no longer alive. I bet she would love all the attention that "Adoration" is getting, even if she didn't know about the piece. Maybe some dedicated scholar will pick up Rae Linda Brown's trail, and maybe some day we will know a little more about "Adoration."

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

My transcription of Florence Price's "Adoration" on Decca!

What a surprise to find that Randall Goosby is including my 2013 violin and piano arrangement of Florence Price's "Adoration" on his forthcoming premiere recording (being released on June 25th) with Decca. He is a terrific violinist and certainly has a bright career ahead of him. Goosby is presenting "Adoration" here as a "calling card" for the larger recording.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

My Mother, Her Self

This painting by my mother spent several decades hanging in her mother's apartment. My aunt found it a few years ago, and decided to give it to me. Now it hangs next to my desk.

The girl, who does not have a face, has my mother's hair and my mother's posture. She seems to be young, and seems to be contemplating something beyond the white flowering plant next to her and the glowing obelisk beyond it. A scary-looking tiger-like creature sits in front of the marble pillar supporting the bench.

The lines are straight and strong, but the girl, the obelisk, and the flowers are impressionistly blurred. The tiger-creature (could it be a scary dog?) seems to be smiling, but in an ironic/evil sort of way. Except for the ironic and evil creature in the foreground, the painting is rather serene.

I think that Freud or Proust would have a great time talking about this painting.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Freedom and free stuff

As a child I was in an odd position of freedom to cobble together my own sense of what is right, moral, and true in the world. I did it mostly through books. One of my favorites was Arnold Dolin's Great American Heroines.
It was a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated book that was published in 1960. Through reading it I learned about Pocahontas, Anne Hutchinson, "Mad Ann" Bailey, Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher, Barbara Frietchie, Dolly Madison, Sacajawea, Mary Lyon, Dorothea Dix, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Idawalley Lewis, Maria Mitchell, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Clara Barton, Emma Lazarus, Juliette Low, Jane Addams, Lillian Wald, Amelia Earhart, and Helen Keller.

The title above will take you to the Internet Archive entry, which will let you "borrow" it for an hour to read on the screen.

Another really important part of my elementary school childhood was the kindness I found in the parents of my various friends. I can still visualize the interiors of the houses my friends lived in better than I can visualize the interior of my own house. I also had a music teacher who used to let me hang out with her after school. Home was a place I slept, read, and practiced. I had a relatively safe childhood (with the exception of a few incidents), and learned to make my way around the various neighborhoods of childhood without any parental input (really). I envied the fact that the parents of my friends had rules and limitations. I had none. Maybe I was just a very good child (I doubt it).

I really wanted to do something important when I grew up, like the women I read about in Dolin's book, but I had no understanding of how to go about how to go about it because I was a child. I couldn't ask for help from my parents. In the material things department they were adequate. There was always plenty of food, and I could ask for clothes. They took care of me when I was sick. My brothers and I got presents for holidays which were often thoughtful and appropriate, but I have only sketchy memories concerning my emotional needs. And though my friends and their parents helped me to navigate the social world, I could not ask them for the kind of emotional support that I needed in order to grow into a confident adult (or even a confident child). Grown-up people often commented on how happy I seemed to be, but they had no idea that my happiness was due to the fact that they paid attention to me, asked me questions, and listened to my answers.

So what does this have to do with free stuff? Very early on I learned that I could give myself the illusion of being loved if I gave love. If I wanted to have a friend, being a friend was the way to do it. If I waited for friends to come to me, it just wouldn't happen.

This pattern continued for a long time, and as a teenager the friendships I pursued were not always the best. Sometimes, in the case of older friends who thought being friends with me would help them gain access to my father, those choices had lasting consequences.

Let me get back to the point of this post. My intention was to explain something about why I make so much of the music I write available for free in the IMSLP. The basic reason is that for me writing music is a kind of energized play with purpose. I set up a set of relationships, the instruments or voices being characters, I set a few boundaries (working with a text is one example of a boundary), and I introduce a set of problems that will need to be resolved. I wrestle with the beast, and I use my executive authority to remove or modify anything offensive that messes up the soup. I do my best to make sure what I write feels good to sing or play, and I do my best to make it easy to read. Then I release it into the world of musicians I do not yet know as a gesture of friendship, and when it is accepted as such I am deeply happy.

Perhaps if I grew up with more of a sense of entitlement, or if I had been given heartfelt encouragement from my parents when I was a child, I would feel more energized by having music published and would enjoy the whole song and dance of musical commerce, where composers are taken seriously only if their work carries a price tag. After nearly twenty years of having music published, I am finally getting royalty checks. It is nice when publishers see commercial value in the work I do, but what really matters to me is how the people playing the music enjoy relating to each other through playing it, and, in the case of solo music, how people enjoy navigating through phrases, and using their creativity to create a kind of a dialogue between themselves and me, through the notes and phrases on the page.

I wish that in the future more people (non-musicians in particular) will be able to appreciate the value of music that is written in the spirit of friendship rather than music that is written as an expression of ego. Sometimes I wish I could be a person who thrives on praise, but I'm just now wired that way. I never developed that particular habit. But I love hearing from people who play my music (and arrangements) and accept it as a gift of friendship.

Maybe, at sixty-two, it is now time to put the deficiences from my childhood behind me, and celebrate, rather than bemoan the way I have learned to compensate.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Thoughts after Proust

Michael and I finished reading the last volume of À la recherche du temps perdu in the In Search of Lost Time translations the other day. We began in December, and through twice-daily installments of reading together, we finished in May.

I suppose that everyone has their own particular set of responses to the act of reading this novel. For me it was a set of responses that drew upon many memories that I had either forgotten or had repressed. The various characters at various times reminded me of interactions, feelings, obsessions, helplessness, confusion, and blindness that I recall experiencing in the various theaters of my life.

And now in the "aftermath" I am left with a set of pathways into my own unconscious mind that I am forced to explore. I can understand how after finishing the novel it would be very easy to flip to the beginning of Swann's Way and experience the narrator's experience with new eyes, revisit the art (some of which we can now look up at the touch of a button, and some of which we need to paint out of our own imagination, within the guidelines that are being offered), and hear (once again) what we imagine the music to have been. I feel no such inclination to take another trip around the Proust world's sun until I have done a more thorough examination of my own life.

I offer no spoilers, but I can tell you that the narrator often talks about love (and other things) as being driven by habit. I suppose that by having had the twice-daily habit of reading Proust: experiencing the sometimes overwhelming beauty of his sentences as well as the sometimes unbearably long periods of obsessive cluelessness, hating the narrator for his inability to understand how women are "wired," (perhaps it is too much to ask), and then loving the narrator for describing music, sleep, art, light, weather, travel, household sounds, characters I know from literature (from Balzac, in particular), and history as he lived it (the Dreyfus Affair, World War I), I have taken on a new set of habits myself.

Proust's set of characters functioned as a kind of a social life for us during this time of not being able to socialize because of the pandemic. Now that we have closed the book (literally) (please forgive the pun) on that world, I wonder how Michael and I will function in the real social world of later 2021 or 2022. Not that we had a Proust-like social life, with parties, salons, royalty, cads, and louts, but before the pandemic we did have occasions to interact with some interesting people, and we could do it in places other than in the grocery store, where we go double-masked once every three weeks (our only real outing aside from Michael's mother's place of assisted living), with little to talk about with our neighbors except for the fact that we are wearing masks and we are trying to survive in a backward-thinking and science-denying place like Charleston during a pandemic.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Two Fragments of Fragments from Jubilate Agno

It was such a treat to hear this London-based ensemble of singers perform, via Zoom, from their own houses several time zones away from me, these two pieces set to poems by the English poet Christopher Smart (1722-1771) that I wrote to be performed as vocal duets over the internet. I'm so pleased with the way these performances worked out, and so appreciate being able to hear them with diction of the poet's English.

[The videos below are set to start at 15:29 and 31:51.]


For A is Awe:

You can find the music here (from this page of the IMSLP) if you would like to follow along.

Astriosmusic: Music and Silent Film

This is such a creative and excellent program/concert about silent film and music. It is really well written and the music, arranged for the occasion, is really well performed. Plus, they use music that I wrote (in their own arrangement, played live with the film) for El hotel eléctrico (a silent film made in 1908).

That film starts about twenty-five minutes in, but give yourself the treat of watching the whole thing. And be sure stay for the credits. But watch it soon because it will only be available until May 3!

Classical music is dead: long live classical music

Discussions on the internet about the death of classical music began in early 2007 with Norman Lebrecht's The Life and Death of Classical Music. I wrote a post addressing his argument here. And later in February of 2007 I wrote another post about embracing the ways classical music is changing.

In 2012 one thing death related concerning classical music seemed clear: the musical blogosphere was dwindling due to the ever-changing nature (and the commercial nature) of the internet, and the dominance of Facebook. Facebook does make it possible for musicians, who, as a species do not have much in the way of financial resources, to share information, written music, streaming and recorded performances, friendship, humor, news, gossip, musical services, and advice. The blogosphere does not. But I'm still here.

Lisa Hirsch, Ken Woods, and Bob Shingleton are still here too. I try to keep my blogroll (to the right) up to date, and really appreciate the chance to read about their thoughts about music and culture. Both Ken and Lisa are active on Twitter, a forum that I do not like to participate in (and, because it isn't vital to anything that I do, don't).

But looking at classical music from the window of my internets, I see a "classical music" that is quite different from the one that people were mourning and eulogizing a dozen years ago.

This classical music, which is being forged by people working from home, has more sub-species than it has boundaries. Suddenly "new music" does not have to be intellectual, complicated, and difficult in order to be meaningful. It doesn't have to be difficult to play in order to grab the attention of people who play it or people who listen. It doesn't have to be written by unapproachable old people who look down on the musicians who play it.

[A quick aside: I'm reminded of the story of Villa Lobos coming to hear an in-home performance of his string quartet played by the Hollywood String Quartet, where the cellist, who unable to physically sustain a pizzicato passage for its full duration without leaving out a couple of notes (to avoid cramping), made him so angry that he spent an hour of the evening sitting at the piano and playing an ostinato passage over and over. He didn't happen to consider that pizzicato on the cello might involve different muscles from the ones you use while playing the piano, but I'm sure he considered the fact that the cellist was a woman. He might have even noticed that she was a GREAT cellist, and he might have unconsciously hated the fact that she was. Just a thought.]

When I was growing up classical music had a handful of standard configurations. I could always count on them. I will list them here:
Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
Orchestra with Instrumental Soloist
Wind Ensemble
String Quartet
String Quintet
Woodwind Quintet
Piano Trio
Piano Quartet
Piano Trio
String Sextet (for Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Schoenberg)
Triosonata group (four people)
Violin and Piano Duo
Cello and Piano Duo
Brass Quintet
Wind Instrument and Piano
Brass Instrument and Piano
Voice and Piano
Voice and Piano with an instrumental obbligato
Solo Voice with Orchestra
Full Chorus
Women's Chorus
Men's Chorus
Chorus and Piano
With very occasional exceptions the music was written by men. Mostly dead. And most of them were either European or of European descent (Villa Lobos was one an exception--he was from Brazil).

There were mixed ensembles that used "unconventional" instruments (Villa Lobos, once again--he may have been a bully, but he was an excellent composer). The other big ones were Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat, and Milhaud's La creation du monde, which used saxophone.

I rembember the days when people used to talk about which records they would want to have with them on a desert island. Because it was such a far-fetched idea, people would think seriously about their choices. Well folks, we have all been experiencing the cultural isolation one might find on a desert island, but this island happens to have broadband. And this island happens to have working laptops that are powered by solar energy (a future image that used to seem crazy, but, aside from the desert island part, is now actually plausible). We can, in essence, "curate" the culture that we want to have. In some ways that is creepy and scary, but for musicians it is welcoming, and we can enjoy watching boundaries breaking down from the safety of our homes, with the hope to returning to a concert environment that has been expanded and changed for the better.

The only professional paths we had in music when I was starting in music were to be a member of an orchestra, be a teacher, or be a soloist. Being part of a chamber music group was like being a soloist. In order to get concerts that paid any kind of fee, you had to have a manager, and "getting" management often involved winning a major competition. The field was narrow, and the market for "acts" was geared towards the conventional (see above list). Managers ruled the musical world. If you had good management, you had a chance at a career. 

I'm happy to report that the illusion that the only great musicians (and composers) were the ones you have heard about has been burst. And I like to think that the "death" that some have claimed to have observed in classical music is the death of that illusion.

Great musicians from the past and from the present are EVERYWHERE. And they ones who are living play every instrument and sing far better than most people did half a century ago. Thanks to excellent teaching, better instruments, ergonomic devices that help alleviate injuries, and supportive communities, online and otherwise, great musicianship is everywhere. It's even in tiny towns in Illinois. And twenty-first-century musicians play in combinations that would never have been considered possible during the nineteenth century, or even during much of the twentieth century.

We have had great role models during this pandemic year (and a half), when music making has been done almost exclusively at home. Augustin Hadelich has shown us just how well it can be done, but he has also inspired countless other musicians (not just violinists) to become better musicians by taking their work seriously, and practicing and thinking about music in creative and expressive ways. He has made it "cool" for musicians to be passionate about what they do for its own sake, rather than for the sake of impressing others or seeking recognition for their work.

I first heard him play in 2006. I wrote reviews of his recordings back in my reviewing days. I told everyone I knew about him, but so many who had never heard of him didn't listen (or appear to care). Now they have, and they do care, and their lives are all the richer for it. Also, Augustin took the time made available to him during the pandemically-driven hiatus from playing his usual repertoire (that does habitually include new music) to explore, record, and perform previously marginalized (for no good reason) violin music written by Black composers. This music will remain in his repertoire because it is excellent music.

Now everyone seems to be onboard, and the music that people are publishing for the first time (like Florence Price's previously unpublished work) will surely stay in the repertoire.

Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to watch the Perils of Pierrot program put on by the Erato Ensemble. They performed my Pierrot songs beautifully, but I was most impressed with some music for flute, clarinet, and piano by Valerie Coleman called "Portraits of Langston." The concert is available to watch today and tomorrow here on the Erato Ensemble Facebook Page.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Airing of the grievances: pandemic edition

Actually I have nothing to complain about. Our lawn is mowed, and we even pulled vinca off our three big trees in the back yard (long-time readers know that I have a history with vinca). I'm pleased to report that in the nine years since my above-referenced vinca-related post, the vinca has been basically under control. It is no longer seeking total domination of our yard, and there is little of it to be found in the vast expanse of grass and other creeping vegitation that the moles might consider their roof.

Michael and I got our second Covid shots today, and I started feeling woozy enough to cancel my teaching for the day after about an hour. Now I'm feeling super tired, a little chilled, and I ache all over. All hail Moderna! I will never complain about "big pharma" again. I got my practicing in early, so, as much as I would like to, I'm not planning to try anything remotely musical until tomorrow.

We watched a good movie this afternoon ("Our Very Own" from 1949--it is on TCM through April 30th), and Michael put together dinner from leftovers AND did the dishes (alright, it was his turn). Then I scrolled around online for far too much time, finding nothing much to engage in, partially because I am in too much of a fog to engage.

But it is an acceptable fog because it is not the result of sickness: it is the result of gaining immunity from getting really sick. We are both doing our part to help defeat the pandemic. I wish that more of our neighbors in this virus-and-Republican-rich district of Illinois would open their eyes and minds and get vaccinated. Having a little discomfort is well worth it as far as I'm concerned.

After finding little to engage with on Facebook (a place where I sometimes find lively social activity), I decided to contribute a friendly voice here, my own little place on the internet.

It is very quiet around here. I like to think it is a good kind of quiet, and now that I have finished sharing my thoughts, that quiet actually feels like a moment of peace.

With a generous helping of aches on the side (and everywhere).

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Perils of Pierrot Saturday online April 24 at 6:00 CDT

It will be an even more exciting Saturday evening for me (see previous post) because at 6:00 Central time there will be a performance by the Vancouver-based Erato Ensemble of "The Perils of Pierrot," which will include the first performance of my recent set of songs for voice and viola set to poems by Sara Teasdale.

This is a one-time event for which you can buy tickets.

Here's a description of the cooncert:
Erato Ensemble’s concert “The Perils of Pierrot” takes chamber music in a new direction. Previously unassociated songs are woven together to illustrate a story about an intrepid cat who bravely escapes captivity and fearlessly embarks on a hero’s journey. Along the way, Pierrot encounters taunting birds, hot jazz, a mournful nightingale, a dying swan and more.

The original book is written by Gina Leola Woolsey, and features the poetry of Ronald Wallace, e.e. cummings, Dennis Nurkse, Langston Hughes, Pierre de Ronsard, Olive Fraser, and Sara Teasdale, set to music by Sondra Clark, Morton Feldman, Whitney George, Valerie Coleman, Albert Roussel, Julian Philips, Elaine Fine, Arthur Honegger, and William George. The book is narrated in spectacular fashion by our resident Scottish lass, Julie Begg.

This is an event that can be enjoyed by all ages and promises something for everyone. The concert will be available to view for 48 hours after the initial stream.

This concert was conceived of, recorded on, and is broadcast from the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam Nations.

El Hotel Electrico at Astraios Music (April 24 through May 3)

I'm excited to hear this program, which will include a performance of my El Hotel Electrico (performed by flute, viola, and bassoon) via YouTube at 7:00 Central time this Saturday evening.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Vocal Music Instrumentation Index: what a resource!

Anne Charrier and Ben Kazez, creators and designers of the Vocal Music Instrumentation Index have organized the vocal/choral music of J.S. and C.P.E Bach as an elegant virtual library experience
They began this index as a pandemic project, and intend to continue with other composers:

Monday, April 19, 2021

"Parlando," a new classical music podcast hosted by Vivien Schweitzer

I'm so happy to have learned about Parlando, which is a new podcast presented by Classical Voice North America. I listened to the second episode today, which is an interview with Augustin Hadelich. The above link is to the podcast on Spotify, and I listened to it by way of Apple Podcasts, which is what I use on my phone.

Schweitzer and Hadelich talk about the recording projects he has been doing in isolation at home during the past pandemic year, and they even mention the Florence Price "Adoration" project which I am so honored to have played a (silent and midwife-ish) part in.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Oh my ears and whiskers!

I have spent the last several weeks writing music inspired by Lewis Carroll. This one is a duo for viola and euphonium intended for the underserved communities of euphonium players who have friends who play viola, and violists who have friends who play euphonium (silly "mirror" refrence intended).

It can also be played as a duo for viola and cello, as a companion piece, perhaps to the Beethoven Duet mit zwei obligaten Augengläsern, WoO 32 on a program. Trying to imagine dynamic balances in real acoustic spaces between viola and euphonium is difficult, so I treated the euphonium line as a cello part in order to come up with usable dynamics that can be taken down a notch by euphonium players. It was only AFTER doing this that I realized the "mirror" reference to Augengläseren (eyeglasses) in the title.
[April 15, 2021]

You can find the music on this page of the IMSLP, and you can listen to a computer-generated recording here.

And coming to a YouTube channel in the near future is a performance of three songs I wrote for trumpet (cornet) and mezzo-soprano that I call "Adventures with Alice."

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Michael Cooper's work on Florence Price

Michael Cooper's article, "The Problem with Programs Part 2," (the second of a three-part series) is so very interesting. Why is the overture for a concert given as part of a celebration of "A Century of Progress" at the Chicago World's Fair by John Powell?
[from Wikipedia] Powell became a world-renowned composer.He had a racialist approach to music, which he expressed in his writings. He was interested in Appalachian folk music and championed its performance and preservation. He was one of the founders of the White Top Folk Festival, held in Grayson County, Virginia annually from 1931 to 1939.

Powell's ideology—and musicology—were strongly racialist and anti-black, a topic which served as the subject for many of his essays.[In the fall of 1922 together with Earnest Sevier Cox (a self-proclaimed ethnologist and explorer) and Dr. Walter Plecker, Powell founded the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America in Richmond, Virginia. They worked closely with Walter Ashby Plecker to promote state legislation to classify people simply as "white" or "negro", and to end "amalgamation" of the races by intermarriage. The activities of the club split the elite in Virginia, which had tried to take pride in its "genteel paternalism" in controlling racial relations. The clubs attracted more racists.

Within a year, more than 400 white men had joined as members and the club had 31 "posts" in Virginia, including two in Charlottesville, one for the town and one at the University of Virginia. Powell worked with Dr. Plecker, the state's registrar of statistics, to draft the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The club members were successful in lobbying the legislature to gain passage of the act, which classified as black any person with any African ancestry, although the previous law recognized persons with one-sixteenth or less black ancestry as white.

Michael Cooper (this link goes to his blog) has done the extraordinary work of preparing a motherlode of newly-discovered work by Florence Price for publication by G. Schirmer, and leading the way (clearing the way) for a better, and indeed more diverse, musical future for concerts that include early 20th-century music. The tagline on his home page is, "Helping to make unheard music part of our world."

I did, by the way, have a glance at some of Powell's music in the IMSLP. He wrote a nostalgic violin and piano sonata that reflects on the "charms" of old Virginia. It actually looks like a nice piece. But I'm not going to play it. I'm not even going to download the PDF to my computer. Feh.

You can read the first part of Michael Cooper's series here.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

There's moles in them there holes

About a month before the last time that Magicicada Brood X appeared in Illinois (2004) our lawn was filled with mole hills. At the time we had no idea why there was such a eruption of mole activity, but we have since learned that the mole activity increases because of all the juicy and ripe cicadas burrowed in the ground that will emerge next month after their seventeen-year lives as larvae. The ones that escape the moles will come above ground, latch onto trees (and whatever else they can find), spread their wings, and fill the air with their chirpy and buzzy noises. Then, unless they are eaten, they will mate, lay their eggs, and die. 

Seventeen years ago Brood X was joined by Brood XIX (the thirteen year cicadas). This synchronicity only happens every 221 years.

In 2011 I made a post about the thirteen-year brood, which was not accompanied by that much in the way of mole activity. Seeing mole hills like these all over town this past week, leads me to imagine that the Brood X is an exceptionally tasty treat for moles. 

Now I know that while the moles are happily feeding themselves they are also doing the good work of irrigating the lower layers of our soil, which helps improve drainage so that we won't have so much flooding of our basements when the big rains come.

These photos are not from our yard, but they are from my walk today.

I wrote a violin duet in 2011 in honor of Brood XIX which you can find here. Both broods make an appearance in the third movement of Evening Music for two violins and viola.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Molly Gebrian plays my Sephardic Suite

I started writing the middle movement of the "Separdic Suite" as a viola piece about twenty years ago, and because my son's cello was in the house at the time, and because I could, I wrote the outer movements for cello, and reworked the middle movement. I did make a transcription of the piece for viola, but I never considered publishing it because I couldn't get it to sound as good on the viola as it sounded (when played by a real cellist) on the cello.

Molly Gebrian inquired about the viola version (which I guess I must have mentioned somewhere), and encouraged me to make it available. Molly plays this piece so beautifully, and it sounds right at home on the viola, where it was "born." This video is from a concert that premiered last night on Youtube.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Solidaridad plays "Chee Buenos Aires"

What a tango band! What an exceptional video!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Four Coliloquies for Flute and Oboe

This is a video from a March 27th concert that is part of the (this year virtual) 5th Annual International Music by Women Festival. The flutist is Rebecca Johnson, and the oboist is Elizabeth Sullivan.

It is a really windy day on the prairie today, so I thought it would be a good day to share this video (which is cued to begin when this piece begins). The fourth "coliloquy" poses a question about where the wind comes from, and where the wind goes.

You can follow the music here, if you like.

Monday, March 29, 2021

"A Tunes" on Amazon

I can't believe I'm posting this, but, since I am engaging in commerce with this educational opus, I'm pleased to say that "A Tunes" has made it into the vast (and reviewable) world of Amazon. You can see the entry in all its "prime" glory, with a "look-inside" feature here.

It also has a ranking (which I hope will go up one of these days). Bear in mind that this is day one for this listing.

I hope that people familiar with my work will leave a comment!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Marcel Proust, guest blogger

I have rarely come across writing about music that is so about music itself.
. . . just so I found my bearings in this music which was new to me, and recognized the landscape of the Vinteuil sonata; and, more wonderful than any girl, the little phrase, wrapped, caparisoned in silver, streaming with brilliant sonorities light and soft as scarves, came towards me, still recognizable under these new ornaments. My joy at meeting it again was increased by the familiar, friendly tone in which it spoke to me, so persuasive, so simple, yet allowing its rich, shimmering beauty to unfold in all its splendour. Its purpose this time, however, was simply to show me the way, a different path from that of the sonata, for this was a different, hitherto unperformed work by Vinteuil, where he had simply chosen to make an allusion (explained at this point by a note in the programme which we should have had before us) by introducing, just for a moment, the little phrase. Having been recalled for a moment in this way, it disappeared and I found myself in an unknown world once more, but I now knew, and everything I heard confirmed, that this was one of the worlds that I had not even imagined Vinteuil could have created; for when, tiring of the sonata, whose universe was exhausted for me, I tried to imagine others equally beautiful but different, I simply did as those poets do who fill their imagined Paradise with meadows, flowers and rivers duplicating those on Earth. What I now heard caused me as much joy as the sonata would have done if I had not known it; that is to say, it was just as beautiful, but different. Whereas the sonata opened on a lily-like dawn in the country, dividing its floating whiteness but only to attach it to the light but thick tangle of a rustic bower of honeysuckle and white geraniums, the new work took off on a stormy morning over flat, level surfaces like those of the sea, amid an acid silence, in an infinity of emptiness, and then it was in a rosy dawn that this unknown universe began to be built before me, drawn out of silence and night. This new, red light, so absent from the tender, rustic and candid sonata, tinged all the sky, as dawn does, with a mysterious hope.
This passage, and the passages surrounding it from "The Prisoner," the fifth volume of In Search of Lost Time brings to my mind and ear the absolutely delightful Saint-Saëns Septet, Opus 65:

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Scott Hostetler, Scott Hostetler, and Scott Hostetler Play Poulenc!

Virtue and Music

I grew up in a world where musical competence was social currency. I came up with the idea that people play the way they are, and the more they practice, the more they play the way they are. Being rather naive, and making my young way in a musical world filled with grown-up musicians who were at the very top of the profession, I believed this to be true.  I expected that the grown-up musicians who played beautifully and brilliantly must be kind, moral, and virtuous people, regardless of what kinds of things I was told about them that could cause me to believe otherwise.

I spent years practicing so that I could get better, but, like most people, I had personal limitations that I simply couldn't transcend. To add insult to injury I took the phrase, "You are only as good as your last performance" to heart. It was only through changing instruments, working carefully and methodically for the past thirty years to build a technique, and learning how to solve problems my students have encountered, that I have been able to begin too grow through what I believed were personal limitations.  I know that I have become a better violinist, violist, teacher, and composer than I was a year ago, and I am grateful that I will continue to work and grow. 

My adult experience totally debunks my childish idea that people are the way they play. My new "catch phrase" is "the more carefully and consistently you practice, the more beautifully and consistently you will play." And my goal is to learn things from every "last performance," and to do better the next time.

This kind of musical mental health is hard won, particularly when music is (and always has been) so personal to me. It is not just something I "do."  A good friend who knows me well told me that music is my "transition object," serving as the major substitute for the love that I lacked as a child. I can create it and bring it to life myself, and I can construct within in it a world where truth and virtue reign supreme. As CEO of my work, I am in a position to make decisions about everything (at least while I am practicing and writing). I find total joy in doing my work. It is my way of finding amour-propre, a word I recently learned from reading Proust. And, best of all, I don't need to seek approval for what I already know is as good as I can make it be. Good enough for me is good enough. And it is up to me to raise my own standards.

Early on I learned that giving love feels very similar to receiving love, and since making music is how I habitually experience love, sharing music is the best way of expressing it. That is why I write music for people, and that is why I share most of what I write in the IMSLP. I feel balanced when I have a writing, arranging, or performing project in the works (and I feel out of balance when I don't). A piece of music isn't complete for me unless it has been played or heard by someone else. 

I was unaware the extent to which many of those great musicians I used to believe must be kind and virtuous used their feelings of superiority to "thrust" their greatness "upon" younger musicians who wanted to find their way in the professional musical world. My (more attractive than I was) female friends at Juilliard often believed that their accomplished older seducers (and would-be seducers) believed in their musical talent and their intelligence. I somehow got the message (told to me in no uncertain terms by my teacher, Julius Baker) that in order to be successful as a musician a woman needed to be attractive. Capitalizing on the way I looked in order to be successful in music was not a game I was equipped to play. I considered myself limited then. Now I consider myself fortunate.

I think that in 2021 we have started to open the door on a kinder and more equal musical world. Perhaps this pandemic year, where musicians see one another through "windows" into their houses, and everyone is trying their best to find sanity during a year when direct musical contact with people who listen to music happens mostly through electronic devices, and rarely in real time; and direct musical contact between musicians is rare, masked, distanced, and careful. 

From our "doorstep" we see more and more revelations about the abuse of power from musicians considered virtuous by some (Levine, Gelb, for example), and we see the beginnings in the musical community of an institutional intolerance for sexism and racism. We also see that celebrating "greatness" might just be an outdated nineteenth-century idea (consider Wagner and his circle). I wonder if we are at the beginning of an era where kindness and decency will have greater currency among musicians who play, conduct, and compose, and teach because of the hundreds of excellent musicians who could easily fill the shoes of those musicians who do not conduct their personal lives that the quality of their playing  (or writing) suggests has virtue.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Kenneth Woods on James Levine

Reflecting on the life and career of James Levine has been difficult to do. Kenneth Woods has done the difficult task, and has written the spot-on blog post about James Levine that everyone should read.  You can read it here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Cello Tuesday with Diane Chaplin

This livestreaming concert includes a performance of "A Cellist's Garden of Verses."

Monday, March 15, 2021

Sondheim's "No one is Alone" performed by Elena Snow-Evrad and Beatriz Helgura-Snow

This was exactly the song I needed to hear this morning. And in this performance its message is so very clear.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Adoration in Memphis

What a great emotional experience it was to hear the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra my brother Marshall played in for most of his career, play my arrangement of Florence Price's "Adoration" to open their first concert after a year of silence due to Covid. You can listen to the concert here. The "Adoration" begins about 13 minutes in, after a stellar "Star-spangled Banner" played by the concertmaster.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Thank you, Augustin!

I'm really loooking forward to hearing Augustin Hadelich's recording of the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas which is coming out on CD next month. He put this video of the Largo from the Third Sonata (the C major) on YouTube today, and in four minutes and eleven seconds all the thoughts that have spent the day buzzing around my brain are now calm and organized. Thank you, Augustin. Thank you Johann Sebastian.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Imagining an alternate reality

I suppose musicians everywhere have been reflecting on the year that we have lived in a musical reality that has mostly happened through communication through microphones, recording devices, and screens. It was not the way I expected things to be. I did a search on this blog for posts that I have made that contain the phrase "live music," because I recall I pretty much stopped listening to recordings after I stopped writing CD reviews for the American Record Guide. Looking back at this year I wonder how I would have survived without the technology (any and all of it) that I used to disparage.

I am fortunate that I can hear music in its natural state (i.e. not translated into impulses and played through speakers) when I practice by myself or when I play with Michael. I feel fortunate that when the weather was still warm I was able to play a little bit of chamber music outside.

The most intimate indoor musical connections I have been able to make with people outside of my two-person household this year have been with my students (giving lessons through FaceTime) and working with people via Zoom (mostly) who are performing music I have written. The kind of contact I have had with performing musicians this year has been amazing. Before the Pandemic I rarely had this kind of contact. But now that we are all working from our homes it happens all the time. I never before imagined sitting, for example, in on a rehearsal in London in order to hear a rehearsal of a piece I wrote intended to be performed over the internet.

Would all this have happened anyway? Absolutely not. Would I have spent the year writing so much solo music? Probably not. Would I even have considered writing duets that could be played remotely? I wouldn't have had a good reason to.

I also understand more about the intimate communication that happens between a composer and a person playing a piece of music. It is truly a magical form of communication where marks on a page can translate something I make at my end into something that comes out sounding pretty much the same when played by another person I have never met who lives somewhere else. And there are no electronics involved in the communication. Just an eloquent system of musical notation that transcends time, space, and language.

I wonder how musical life will look when enough of the people on the planet have been vaccinated, and when life goes back to that new normal we are looking at somewhere along the horizon through different sets of binoculars (some more rose-colored than others). I hope that high school orchestra teachers will still let me into their rehearsals. I hope that what musicians have learned about supporting one another will stay with us, because times are always difficult for musicians. Egos are fragile in our business, and they are also omnipresent. So is hierarchy and the resulting marginalization.

We have been able to discuss sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry in the world of "classical" music with relative ease from behind a screen, but when we are "back" in real time and real space, will people continue to speak out when they observe behavior that is discriminatory?

I hope that the fortunate people who live in cities and have busy rehearsal and concert schedules will remember that there are dedicated composers (like me) who live outside of major metropolitan areas, and I hope that people who write on social media about how much they love hearing live music will come to concerts in more rural communities (like mine). I hope that my neighbors will come out to the concerts that my musical partners and I are so very eager to play.

We musicians (who by necessity spend a large amount of time in isolation anyway) really miss playing for people. It is in playing for people that we feel connected, and, if all goes well, we can help the people listening to one another. 

Music happens in (real) time and in (physical) space. Music travels in the air, and vibrates in the spaces between people. Playing music for people is not about the affirmation of ability (which is really the result of hard work). It is about the sharing the experience of air that is enriched with vibration. It is about the people who are listening hearing phrases and feeling rhythm at the same time as the people setting the sound in motion.

I wonder what it will be like to play concerts again?

March 13th marks one year of isolation for me. In 2020 it was a Friday. I played for a funeral that afternoon, and then played for Shabbat services that night. The first case in our county was reported that day, and one of the first people to get sick from Covid-19 was a member of the family holding the funeral. It feels like it was such a long time ago, but I remember that afternoon and evening so very well.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

"Adoration" performed by violinist Laura Colgate and pianist Elizabeth Hill

I love hearing the different ways that people play my transcription of Florence Price's "Adoration," and was particularly moved by this recording. What a thrill it is to have this piece chosen by the National Philharmonic to celebrate the begininning of this year's Women's History Month.

Monday, March 08, 2021

VIII Arachnida

Eight pitches in this tarantella! Thank you for such a great reading of it, Patricia Garcia!

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Solving technical problems with musical answers: thoughts about teaching

I got my "author's copies" of A Tunes this week, so I can assure you that physical copies are now available. It was a treat yesterday to teach lessons using a physical copy.

I thought that it might be a good idea to write a post expaining why I wrote it and what I hope teachers and students will get from using it. I have included a bit of my history for people who are not regular readers of this blog.

I have taught people to play, on one instrument or another, for more than forty years.  And I have also, from time to time, been in the position of being a beginner or a near beginner. When I showed up for my first day of my first real job, teaching at a music school in a small town in Austria (a week before the semester was to begin), I was shocked to see that the majority of my students were recorder students. I think that there might have been two flutists, and thirty (or more) beginning recorder players. I hadn't touched a recorder since I was six or seven--the age of many of my students. 

Fortunately there was a recorder in the top drawer of my desk, along with the beginner book my students would be using. I spent the whole week, when I wasn't studying German (which I barely spoke)  learning to play the recorder, and I fell in love with the instrument. As soon as I had enough money to do so (I arrived in Schladming with only pocket change), I bought a soprano recorder and an alto recorder.

I was shocked that my students learned to play the recorder and learned to read music. I attribute my succes to the fact that I taught myself to read music while playing the recorder when I was five or six (a Honer recorder bought with S&H Greenstamps that I put toothmarks in, because I didn't know not to--I can still remember the taste of the wood).

The kids I taught in Austria also liked the kid-oriented folk music that was in the excellent recorder book they used. It was probably used by all the kids in Austria who learned to play recorder in their music schools. In Austria recorder was the "entry level" instrument, after which you could move to any other instrument. Everyone learned to read music while playing the recorder. Just like I had.

[The mechanics of recorder playing at an elementary level are straightforward. The refinements, like bending your thumb in order to make a horizontal half hole when going up an octave, using the tongue to make a variety of articulations, mastering the fingerings in the upper octave, and adjusting the air so that you can play in tune, are not. I learned those through studying at the Hochschule in Vienna.]

I really wanted to play violin as a kid, but could not learn to play until I was seven because the smallest instrument we had in the house was a half size. And once I was big enough to fit that violin, my father gave me an "A-Tune-A-Day" book (OMG I just realized that the "A Tunes" title bears homage to that series of books!), and I vividly remember making a physical analogy to the written B on the A string using the first finger, just like the left hand (top hand) of the recorder, and that C used the second finger. And G used three fingers on the D string, just like the recorder. I made visual connections between what I saw on the page and what my left hand fingers could do to "get" the note to sound right.

When I moved to Illinois I had the idea of writing a beginner flute book for my flute students. I wanted to create the same visual and kinetic connections I had experienced when learning to play the recorder both the first time and the second time, and the way I learned to play the violin. I found that it was really useful. My students liked it, particularly the tunes that I made up myself in order to develop physical skills.

In my early 30s I returned to string playing. In my late  30s I started composing seriously. In my 40s I taught  violin and viola students using the Suzuki books, but not the method. As my abilities as a teacher improved, I started to see problems that every one of my students encountered while working through the Suzuki books. I do know that they were designed not to be "read from" by students, and that the main use was as reference for "by ear only" teaching, particularly for young students who were too young to read words fluently.

During in-person lessons with beginning students I could, by a multitude of means, get students to use a mixture of eye, ear, touch, and brain to get beyond reading by the numbers. I could use manipulative toys to help them to understand rhythm and the way it could relate to physical volume. They could listen and watch me play. We could play together. 

[nostalgic pause]

When I had to switch to on-line teaching last March, I realized that I needed to come up with new ways to help my students learn, so I started writing these "A Tunes" to address problems that I would normally need to be in the same physical space to work through. 

The first uses the pitches of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," but in a different order, and with different rhythms. The "Starry Night" title is meant to draw a connection. A person who can play "Twinkle Twinkle" can play "Starry Night," a brand-new piece, written just for their skill level, doubling their repertoire.  It also sounds really good when students use the whole bow, from frog to tip, and the "sounding good" part is a great motivator for developing a bowstroke that is parallel to the bridge and can change speeds.

"Wait, What?" uses the same pitches as "Starry Night," and introduces quarter-note and half-note rests. There is one whole note, and a whole note that is tied to a quarter note, as well as easy and functional dynamics.

"Breeze in the Trees" introduces pizzicato and addresses the difficulties that students find in "Song of the Wind." There is a fermata that will be familiar to students who have played "Allegro" in the first Suzuki book. My students all really like fermatas.

"The Big Dipper" is in 3/4 time and it introduces slurs in a way that will feel nice and expressive in a beginning bow arm. It is a variation on "Starry Night," and uses the D string when it modulates to D major in the middle section.

"A Tunes" doesn't call for the lowered second finger until the "Solo Two-Step," which also introduces the idea of musical sequences (a melodic string of sixths going between two strings with a low second finger on the A string and the E string that my students really like). The pitches and rhythms are the same in the "Slurry Two-Step," but we get slurs and dynamics. It also begins up-bow, which introduces the idea of bowing logic early on. 

"String-Crossing Waltz" combines the meter of three with hooked quarter notes played on the same pitch. Many of my students have been befuddled by the down/up/up bowing pattern in the first of the Bach Minuets in the first Suzuki book. "String-Crossing Waltz" takes the pattern out of the Bach musical context and repeats it over and over. After studying this piece the Bach Minuet is far easier for students to play in rhythm because their arms know what to do.

"The Happy Farmer" is one of the most difficult pieces to teach (and learn) for beginner violinists. I wrote "Farmer's Crossing" to address each of the bowing difficulties separately. I also added left-hand pizzicato on open strings, which strengthens the left hand, and students really like doing. After working on "Farmer's Crossing" my students have been far happier farmers.

The two "Leading-Tone Gallops" (one slurred and one not slurred) in E minor teach students about the raised third finger and the fourth finger plopping down right next to it. The title gives a chance for a teacher to explain about scale structure. These Gallops,  "Gotcha!," and "The Fourth Heroic Muse" will help with the Gossec "Gavotte" and the Handel "Chorus" that begins the second Suzuki book. The Gallops also help navigate the fourth-finger waters found in the Bach Musette and the middle section of the Lully Gavotte (which, for the record, is really by Marin Marias).

The second Suzuki book works fine on its own for me until we get to the Beethoven Minuet in G, which is riddled with left-hand and right-hand difficulties. I wrote "Te Unim" to isolate the difficulties and put them in a vastly different musical context from the very familiar Beethoven piece.  The title is the word "Minuet" spelled backwards. I'm surprised how well it works with students.

"Goodnight Air" uses the rhythms of the well-known children's book Goodnight Moon, and introduces the way meter that changes in order to "hold" the rhythms of the music. The phrasing of the text becomes the phrasing of the music, and it playing the phrases expressively becomes a gateway for being expressive when playing other pieces of music. It can also serve as a gateway for students to write musical settings of poems they like. 

The Castor and Pollux Lullaby and Dance are harmonized (double-stop) versions of the "Starry Night" theme. They are in different meters, which provides an easy way to introduce compound time to students.

The "Vocalise" and "Appogiare with Variations" are just expresesive solo pieces, and they can be played by violinists at any level. One of my advanced students played some of these pieces as violin solos for a wedding she played this past October. 

All these pieces are written as expressive solo pieces that can be performed without the need for accompaniment. There is something empowering about being in charge of all of the music.

If "A Tunes" sells well in the original violin version, I'm hoping that Mel Bay will issue a version for viola.

You can order the music here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Music by Women Festival Concert Tonight (Live on YouTube)

I'm excited to hear this concert tonight, coming live (on tape) from Mississippi University for Women. This is the fifth year of the festival, and the second year that a piece of mine has been included. The whole festival is online, so it can reach a far wider audience than it ever has before.

Here's the program 

Suite in a minor - Élisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729)




Gavotte Allegro 

Aria Affettuoso 


Elizabeth CD Brown, baroque guitar (Pacific Lutheran University) 

“Wit and Whimsy: The Flute Music of Elaine Fine” 

A Flutist’s Garden of Verses: Five Pieces for Solo Alto and Bass Flute - Elaine Fine

1. The Swing 

2. Foreign Lands 

3. My Shadow 

4. My Bed is a Boat 

5. Singing 

Carol Shansky (New Jersey City University) 

In An Old House in Paris: An Antiphonal Piece for Two Musicians to Play Over the Internet - Elaine Fine 

Carol Shansky (New Jersey City University) 

Michelle Kiec (Kutztown University) 

The Whistleblower Complaint - Elaine Fine 

Carol Shansky (New Jersey City University) 

Fantasy in A - Joanna Kenyon 

Fabio Menchetti, piano (Washington State University)  

Rejoice, Rejoice - Lelia Naylor Morris (1862-1929) 

arr. Hersey Dr. Brian Meixner, euphonium (High Point University) 

Dr. Joanna Hersey, euphonium (University of North Carolina at Pembroke) 

Dr. Dan Johnson, tuba (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) 

Dr. William Beach, tuba (Campbell University)

The Gift of the Condor: a new piece to teach kids about the orchestra

This is a new orchestral piece for an audience of children (of all ages) that uses one-on-a-part winds and brass (all with solos), percussion, strings, and a narrator. The protagonist in the story is a solo child violinist (of any age). The voices of the animal characters, some that have rhythmic notation, can come from within the ensemble.
The total performance time is 22 minutes.

The score, parts, and script are available on this page of the IMSLP.

You can also listen to a midi recording here. It takes about 19 minutes, and one of the sections of the midi has a narration made by my in-house narrator (i.e. me).

You can follow the script by going here. Robin and I were inspired to write this because we realized that the animals in "Peter and the Wolf" and the "Carnival of the Animals," pieces that we have played at children's concerts for half a century, do not resonate as well with twenty-first-century children as they did with children of previous centuries. We felt that the menagerie needed a twenty-first-century update. We consulted our students in order to find the animals that would resonate most musically with them. The whale was included because one of my granddaughters loves whales.

Here is the list of animals represented, along with the instruments and instrumental combinations that represent them:
Bunny (featuring the xylophone)
Condor (featuring the bass clarinet, the viola, and the timpani)
Dog (featuring the trumpet)
Dragon (featuring a brass quartet)
Raccoon (featuring a woodwind trio)
Squirrels (featuring the strings)
Crocodile (featuring the snare drum and the trombone)
Snakes (featuring strings, trumpet, and woodwinds)
Unicorn (featuring the French Horn, of course)
Camel (featuring the flute and the English Horn)
Whale (featuring the tuba)
Teddy Bear (featuring the strings)
Olivia/Oliver, the solo child violinist, engages in musical dialogue with all of these animals. The technical demands of the Olivia/Oliver part are minimal: the part could be played by a confident young violinist who has been playing for two or three years and likes to do a little acting. The story includes riddles, and can involve the work of a "quick drawing" visual artist as well as imaginative drawings by kids in the audience. There are many possibilities for engaging and interactive performances.

The themes involved are curiosity, imagination, and engagement.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Dol: a measurement of pain or sadness

The history of the development of the dol as a unit for measuring pain is rather horrible. It came as a result of inflicting pain by way of heat onto the hands of women while they were giving birth, and asking them to rate the pain of the contraction against the pain they felt in their hands. You can read about it here. The kind of abuse that was inflicted on people in the name of science during the 1940s is in itself cause for a huge amount of sadness.

The name comes from the Latin dolor meaning pain, grief, or sorrow. The Italian word dolore is used often in late Italian Renaissance music, particularly in the music of Carlo Gesualdo and Claudio Monteverdi. I encountered it first in Bach's Cantata 209, Non sa che sia dolore. I chose (because I could) to think of the "grief" associations with the Dol scale for this piece in "Weights and Measures," and thought it would be useful (I had a day visited by doldrums yesterday) to play this piece on viola in order to work out some of my feelings. Then I tried it on the violin, and found a whole different spectrum of feelings to work through. I recorded both of them, with the idea of posting one or the other on line to share.

Then, while messing around in iMovie, I thought of playing both videos simultaneously. I lined them up to end at the same time (the tempos were a little different), and was really thrilled with the results. Sometimes the voices answer one another, and, surpisingly, sometimes they play exactly together, purely by chance!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

DIY Improvisation Device

I found an excellent interactive circle of fifths graphic. I took screenshots of a circle I assembled (using this interactive tool) in the treble and the alto clef, pasted the treble clef graphic to one side of a piece of cardboard, and the alto clef graphic to the other, and cut out the circle, leaving a little tab to hang it by. I have really enjoyed using it while I improvise (see my last post).

It kind of reminds me of a natal chart (which can also be a vehicle for improvisation)!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Improvising and practicing scales

After having written (and finished) more than sixty scale pieces since the beginning of 2021, I'm taking a break and spending time practicing "normal" scales and other music. For a while there I couldn't play a scale without stopping to write down a scale melody (there are so many possibilities) I had just discovered (or uncovered).

Yesterday I gave myself the luxury of playing through the Hrimaly series of three-octave scales that lives on my music stand. Today I found the process kind of mindless (though physically useful), so I decided to try something different. I started by improvising using scale fragements and arpeggio fragments in the key of C major. Then I thought about the F sharp that would happen in G major, the next key in the circle of fifths, and made my way, via that "new" F sharp, to the key of G. When ready I added the C sharp for the key of D, and so on all they way through C-sharp major/D-flat major, and down the circle by removing flats. This took a lot of "head space," in the keys with large numbers of sharps and flats, but I gave myself ample time to think.

Then I did the same with the minor keys, sticking with harmonic minor. Tomorrow I think I might go backwards, adding flats.

What I find most interesting about doing this is the way my awarness of modulations when playing solo music is heightened. The solo Bach pieces that have been etched in deep grooves in my brain for more than half a century become new vehicles for exploring the way scale passages work as well as an elevated vantage point for observing the possibilities of how well music can travel along the circle of fifths from one key to the next.

Perhaps I am "late to the party" with all of this, but I grew up and came of musical age during a time when (at least in Western European-oriented music) tonality was considered obsolete by composers of new music. It was a time when "improvisation" seemed to be connected almost exclusively with jazz, and if it wasn't connected with jazz it seemed to be concerned with sound (including extended techniques) not connected to a harmonic structure or framework.

Twenty-four of the sixty scale pieces are part of a collection that I put in the IMSLP, and the rest, two books of violin scale studies (one in the first position and the other that uses the whole range of the instrument) that are all named for animals that have scales, will be available from Mel Bay sometime later this year (I submitted the final books yesterday).

Just for fun I'm including one of the "Weights and Measures" pieces here. That is the name of the collection in the IMSLP.
Needless to say, I had a lot of punny fun working on this collection.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Jubilate Composer!

I had the wonderful pleasure of sitting in on a Zoom rehearsal of Two Fragments of Fragments from Jubilate Agno with the CoMA Singers of London today, and am pleased to say that the piece works really well as an internet duet.

5th Annual International Music by Women Festival

I am proud to be participating in this festival as a composer (with music being performed on two of the concerts), and am so excited to be able to hear performances from the entire festival by way of this YouTube channel.

I hope that after it is possible to have in-person concerts and festivals again that this festival will continue to make their concerts available on YouTube.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Tunes: Capricious Pieces for Beginner Violinists

[From the back cover]
Incorporating skills taught in many popular violin methods, these tuneful solo pieces offer a fresh alternative for teachers who would like a stimulating supplement to their usual method. These entertaining and whimsical compositions reinforce and develop violin skills through repetition disguised as lyrical musical phrases. They strengthen the left hand, exercise the fourth finger, and use rests in musically compelling ways that keep the student attentive.

They also present mixed meter and double-stops, and offer a practical introduction to musical form and phrase structure. Slurs and dynamics are incorporated immediately, along with right-hand pizzicato on stopped strings and left-hand pizzicato on all open strings. These pieces are written specifically to encourage interpretive creativity, even at the most elementary levels. As twenty-first-century pieces for solo violin, they are meant to be performed as well as studied.
I wrote these pieces to isolate and address specific right-hand and left-hand difficulties that my students have encountered while working through the first three Suzuki books. The progress my students have made while working on these pieces has suprised even me. Up until this point only a few of my friends have enjoyed using them in their teaching, and now that it is being released by Mel Bay "A Tunes" can be used by everyone. The book can be ordered (it's very reasonably priced at $12.99) via the Mel Bay Website.

As a introduction, here's a video of Linnaea Brophy playing "The Big Dipper."

You can find videos of Linnaea playing all twenty pieces on this playlist.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Doktor Faustus! Doktor Faustus!

Anna Maria Olivari's book about musical interpretations of Thomas Mann's novel is now in print and available as a printed book or as an open-source download. You can get it through this link.

She includes a lengthy discussion (with musical examples) of my Four Pieces from Doktor Faustus, which is very exciting for me to read, even in German.

And speaking of German, I was perplexed at first (I never saw such a thing before), and then delighted to meet the Gendersternschen for the first time. Here it is, embedded in a cognate from English, boldly declaring that a group of "specialists" should not be identified as being male because of archaisms that are built into the language.