“Blue Hills Over the North Wall” is an excerpt from my 1996 piece Cycle of Friends for soprano, chorus and chamber orchestra, commissioned by the Music Group of Philadelphia, and premiered by them in conjunction with Orchestra 2001. I was in my twenties when I wrote this piece, but it remains possibly my best work
Cycle of Friends consists of five movements, with settings of texts from various parts of the world and moments in history, each using various combinations of chorus, soprano solo and orchestra. This movement is only for soprano and orchestra without chorus. Here it is superbly performed by soprano Janice Fiore and Orchestra 2001, conducted by Music Group Artistic Director Seán Deibler. The text is a poem by Li Po (701-762), translated by Innes Herdan.
You may also wish to view a similar video of the one a cappella movement, “Are Friends Delight or Pain?“
This setting of Emily Dickinson’s short poem is an excerpt from my 1996 piece Cycle of Friends for soprano solo, chorus and chamber orchestra. This video perusal score features the premiere performance by the Music Group of Philadelphia, conducted by Seán Deibler in May, 1996.
“Are Friends Delight or Pain” is now available as a stand-alone piece in octavo format from Swirly Music.
This off-beat little a cappella piece was written many, many years ago (1991, to be exact). It is an earnest and faithful setting of a very silly poem by my friend Will T. Laughlin. It happens to be very difficult to learn and perform, with a lot of meter changes, asymmetrical rhythms and odd, modal harmony, so over the years I’ve stopped thinking of it as a piece I ought to be promoting among choruses, and it has never been performed until now.
Among the people I did send it to, all those years ago, was Magen Solomon, conductor of the award-winning and extremely capable San Francisco Choral Artists. This year, out of the blue, the piece was added to their “Poetry on Musical Wings” program. Delighted by this unlikely stroke of luck, I quickly revised the piece to make it more suitable for performance, and they gave this wonderful, nuanced premiere performance.
My approach to this surreal and brilliantly goofy poem was to treat it as if it were Shakespeare and treat the musical setting with utmost, deadpan seriousness. I hope you enjoy hearing the piece with the appropriately silly video montage below!
“Roll the Tide” is a short, a cappella quasi-spiritual excerpted from the larger work Waiting…, based on poems by Elisabeth T. Eliassen.
In the “video perusal score” below, you can follow the score as you hear its premiere performance by the 2011 Kodály Summer Institute Chorus at Holy Names University, conducted by László Matos.
“Roll the Tide” is available in octavo format from Swirly Music.
My self-publishing empire Swirly Music has just launched an online store where certain pieces will be available for purchase. At the moment only my clarinet/piano piece American Standard and a short choral work are available. I will be adding my other choral pieces and my string quartet as soon as I can.Read More...
Some composer friends and I have been kicking around the idea of getting our music played in unconventional venues. The idea is that if music is only played in concert halls, then the audience is limited to people who take time out of their busy schedules to seek it out, to say nothing of willingness to spend money on tickets. Surely we can find new ways of bringing new music to audiences that don’t require them to be so proactive.Read More...
Last year the New York chorus Schola Cantorum on Hudson initiated their Project Encore initiative, an effort to promote second performances of choral works that have received premiere performances and nothing since. It is a great and much needed idea: a juried central repository complete with instrumentation, text, program notes and even audio excerpts that choral decision makers can resort to for new works to consider.Read More...
Throughout the year I’ve been occasionally posting recordings of songs from my earlier musical The Ghost of Wu. Today’s installment is the song “You Must Learn”, in which an ambitious mother lectures her naïve daughter, a concubine, in the ways of the Emperor’s court.
This song is probably the most Sondheim-derivative thing I’ve ever written. When I was a student, all of my music was completely derivative, and over the years I learned how to avoid that to some degree. This is a rare case where I was not only being openly derivative, but I actually knew what I was doing. If you know your Sondheim, you will surely recognize the influence.
The lyrics are mine too, by the way. You can follow them and the score if you’d like on this dedicated page.
By the way, there’s a running index of all the songs I’ve posted so far on this page.
So I just connected a dusty old hard drive to my shiny new Mac, and found some things I ought to share here.
For starters, here’s my favorite cue from a film score I did a few years ago. This is the very end of Shakespeare’s Merchant. I can’t give you a whole synopsis of The Merchant of Venice here, but for this cue it helps to know that in our version, Antonio is in love with Bassanio. Bassanio has just pledged fidelity to his wife Portia, and that sucks for Antionio. In the second half of the cue, we see Shylock, having been rendered penniless and yarmulke-less due to a court-ordered punishment for his crediting practices. I love the way this cue came together for a lot of reasons.
I will sheepishly mention that this score is an electronic rendering of what is/was hoped to be recorded properly. Also, due to the rather severe letterboxing, I recommend the “full screen” option, which is the square icon to the right of the timeline.
Time to roll out another song from The Ghost of Wu.
Composed in the summer or fall of 2002, Welcome Home is probably my favorite song from Wu; certainly the one I’m most proud of for both music and lyrics. It’s an ensemble number for womens chorus.
Following a tumultuous journey from her village to the Emperor’s court, Wu is met by gentle chorus of concubines welcoming her into the Emperor’s harem. During the course of the song, they transform her from a simple country girl into an elegant member of their circle.