Viola Concerto complete

(Inserts usual apology for not updating more often.)

I ran into some circumstances beyond my control which delayed me completing the Viola Concerto for a few days. The old computer  that I did all my music stuff on (and that I named Madame Schuman-Heink for reasons I’ve totally forgotten) suddenly died, apparently due to a motherboard failure. The repair shop I took it to said that the computer was old enough that replacing the motherboard was a dubious prospect at best, so bye-bye Madame.

I’d been thinking about replacing it for a while anyway, so this just gave me the incentive to finally do it. The new computer (which I’ve named Milton) arrived from Sweetwater on Saturday, the 21st, and after getting a few things set up, I was able to get right to work.

Being computerless for a few days was annoying, but luckily I haven’t forgotten how to use good old pencil and paper, so I spent the time drafting the second movement. The last bit of the concerto to be written was the 6-bar introduction to the second movement, which I finished right around the time Milton arrived. The concerto was officially finished on July 26, and has been added to the work list.

Another recent aquisition relevant to the Viola Concerto arrived at the house yesterday. The last movement has a prominent part for frame drum, and I had an urge to obtain one, partly for the concerto and partly because it looked like it would be interesting to play, so I ordered a tar from Cooperman Fife and Drum. That can’t be a bad idea, can it?

There’s more news, but it’ll have to wait, as it’s late and I’m tired. So, good night all.

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Imperfect confidence

This image was being passed around on Facebook the other day.

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize. --Robert Hughes

Assuming this is true, it might just mean that I’m the greatest composer ever!

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Other projects

Alongside the Viola Concerto, I’ve been working on several other projects that I haven’t yet mentioned. Allow me to mention them now.

  • The Columbus Indiana Philharmonic plans to perform Richard Strauss’s Festival Prelude on an upcoming concert in the fall (I don’t recall the date and am apparently too lazy to look it up). This is a work for organ and one of Strauss’s typical enormous post-Romantic orchestras–quintuple woodwind including Heckelphone, eight horns and so on, but surprisingly little percussion. I’ve been asked to come up with a version for a somewhat more normal-sized orchestra, which I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks now, and is going much more quickly than I expected.
  • Several transcriptions for viola and piano, which are now done and have just gone to the printer. They include Four Pieces by Gliere (opp. 9 & 32, originally for double bass and piano), the Fantasistykker, op. 2, originally for oboe and piano by Carl Nielsen, and two arias from Weber’s Der Freischütz, for soprano, viola, and piano. All these will go up on my publishing website in a few days. I also plan to take them with me to the International Viola Congress later this week (I’ll be there on Thursday and Friday).

Meanwhile, work on the Viola Concerto is still going on. As of this morning, the solo part of the third movement is nearly finished, while the orchestra part is still very sketchy, mostly just chord symbols and a few melodic ideas.

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Viola concerto status, with marginally relevant digressions

I have been working on the third movement of the viola concerto, trying to finish it first. As of this morning, I have maybe two thirds of it sketched out, namely the exposition of a sonata form, a cadenza, and the recapitulation of the first theme followed by a coda. For the moment, I have skipped over the development and the recapitulation of the second theme. In other words, I have the first three minutes, the last three minutes, but not yet the middle three minutes. Hopefully I’m just a week or so away from getting the last bit sketched out.

I’m still calling it “Estampie,” even though I don’t think you’ll find many estampies in sonata form.

Another interesting feature of the movement is that it will include a prominent part for djembe (again, not a terribly “authentic” instrument for an estampie, but I don’t care), which will drive much of the first theme and part of the cadenza. It’s the first time I’ve written for djembe, so I’ve been looking through Youtube for video examples to get a handle on the style. In the process of following links randomly, I came across this, which isn’t actually a djembe, but still a very fine performance on the darbuka.

Don’t worry, the djembe part in the concerto won’t be nearly as elaborate.

All my work for the last few weeks has been on the third movement. I have bits and pieces of the first two movements done, too, but I’m deliberately not working on them for now.

Finally, I’ll be attending the International Viola Congress in a couple of weeks, mainly with the hope of promoting interest in the concerto and some other viola related projects of mine. Looking forward to it.

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Estampie (the dance, not the group)

Browsing randomly through YouTube brought me to this video, a performance of an Estampie by the Renaissance Players in Sydney, Australia.


Silly costumes notwithstanding, this tune got stuck in my head, and gave me the idea of writing an Estampie of my own as the third movement of the Viola Concerto. I’m suddenly awash in ideas for it, and I think I’m going to be working on it for a while. Possibly I’ll even try to finish it first, before returning to the first movement.

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Long-overdue updates, and some news

Completed: Auspicious Light for 2 pianos and percussion is finished. Sort of. I mean, it is, but I expect that there will be a few edits and revisions before I’m really done. Expected premiere date is sometime this fall.

Current: I’m working on a new set of arrangements for Cameron Carpenter. This time it’s Irving Berlin songs, four of them to be exact. I’m nearly done with them, I expect to wrap things up this weekend. Cameron will give the first performance with the Carmel Symphony this coming April 14 at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

Next: I believe I’ve mentioned the Viola Concerto. I’ve had to keep it mainly on the back burner because of other projects, but with the Irving Berlin arrangements nearly out of the way, I won’t have any other pressing commitments, so I’ll be able (hopefully) to work on it exclusively for a while. I don’t know the premiere date yet, but it will be next season sometime.

Upcoming performances

  • March 10, The Carmel Symphony Orchestra will be doing a concert of Irish music with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, including several of my arrangements.
  • March 11, Scotty Stepp will be giving the first performance of my band arrangement of the Gurewich saxophone concerto with the DePauw University Concert Band, Craig Pare conducting.
  • March 30 will be the US premiere of my Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano, here in Terre Haute. The performers will be Kelly Rogers Niiyama, clarinet; Chad Roseland, bassoon; and the irreplaceable Martha Krasnican, piano.

And that’s about it for now.

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A possible reason why I never became a conductor

I was recently cleaning out my internet bookmarks, getting rid of links that were either dead, or that I hadn’t visited for a long time. One link went to a blog that I kind of liked, but it hadn’t been updated in six weeks or so, and I was tired of checking on it, so out it went.

Then it occured to me that I hadn’t updated my own blog in at least that long. By now, I’m probably losing thousands of readers a day! So I’m blogging again today. I actually have a number of things I could write about, so I’m planning to post several updates in the next few days.

But to get things started, I’m going to relate an amusing story I heard a couple of days ago. I’m playing with the Danville Symphony this week; among other things, we’re playing Saint-Saens’s Bacchanale, and during a break, the conductor told a funny story about the piece (which he swears is true!). This is my paraphrase of it since I don’t remember his exact words.

At a summer conducting institute, young student conductors gathered from all over the world to study their craft under the watchful eye of a famous European maestro, now well along in years.

At one session, a hapless young man struggled to lead the orchestra through Saint-Saens’s Bacchanale, a very spirited work, rising to an increasingly frenzied and delirious climax near the end. Unfortunately, the young man was not equal to the task, and the ending of the piece sounded flat and lifeless.

As the music ended, the maestro regarded the young student gravely for a time before he finally spoke.

“Young man, do you know what a Bacchanale is?”

“No, maestro.”

“It is an orgy.”


“Do you understand now what the ending is supposed to sound like?”

“Yes, maestro, I think I do.”

“Very good. Let us hear the ending again, if you please.”

The young student turned back to the orchestra and gamely tried to lead them through the ending again, but to no avail; the piece sounded no better than it did before.

The aged maestro shook his head and said, “Well, young man, all I can say is, I hope I am never in an orgy with you.”

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About the performance log

If you’ve visited this site in the past, you may have noticed that I had been keeping a list of all the performances I knew about, both of my compositions and arrangements. If you have, you may now be noticing that I’ve removed the list from the blog.

No good reason, I suppose. It’s just that I haven’t updated the list in almost two years, and I can’t really muster up much enthusiasm for doing so any more. Rather than keep up a flawed and incomplete listing, it just seemed to make more sense to remove it.

Instead, I’ll try to list performances as they occur, as blog entries. Seems to make more sense anyway.

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First post in far too long

I’m a little embarrassed that I’ve let the blog sit her for so long without being updated. I can only plead that I’ve had a bit too much to think about for a while. I want to try to get back on track here, so let me start by listing the various things I’ve been working on for the last two and a half months.

For the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic and Children’s Choir, I orchestated two Christmas songs. One of them, “Peace,” was written by the choir’s director, Ruth Dwyer. She seemed pleased with my effort, which was nice to know. These were performed in Columbus a couple of weeks ago.

More arrangements for children’s choir and orchestra, this time for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir and the Carmel Symphony Orchestra. This is for a concert of Irish music planned for March–I’m not sure of the date, but one assumes it will be near St. Patrick’s Day. I adapted a few of my earlier arrangments for tenor and orchestra, including an extended version of “Molly Malone” taken from the Irish Medley. I also orchestrated someone else’s song, and (this was difficult) wrote a 3-part arrangement of “Danny Boy,” written to be compatible with Percy Grainger’s string orchestra version of “Irish Tune from County Derry.”

All the while, I’ve been working on “Auspicious Light,” which is getting nearer to completion (and needs to be done soon, if it’s to be performed in February as scheduled).

This semester, I’ve also been involved in establishing Indiana State University’s first ever Electronic Music Studio. It’s a very exciting thing to be involved in, and I think is going to require it’s own post (with pictures) in the next few days.

But that will be later. Right now I have to sign off and get ready to go to a rehearsal for The Nutcracker, in which I’m playing tomorrow afternoon–after which I’ll be done with Christmas gigs.

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Terre Haute Symphony Performance

Last Saturday, the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra performed my “Overture to the Season.” It went very well, and I’ve been getting a lot of nice comments, which is always good. This was its third performance; here is a recording from the second performance by the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic (I think this was in 2006 or 2007, I’m not sure).

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More score videos

Two Whitman settings, including my award-winning “O You Whom I Often and Silently Come,” followed by “Sometimes With One I Love.”

My saxophone quartet, “Between Spring and Summer.”

That’s all I have for now. I hope to get some more ready eventually.

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A new project, as if I needed one more.

I refuse to become one of those bloggers who apologize for not posting more frequently. I haven’t posted in over a month. So sue me.

Here’s something new I’ve started. Over the past year or so I’ve noticed that a lot of composers are posting YouTube videos of their music with the score displayed. I’m enjoying this phenomenon, as I’ve always preferred having the score to look at when I hear a new piece, and this is introducing me to a lot of interesting new pieces. Look at this fearfully complex piece by Brian Fernyhough, for instance. Amazing!

Last year, I was helping to look for repertoire for Cramped Spaces Ensemble, and found J. Ricketson’s Blue Shift on YouTube, which led to the work getting performed here at ISU. I took from this that it might be a good idea to jump on this trend, and a few days ago I got started doing just that.

To get my feet wet, I slapped together a score/video of my Scherzino for piano. I took a recording from my CD “Spring and Fall” (Martha played it, of course), saved the score as a series of TIFF images in Finale, and put them together in Microsoft Movie Maker (whose main virtue is that it’s a free program). Here’s the result.

It wasn’t too difficult or time-consuming to do, but Movie Maker is kind of a clunky program to deal with. You get what you pay for, of course, so I went out and got Sony Vegas Platinum to continue the project. My first attempt was with my Prelude and Bacchanal for violin, horn, and piano. At first, I wasn’t happy with it because the music was just too difficult to read on screen. But then I figured out how to zoom in closer to the music with the crop/pan tool, and use keyframes to make the music scroll down. The result was much easier to read.

 And my most recent effort, with a slightly more elaborate use of keyframes; Spring and Fall.

More will follow soon.

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