May 2010; updated update

As of this morning, I can claim that Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano is finished!

At least, a fairly close to final draft is finished. There’s still going to be some editing, and likely corrections, then layout and fine tuning before I’ll be releasing it to the larger universe. But at least the hard part is over (I can only hope!).

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May 2010 update

Hopefully, this will be the last update in which I say that the Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano is still in progress. As of today, the first and third movements are done, and the second movement is well under way (the beginning and ending are done, and I’m figuring out the middle section–I’m just all over the place with this). With any luck, the next time I post an update, it will be to say the piece is finished.

In the past few weeks, I’ve made a tentative start on a series of arrangements for string quartet. I haven’t yet decided if this is going to go anywhere, so for now I’m keeping the details to myself.

For the future, Mark Carlisle, a colleague of mine at ISU, has asked for a choral piece for his chamber choir, the Sycamore Singers. It will be Christmas themed, but beyond that, I haven’t had time to give it much thought.

I also have several unfinished projects that I’d like to get back to. I hope by next month’s update, I’ll be able to report that I’m at work on a few of them.

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April 2010 update

Here’s where I’m at right now…

I’ve gotten several pages of sketches for the second movement of Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano. As always, I’m not as far along as I’d like, for the simple reason that other things keep coming up. At least now I have a pretty clear idea of what the form of the movement is going to be. If I can only clear my desk for a few weeks, I should be able to finish it soon, but we all know how that goes.

One of the “things that keep coming up” was a new project that came up late last week. Sarah McKelvie, a colleague of mine in Columbus, plays viola in a jazz quartet, if you can believe that, and asked me for an arrangement. They have a gig this Sunday, for which they need a medley of “she Swanee River” and “Back Home Again In Indiana,” so she asked me for one. I finished it this morning and e-mailed it to her. It was short notice, so I had to put it at the top of the pile this week.

On my own, I’ve had the idea to do a series of arrangements for string quartet. Most of the ones I’ve done so far are pretty gig-worthy, consisting of operatic excerpts mainly, and also a Faure piece.

Ancillary to the quartet project, I’ve been working on a quartet arrangement of five movements from Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat. I’ve had the idea to do this for close to twenty years now, but waited until recently to do anything with it. Four movements are mostly done, but then I got hung up on the Three Dances, because I couldn’t decide how to transcribe the percussion part in the Tango. This totally stumped me for the longest time. I thought about doing knocks with knuckles on the body of the string instruments in lieu of drums, but that seemed cheesy. I think what stymied me was the unavoidable harmonic implications involved in taking an unpitched part and changing it to pitches. No matter what I did, I ran the risk of changing the harmonic structure of the original, and I didn’t want to do that. Then, just a few days ago, I remembered that Stravinsky himself had transcribed several movements for clarinet, violin, and piano, including the Tango. And luckily, the library had a copy, so at least I have a reference to something Stravinsky actually did when faced with the same issue. So as of yesterday, the Tango is under way.

The orchestration of the Gurewich Saxophone Concerto (referenced in my last post) is nearing completion. Good, lets get all these projects out the door!

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March 2010

Oops! Halfway through the month already and I only just realized that I forgot to write my monthly update.

The third movement of Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano is finished, and the second movement is underway. I’m hoping it will be finished soon–I’ve been working on this for far too long!

A new project, for my friend Scotty Stepp, saxophone professor at DePauw University, is an orchestral version of the Presto from Jascha Gurewich’s Saxophone Concerto, op. 102. Interesting story behind it; the concerto was written for saxophone and band in 1926, but the band materials seem to have vanished or something. A Google search reveals that several saxophonists are interested in performing it with band, but nobody seems to know where the band parts are. All we have is the piano reduction, published by Rubank. So Scotty has me doing an orchestral version of the third movement only, and if all goes well, we may work on the first two movements as well. We’ll see what happens with that.

Another friend of mine who is a massage therapist has been after me for a while to record some relaxation music, and I’ve taken a few stabs at it. Surprisingly, it’s turning out to be more difficult than I would have thought. I’m attracted to the idea of simplicity in writing, but the challenge is simplifying my style without letting it become simplistic.

Martha and I drove up to Carmel last night to hear Sylvia McNair with the Carmel Symphony, in a program that included eight of my arrangements. It was fun hearing them all, and of course she made them sound wonderful! Now, of course, I wonder if I’ll ever get to hear them again…

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February 2010

Still working on the Trio. I’m nearing the end of the third movement. Second movement is still to be written, but I’m planning on something simple that won’t take long.

I’ve also started on a major update to the Swan’s Wing Press site. As of today, there isn’t much there, but I’ll have to try to get it done ASAP.

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January 2010

The West Side Story arrangement is done and has been sent in, and with that all my arrangement projects are finally off the table! This, and the Sondheim arrangements, are due to be performed Feb. 6 in Columbus IN, and March 13 in Carmel. I’ll post more information later. I’m looking forward to hearing Sylvia McNair sing them!

As much as I enjoyed doing all those arrangements of the past few months, I’m glad to finally have them done and out the door. Now, hopefully I’ll have time to devote to composition. I’m anxious to get back to the clarinet trio and finish that as soon as I can. I also have several unfinished pieces that I’d like to try to finish. Most of them are pretty minor, but still it bugs me to have them sitting around.

Here’s hoping for a busy and productive year!

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Summing up 2009

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and that means it’s time to look back over the year. When I did this last year, I noted that I’d done a lot of arrangements, but not much composition. I had hoped to reverse that trend, and I did better this year, but not quite as well as I’d hoped.

So, looking back…

New compositions

  • Cloudscapes for flute choir
  • one movement of Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano
  • two settings of poems from Joyce’s Chamber Music (I Would In That Sweet Bosom Be and Who Goes Among the Greenwood) for male chorus and piano
  • various unfinished pieces

New arrangements

  • Two Gershwin songs for organ and orchestra, for Cameron Carpenter and the Carmel Symphony.
  • Three Sondheim songs and three songs from West Side Story (the last one still in progress, but nearly done) for soprano and orchestra, for Sylvia McNair and the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic (also the Carmel Symphony).
  • Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise for cello and orchestra, for Kurt Fowler and the Terre Haute Symphony.

Here’s hoping next year will be even better.

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December 2009

Trio for clarinet, bassoon, and piano. First movement is officially done, or at least is to the point where I’m tired of messing with it. It has been sent to TriofuS. Hopefully the premiere will take place in the Spring, but I have to finish the thing first!

Of the six arrangements I’m doing for Sylvia McNair, the three Sondheim songs are done. Next are three songs from West Side Story. I have to get them done soon for performances in February and March.

My transcription of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise for cello and string orchestra is done, and will be performed here in Terre Haute in March.

For several months I’ve had many commissioned projects to work on. As a result, many other things have ended up on the back burner. I’ve been thinking about my setting of Joyce’s Strings In The Earth And Air recently. It has been several months since I worked on it, and I’m anxious to get it finished. Actually it’s so close to being done right now that it shouldn’t take me very long to put the finishing touches on it. But I really have to get the rest of everything off the table and out the door first. Fortunately it looks like the end is in sight finally.

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Cloudscapes (flute choir)

Cloudscapes for flute choir (six flutes, alto flute, and bass flute) was commissioned by the Indiana State University Flute Ensemble, directed by Dr. Joyce Wilson; it was completed in mid-March, 2009, and received several performances in October and November.

I often find inspiration in nature, and the idea of doing a piece based on could formations has been in the back of my mind for a long time. In the case of Cloudscapes, inspiration was retroactive; it wasn’t until the first movement was well under way that I recognized an affinity between the music I was writing and cirrus clouds, both wispy and delicate. Once I realized this, it seemed that the affinity had been there all along, just waiting to be noticed.

Cloudscapes is in two movements, both titled after cloud formations. Cirrus clouds are quite common, seen all over the world. Nacreous clouds, however are rare. You aren’t likely to see one unless you travel to polar latitudes during winter. They form in the stratosphere, as haigh as 40 miles above the earth’s surface. In appearance, they resemble polished mother-of-pearl, hence the name. Because of their extremely hile altitude, they can reflect sunlight from below the horizon before dawn or after dusk, and appear to glow brightly in the dark sky. I’ve never seen one, but I imagine it must be an impressive sight.

In commissioning Cloudscapes, the ISU Flute Ensemble requested a piece that would be challenging for all performers, and would especially contain interesting parts for the alto and bass flutes. I was happy to oblige, and wrote a piece that attempted to treat all eight players as equal partners.

The ISU Flute Ensemble performed Cloudscapes several times during the Fall months of 2009. The performance presented here is from a performance on November 8, 2009, on the Senior Recital of Amy Chandler, who played the alto flute.

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November 2009 update

Arrangements of Sondheim’s Loving You and Everybody Says Don’t are done, and Love Is In The Air is underway.

My Gershwin arrangements for organ and orchestra, in collaboration with Cameron Carpenter (who’s playing the organ part) will be performed by the Carmel Symphony Orchestra on Saturday.

Also, did a quickie arrangement of Indiana Fight Songs (from Notre Dame, Purdue, and Indiana University) for an upcoming concert of the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic featuring sport-themed music.

Composition of the clarinet trio is back on track. A big chunk of the third movement is drafted. I wish it were further along, but it’s still proceeding.

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In Praise of Folly

In Praise of Folly was commissioned by a pair of students at Indiana State University; AJ Miller (euphonium) and Brian Loomis (bass trombone). They premiered it in April 2008 with Martha Krasnican on piano.

The title (like many of my titles) has little to do with the piece, but owes only to chance. Originally, I wanted to call it Euphoria, but found out that the title had already been used by Derek Bourgois. By merest chance, I happened across a reference to the satirical mock-oration In Praise of Folly by the Dutch scholar Dediderius Erasmus (1466-1536), and decided to borrow the title because I liked the sound of it.

The recording is from a concert performance by AJ Miller (euphonium), Brian Loomis (bass trombone), and Martha Krasnican (piano) at ISU’s Contemporary Music Festival in October 2008.

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More recent performances

Too long since I’ve updated this category. Let’s see…

My saxophone quartet Between Spring and Summer was performed six times in Thailand by the Nomine Saxophone Quartet, a student group here at ISU, in connection with the 16th World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok. It was a great experience for them, and my music was heard by a lot of people, which is good.

Cloudscapes for flute octet has been performed three times so far this fall by the ISU Flute Ensemble. They will also perform it at ISU’s Contemporary Music Festival next month. Also, Amy Chandler, who plays alto flute, will include it on her senior recital, which I think is on November 8. Five performances altogether. Not bad. I’ll post a recording as soon as I can.

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