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Concert Music

Orchestral Suite #2 – Mythical Beasts

By | Children's Music, Concert Music | No Comments

Since I had optimistically titled my first orchestral suite “Orchestral Suite #1”, I felt I had a certain obligation to follow up with an “Orchestral Suite #2”. Plus the writing experience was so enjoyable that I wanted to try my hand at it again.

For this next suite, I decided to take inspiration from various mythical, magical creatures. I sought advice from my son and together we compiled a list of interesting creatures about which I will be writing movements. These beasts include the Phoenix, the Hydra, the Griffin, the Banshee, and the Sirens, among others.

It’s a mythical twist on Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, and like Saint-Saens, I am also writing my suite to appeal to children. This is in line of my long interest in writing music for and by children.

I love the Orchestral Suite format. It allows me to practice writing lots of good short melodies (and melody is something that is a constant obsession of mine, in direct opposition to most classical new music which vehemently eschews melody).

It also allows me to experiment with various orchestral colours, trying them on briefly, like a fashion show. And I find that part really fun.

Here are the movements of my Orchestral Suite #2 that I’ve written so far:

Centaur (from Orchestral Suite #2 – Mythical Beasts)

September 23, 2017

Pixies (from Orchestral Suite #2 – Mythical Beasts)

September 23, 2017

Sonatas

By | Concert Music | No Comments

Recently I’ve tried my hand at writing sonatas: multi-movement works for solo instrument with piano.

It’s a bit intimidating to write sonatas, since they are very “Serious Music” – basically the solo instrumental equivalent of a symphony. Still, I’m determined not to get too hoity-toity. As with everything I write, I want the music in my sonatas to be beautiful, and enjoyable to listen to, and a pleasure to perform. I am constantly reminding myself to write like Handel, who was able to write beautiful, serious music, without letting it get stuffy or academic or esoteric.

I’ve approached a few Niagara-area musicians and asked them if I could write them a sonata. My most enthusiastic response so far has been from Gordon Cleland, principal cellist for the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, who responded very positively and has since programmed my Cello Sonata #1 in a recital in October. He’ll play it along with a Bach and a Beethoven sonata (it’s a little terrifying to have my work programmed with Bach and Beethoven!!) so I’m obviously very excited about hearing a musician of his caliber performing my work.

Here are the sonatas that I have written so far:

Dandelions: Chamber Opera

By | Concert Music, Vocal Music | No Comments

More vocal music!

I wrote a short (20 minute) chamber opera based on a short story by the American turn-of-the-century writer O. Henry (you know, the guy who wrote the Christmas story about the husband who sells his watch to buy combs and the wife who sells her hair to buy a watch chain).

It was a great experience making a foray into writing opera music. I guess it counts as my second opera effort if you include the opera for children that I wrote while I was an undergrad (‘Hans in Luck’).

I decided to have real musicians record a scene, just to have a better preview than my usual computer-generated fare, so I found a soprano, a tenor, and a pianist on Fiverr (Caroline Joy, Jonathan Matthews, and Jongsun Lee). All three of them were remarkably professional and a real pleasure to work with! It was really interesting having them each record their parts separately.

I submitted my opera to a Chamber Opera Company in Hartford, Connecticut (Hartfort Opera Theater) who have an annual contest for new chamber operas. We’ll see what happens!

In the mean time, here is the scene I had recorded.

Vespers

By | Concert Music | No Comments

I’m working on a new large multi-movement choral work loosely using the Vespers framework. I initially envisioned the work as a companion piece to Fauré’s Requiem, which has a running time of 20 minutes, or so (so it is paired with other works when it is performed to make a full concert length).

Musical ‘Vespers’, like those by Monteverdi, Mozart, and Vivaldi, usually are made up of the psalms and hymns in the Vespers liturgy (a church service that takes place at sunset), and, like the Mass or the Reqiuem, would be entirely in Latin. Those songs traditionally include the Magnificat, Mary’s annunciation song.

My ‘Vespers’ will be a mix of sacred and secular. While it will include some bits of the traditional Latin psalms and hymns (including the Magnificat), it will also include songs in English, centered around the theme of night—some of the emotions and thoughts that nighttime can bring. I want to write a piece that is beautiful to listen to, like Fauré’s Requiem.

I am referencing or reworking other great classical works into many of the pieces. For instance, in one of the more direct references, I’ve done a reworking of Purcell’s ‘An Evening Hymn’ for choir and bassoon obbligato. Other references are more obscured—in the background at one point I quote Dvořák’s famous aria ‘Hymn to the Moon’ in the piece about loving the moon (‘Selenophilia’).

In traditional Vespers, each hymn or psalm ends with the Gloria Patri (‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…’), so I am using variations on the same thematic material for each Gloria Patri. I am also going to write a full-length Gloria Patri where I fully explore that thematic material, maybe as the last time the Gloria Patri is sung, like a final reveal of where all the other Gloria Patri musical material came from.

As I finish pieces I will post them on my portfolio – although I will probably keep tweaking them. These are the ones I have so far:

I love the night (from Vespers)

February 7, 2017

Deus in adiutorium (from Vespers)

January 27, 2017

Sanctus (from Vespers)

January 24, 2017

Nyctohylophilia (from Vespers)

January 23, 2017

Selenophilia (from Vespers)

January 22, 2017

Evening Hymn (from Vespers)

January 20, 2017

Speed Composing for Orchestra

By | Concert Music, Random Thoughts | No Comments

So I had this great idea that started as a dream.

What if, at the start of a concert, a composer were to get up in front of the crowd and take suggestions: a time signature; a tempo marking; a minor or major key; some featured instruments; maybe even a scene or situation to describe. Then the concert would begin with whatever works were programmed. Intermission. Second half. Then, finally at the very end, the composer bounds up to the stage with newly printed score and parts: a brand new piece has been written specifically for the audience while they have been enjoying the concert.

The orchestra premieres the piece by sight-reading the music, maybe playing it through a second time (if they feel so inclined).

Of course, I immediately wondered if I could actually pull it off. Could I write an orchestral piece in 2 hours? I gave it a try the next day.

The first piece I speed-composed didn’t make it to completion. Two hours go by awfully fast.

But I wrote six more pieces in the next six days, and each of those was pretty okay, I think. Here are the best ones out of the pieces I’ve speed-composed so far:

Horn Trio

November 26, 2017

Aground – Orchestra

January 8, 2017

Two Birds – Orchestra

December 23, 2016

Rain on the Promenade – Orchestra

December 22, 2016

His Final Dogfight – Orchestra

December 21, 2016

Hiking to the Top – Orchestra

December 20, 2016

…but I cannot feel love — a Robot’s lament – Orchestra

December 19, 2016

Now the wish is one day to do it in real life, with a real orchestra!