Music for Tone Stampede 4


Tone Stampede 4

I joined Arthur Levering and Marti Epstein for the fourth edition of their new music series “Tone Stampede,” performed on September 26, 2016 at Distler Hall, Tufts University. The concert featured Don Berman on piano; Sarah Brady, flute; Gabriela Diaz, violin; and Rane Moore, clarinet, as well as me, on piano. As composer my offerings were the two below:

Trio About Smoking, Op. 558 (2014-2016)                                                                                              Performed by Rane Moore, Gabriela Diaz, and Donald Berman

  1. Trying To Quit
  2. I Don’t Want To Work—I Want To Smoke (After Poulenc/Apollinaire)
  3. Trailing Off…

Two Parts, Five Participants, Op. 604 (2016)                                                                                        Performed by Sarah Brady, Rane Moore, Gabriela Diaz, Donald Berman, and John McDonald

  1. Some Fifty-Finger Phrases
  2. Best Feet Forward (Faire De Son Mieux)

Trio About Smoking

Smoking breaks can be common occurrences for busy freelance musicians and music professors alike. The members of the Zodiac Trio, for whom the piece was conceived, are no exception to this observable habit. When we have worked together, many of our best ideas came about in conversation during smoking breaks just outside concert hall lobbies. I intend this piece as both a paean to musician/smokers’ tension-relaxation possibilities and a health warning! Thankfully, tonight’s performers—Rane, Gabriela, and Donald—are all non-smokers! And so quicksilver they needed smoking-break discussions.

Cast in three brief movements, a repetitive, industrious opening piece imagines a valiant habit-breaking attempt to get the trio underway. The second piece refers to the Poulenc song Hôtel, set to an indolent poem by Guillaume Apollinaire in which the last line declares “I don’t want to work; I want to smoke.” The music alludes to Poulenc’s cloudy harmony, and is inspired by baritone Pierre Bernac’s recorded performance with Poulenc at the keyboard; it takes bits of the song as source material for a melancholy rumination. The concluding piece of the trio attempts to paint the image of a curl of smoke trailing off. Not without conflict, the work nevertheless aims for a light touch.

Two Parts, Five Participants was composed specifically for tonight’s distinctive stampede. Its two movements are small appreciations made for this group of wonderful players and colleagues. I made the piano part a four-hand endeavor so I could join them!

Initially conceived as the entire piece, Some Fifty-Finger Phrases now works as the first of two parts. Since its conceit was to make music in which every phrase requires fifty fingers to complete (a total of fifty fingers is available for use by the total ensemble of five people), it got tiring to go on too long developing new phrase strategies with this unusual limit. It was fun while it lasted, and hopefully provocative for the listener. A second part, Best Feet Forward (Faire De Son Mieux) was first composed as a piano solo for presentation at the Tufts European Center in Talloires, France where I was a Scholar-in-Residence this past summer. With this re-composition of the piece for five musicians, I sought to provide a good companion to the fifty-finger enterprise, yielding a flow of music that shows the ensemble’s elegance and flexibility. I dedicate the work to our transcendent musicians Sarah, Rane, Gabriela, and Donald.

Aphorisms for Composers – September 2016

A few words about “model composition.”

September 11, 2016

Music copying by hand = Zen (just add time pressure).

September 9, 2016

One of the highest compliments I have received was from my first important mentor, William T. Appling (1932-2008). He once said that, upon looking over some music I’d sent him about fifteen years after finishing my studies with him, the short pieces I’d written for students and friends showed just as much care and resolve as larger works composed for professional ensembles. To achieve such a consistency and honesty of utterance is a primary creative aspiration as I move forward.

September 2, 2016

Over time, could a “larger style” veer in cycles toward and away from, back away from and back toward, the abstract?

Aphorisms for Composers – August 2016

August 31, 2016

“…Speech is preferable to writing [attr. Socrates]; writing by hand is second best: informal and quirky, sometimes messy, but straight from one heart and mind to another’s.”

August 25, 2016

Try to do things you can live with and live by. I.e., contribute as you can.

Aphorisms for Composers – April 2016

April 29, 2016

There are many career levels for composers, all equally desperate.

April 19, 2016

Composers hack themselves.

April 16, 2016

Give out energy freely; the fact that one can’t expect it given back in equal measure doesn’t mean hold out. Offer what you have.

April 5, 2016

Would you, as a composer, feel comfortable with a free use statement like this?

Via  Craig Murray, political writer (April 3, 2016):  I would remind you that much of my [this blog] music is produced free “for the public good,” and you are welcome to [republish this] perform these works or any other material freely anywhere without requesting [further ]permission. Write to me if you would like the sheet music.

April 4, 2016

Can composers expect to adequately express intangibles?

Aphorisms for Composers – March 2016

March 30, 2016

Do what it takes for your music to walk out of your head and into performance saying what it means.

Do we see/hear what is there, or only what we are? Is skewed perception OK if we believe what we write and manage to convince listeners?

March 25, 2016

It’s not so much work in the day-in, day-out sense; it’s involvement, engagement [can be applied to copying scores/parts by hand; performing one’s own work and others’; you name it].

March 8, 2016

Enduring low points and what’s-the-points in “working for the idea” [see Aphorisms in January, 2016] is to be expected.