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Composing, Chugging Along

April 17, 2014

“Life seems to interrupt important stuff with even more important stuff.” That’s just my way of paraphrasing John Lennon (“Life is what happens while you’re making plans”), but you get the idea.  Still, I’m managing to get composing and arranging done, even if it’s not as quickly and/or efficiently as I would like.

Cinematic Escapades: That’s the title of a new work for string orchestra with percussion (timpani/bells, snare drum/suspended cymbal) that was commissioned by the Linn-Mar HS Orchestra. Three movements played without pause. I’m looking forward to meeting the students and guest conducting the orchestra next month (May). I like to think the piece is fun, something reflected in the subtitles: 1. Adventure on the High Sea; 2. Extraterrestrial Experience; and 3. The Runaway Train Incident.

* Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pigeon: If a piece of music could itself experience emotions this song cycle for soprano, string quartet, and piano would feel very put upon, having been neglected (due to tinnitus and life issues, and then to finish Cinematic Escapades) and restarted several times (depending on the movement). BUT… I’m back on track. I’m well into the ninth song (of 13 of course) and hope to finish it by the beginning of June or earlier. Then I have to edit it, generate and edit the parts, and give it all to the very patient soprano who commissioned it in the first place.

* Odds and ends:

  • Christmas music for (solo) harp: I’m probably one of the few composers, other than harpist/composers, who actually likes to write for the instrument. In moments when i can’t concentrate on anything heavy but want to do something musical I write another arrangement of  Christmas tunes for harp. As to why, well, because there aren’t (m)any very musical collections of that music for harp alone, because spring is a great time to write something for Christmas if you want to have it ready in time for performance and/or publication and, last but not least, it sort of “primes the pump” of musical ideas that spill over into my more serious efforts. Arranging is to me, after all, composing with someone else’s ideas.
  • Preparing some of my existing works for publication: Finally got Concerto Grosso for string orchestra and Variations on a Neapolitan Theme for concert band ready for publication. The former is something I wrote back in the mid-1980s and has had a surprising number of performances at every level from youth orchestra (the level for which it was written) all the way up to and including professional orchestras (notably the Ploiesti Symphony in Romania). The Variations is a more recent work (2011) that had neat beginnings in being commissioned and premiered by the US Naval Forces Europe Band and first performed at the Naples Conservatory in Italy. Since then the US Navy Band Northeast, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Concert Band, and the Ridgewood (NJ) Concert Band have performed it to good response, so I’m hopeful.
  • Once I finish the Pigeon cycle, onto the next commissions: (1) Cello and piano work for Delta Omicron Foundation, and (2) a setting for baritone singer and concert band for the Kaplan Commissioning Project at St. Mary’s University (Winona, MN).


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