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My piece objects for marimba, piano and electronic organ is going to be premiered at the Sequenza 21 concert on November 20th. The performers will be Hugh Sung (electronic organ), Daniel Beliavsky (piano) and Bill Solomon (marimba). I encountered Hugh through MySpace, and it turns out we both live and work in the Philadelphia area, Hugh being a fantastic pianist at the Curtis Institute of Music and a fellow technologist. We’ve done a podcast together at his studio at Curtis, and I’m delighted he’s participating in this event. Daniel teaches at NYU and is also a composer, while Bill is an expert marimbist in the Hartford, CT area.
At the time that I was writing objects, I was teaching a college course in computer science; the work’s title comes from a programming construct in which blocks of computer code are organized into reusable units called objects. This is similar to how most of the piece is made up of repetitive, reusable groups of notes and rhythms, and is a feature of most of my music since the early 80’s.
I wrote objects pretty much over a weekend in 1999, although it took me two months to finalize everything. I was playing with three rhythmic fragments on my synthesizer, all in 7/16 time but with the three possible beat structures (3+2+2 vs 2+3+2 vs 2+2+3). Initially I had the keyboard play the patterns back at superhuman speeds, which was pretty interesting, but it was even more interesting when the tempo was slowed down. The entire work resulted largely from these three fragments, and only in two measures does the meter change from 7/16, namely 11/16. I wrote objects for my daughter, Arielle, who was almost four at the time.
objects is a piece that I have always thought of as my most “fun” piece. It’s very accessible, and unlike some of my other music that tends to run an hour or even more than two hours in duration (cantorials, textbook, for philip glass), objects lasts only around 11 minutes.
objects will be the finale of the concert in November, so please don’t leave early (if for no other reason than there will be a really nice party after the concert!). If you need some further convincing about sitting through until the end of the concert, click here…
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Over the next few weeks you’re going to be hearing a lot from the composers on the upcoming Sequenza21 concert. We’re all pretty chatty around here, and these posts are going to be one of our little publicity stunts. Here’s a sample of the sort of thing you might be seeing.
Piece: Pause Button Excerpt
Composer: David Salvage
Performer: Thomas Meglioranza
Poet: Kevin Davies
About two years ago I was looking for a text for a song-cycle for baritone and piano. Having set Christina Rossetti and Rupert Brooke, I felt obliged to find a contemporary poet. I found much poetry that I liked and even began some settings of Yosef Komunyakaa. But nothing felt right. Then a friend of mine mentioned a poet whom I had never heard of: Kevin Davies. I rummaged around online (Davies being too obscure for most bookstores) and came upon his volume “Pause Button.” After reading about two pages, I knew that, even though I didn’t know what he was talking about, there was music here.
After much deliberation, and gaining permission from Kevin (a new music fan, by the way), I decided on a passage from the book’s second half and began to write. Early sketches resembled Berg, with a thick, chromatic piano part and the voice assuming an integral – rather than dominant – role. But as I pressed forward, the feeling that I was just writing dumb notes began to bother me. So I started paring down the piano part until, one day, after having listened to György Kurtág’s “Hölderlin Gesänge,” I decided to chuck the piano part altogether and a write a solo.
Two years later “Pause Button Excerpt” is seeing the light of day. And what a day it’s seeing. Last winter, completely out of the blue, baritone Thomas Meglioranza e-mailed me having read about the piece on my Sequenza21 Wiki page. He was looking for solo baritone music and wanted a copy. Tom won last year’s Naumburg competition and is not only a stupendously gifted singer, but a real Mensch as well. Go to his website, and you’ll learn that the best way for anyone to chalk up frequent flyer miles is to attend his performances. (There are lots of them, and they’re all over the place.)
It’s a thrill to dwell here on the musical side of this concert. Being the point man on this thing mostly means figuring out how to get the marimba in the building and making sure we have access to all the electronic equipment the (other) composers require. Preparations, in all honesty, are going shockingly well. Just gotta keep certain committee members from killing each other. But folks, this is going to be awesome.
P.S. But can our concert possibly be as awesome as this apple pie?
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Just wanted to offer an early thanks to those who recently helped us reach our fund-raising goal of $2000.
We’re going to keep the PayPal link open just in case any of you out there still feel generous. The money may not go to this concert, but (believe it or not) there’s already been a little whispering about the next Sequenza21 concert, and it would be nice to have a little piggy bank to draw from. And who knows? Maybe some unbelievably horrible disaster might occur between now and concert time that would require us to hunker down and cough up a little cash. Of course we hope not: but, as today certainly proved, rainy days do happen! (Just referring to the weather now, don’t worry.)
So thanks once again, and we’ll see you at the concert!
Tonight’s joint performance at the Used Book Café by Hilary Hahn and Chris Thile was an essay in the satisfactions of virtuosity. Any concert-goer who can no longer thrill to the sound of lightning-fast fingers should go his or her way and leave the rest of us to our fun. For sure technique is not all. And for sure the steps to acquiring a technique that can thrill are becoming more brutal and inhuman to mount by the year. And, also for sure, much that is essential to extraordinary music making is often lost on the climb. Some may even grumble that Hahn and Thile fly only so high as they do because they travel light.
But tonight, sitting through solo and duet renditions of Bach, Tartini, Bob Dylan, Fiona Apple, and others, one happily forgot the old complaints about virtuosity and sat back contentedly in the rush of arpeggios, trills, tremolos, and scales. One smiled at the clear joy Hahn and Thile took in collaborating with a fellow musical athlete of the first caliber, someone who could play along tight no matter how blazing the tempos dared. This isn’t to say the country whiz kid winging his way through the classics and the conservatory prodigy tentatively testing the waters of folk music always made for an effortless couple: Thile’s Bach got pretty runny, and Hahn’s bluegrass was a little green. But the super-abundance of talent on display more than made up for the moments of musical awkwardness. Hahn and Thile charmed and dazzled through the evening, and we all cheered. Both artists have new CDs out, and let’s hope they both sell lots and lots of them.
P.S. On a more somber note, Tower Records is officially breathing its last. I’m not up for a eulogy tonight (lectures yet to prep); but the “Going Out of Business” signs in the windows of the grand store by Lincoln Center are making me feel a little bummed.
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Ian Moss is hungry.
(Scroll down the page and look to the right. You’ll see.)
Ian Moss is hungry . . . for a Sequenza21 concert!!!!
This is good news for you. You know why?
A Sequenza21 concert needn’t cost that much money. In fact, as little as $25 would be very much appreciated.
But, hey: you pay more, you get more.
By the end of this week, the concert committee will have decided on an incentives package for those of you who find it in your heart to donate $100 or more. Whichever shape the package takes, one thing is for sure: it’s going to be one sexy animal. Trust me.
You can find out more about the concert by clicking Ian’s picture.
You can donate to the concert via the PayPal link right below Ian’s picture. Donating to the Sequenza21 concert is much simpler, I can assure you, than dealing with the guilt you’ll feel for not donating.
Now go please feed Ian Moss.
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