Archive for January, 2014

“…the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”

– C.S. Lewis

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nitpicky hat

I’ve got my nitpicky hat on.  My students have to have their orchestra scores done for the Winston-Salem Symphony by Tuesday, so we are deep into proofing phase.

When my nitpicky hat is on, it’s best if I don’t offer an opinion on anything but spellings and formatting, so this is a good time to point you to the opinion of someone else, namely Toronto composer and critic Colin Eatock, who had some very nice things to say about me in a piece he posted in the waning hours of 2013, called New Music I Like.

Mr. Eatock is kind enough to say my music is “never lazy,” and I only wish that could be true.  The truth is that the lazy bits stick to the roof of my mouth like peanut butter, only to be dispersed with a severe tongue-lashing.  On the other hand, when he says “The kind of hyper-seriousness that attached itself to many modernist works is conspicuously absent,” I can only breathe a sigh of relief.   Serious, yes.  Hyper?  Please, no.

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The CanAm Piano Duo is in town for a concert this Tuesday night.  They’ll be playing John Corigliano’s Kaleidoscope, but the real attraction for me will be the premiere of Dak Van Vranken’s Lights on the Water.  Dak is a sophomore here, studying with Kenneth Frazelle.

In other news, I’ve completed Rapid Eye and mailed it off to the Carpe Diem String Quartet.  Since it’s the sixth and final work in a cycle I’ve been working on since 1998, I have even more heavily mixed emotions than I usually have when finishing a major work.  Maybe I will be able to address those feelings in a meaningful way in some later post, but I’m not making any promises.  It may be best, after all, to stick to making music.

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Classes are resuming this week around the country in institutions that reactionaries and radicals have found common ground over, labeling them elitist and out of touch with the real world.  Yes, I’m referring to the so-called academic strongholds, portrayed as well-armed fortresses by those who would like to see them overthrown, while those of us who are temporary occupants can experience them more like delicate membranes of inclusiveness, ready to be blown away by the slightest ill-timed gust.

We start up today, here at the UNC School of the Arts, helping curious minds to think with depth and precision about dance, design, drama, filmmaking and music.  This is our real world — far more real, from our perspective, than many others.  It’s no paradise, and it certainly doesn’t resemble an ivory tower, it’s just where we gather to share ideas about the things we love.

While I prepare to join the imaginative journeys of my wonderful students, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give two cheers for Low and Lower for bringing my music to two esteemed learning locales this week.  On Tuesday night, they’ll be playing at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and on Friday they will take their act to the Cleveland Institute of Music.  If you see them there, give them a Poke for me.

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Happy Late New Year, with a quick flip through the last 12 months, purely for the sake of nostalgia.  Can’t think of a better reason.

Some words about music, instead of words.


Being mean.



Swept away.


True colors.



Time traps.


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