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Lithuanian saxophonist ArvÄ«ds Kazlausks will join the Sinfonietta Riga String Quartet (Aleksejs Bahirs – Violin I; Agnese Kanniņa-Liepiņa – Violin II; Liene Kļava – Viola; and Kārlis Klotiņš – Cello) at 6pm on September 15th at Talsu Tautas Nams (The National House of Talsi) for a concert that will include my for the straight way was lost (in a version for alto saxophone and viola) as well as works by Mozart, Wolfgang Bottenberg and ArvÄ«ds Malcis.

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Joanna Sleight and Rufus Frowde will include my The Sciences Sing A Lullaby, one from the set of songs called Shifting Coastlines at the Chequer Mead Community Arts Centre in London at 1:30 on August 12.
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hughsung6791.jpgNoted pianist and Curtis faculty member Hugh Sung will perform my Vernacular Dances, along with Mussorgsky’s enormously challenging original version of Pictures at an Exhibition and Chopin’s G Major Ballade in his Visual Recital format at Philadelphia’s Woodmere Art Museum (9601 Germantown Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 30. Tickets are $10. Call 215-247-4076 for more information.

Hugh and I initially ‘met’ on the internet, but serendipitously had the chance to finally meet in person when I was back in New York this past May. Not only is Hugh a champion of new music and wonderful interpreter, he is also a technophile and prolific blogger. Do visit his website to learn more about Hugh, his Visual Recital concept, and his experience with incorporating and embracing technology.

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GastesiBezerraDuo The Piano Duo Gastesi-Bezerra will give the Paris premiere of my suite of pieces for piano four-hands From the Faraway Nearby, inspired by paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe at the American Cathedral in Paris on July 10.

Part of the concert series Les Arts Georges V, the concert program will also feature standard French works by Debussy and Poulenc and the French premieres of American works by Justin Rubin, Terry Winter Owens, and Marlene Woodward Cooper.

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westchesterphil2.jpgMy Concerto for Chamber Orchestra will be given its World Premiere performance by the Westchester Chamber Orchestra, Barry Charles Hoffman, founder and Artistic Director, on Saturday, May 3 at 8 PM. The Premiere will be given at Christopher J. Murphy Auditorium in the Murphy Science Building, corner of Summit and North Avenues, on the campus of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.

The concert will also include the “Composers of the Future” showcase of children’s compositions from WCO’s collaboration with New Rochelle’s Songcatchers after-school program. In addition, the Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, op. 21. This concert series is sponsored in part by the Iona College Council on the Arts through the generosity of JoAnn and Joseph M. Murphy and the Baron Lambert Fund.

Tickets for the May 3 concert are $35 for general admission, $30 for seniors (65+) and $15 for students. For more information or tickets, call (914) 654-4WCO (4926), or e-mail info@westchesterchamberorchestra.org

The Westchester Chamber Orchestra is a fully professional orchestra, quickly becoming known in and outside of Westchester County for its first rate and inspiring performances, world class soloists, innovative programming and its World Premieres of meaningful new works it has commissioned. Now beginning its seventh season at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, the WCO was founded in 1984 by its Artistic Director, Barry Charles Hoffman. For many years the WCO gave its concerts at various sites throughout Westchester County and in 1994 began its association with Iona College.

Composer Charles Griffin and Conductor Barry Hoffman Discuss the New Concerto for Chamber Orchestra:

Barry HoffmanWhat makes this a Concerto for Orchestra?

Charles Griffin – When you first approached me about the piece, it was your suggestion that I write a Concerto for Chamber Orchestra. Because the request was not for a solo concerto (traditional association with the term “Concerto” is a Romantic one, evoking soloistic virtuosity and the kind of potential for drama that arises from pitting the soloist against the full orchestra), I was forced to consider other, arguably atypical models. I say arguably, because composers’ conception of the Concerto as a form has in fact gradually evolved over the centuries to allow for something much looser in the 21st Century anyway. Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra of 1943, for example, treats the Orchestra itself as the virtuoso instrument, with each section of instruments featured in a soloistic or virtuosic way. The Concerto as a form originates in the Baroque Era, and at that time, composers more often than not conceived of drama in the Concerto not so much by pitting a soloist against the rest of the orchestra, but rather by contrasting smaller groups of instruments against each other.

In the end, I decided on a blend of Baroque and 20th/21st Century conceptions. There are passages that are virtuosic for the orchestra as an instrument a la Bartok, but I also tried to treat orchestral color as a component of this, striving to create a wide variety of colors over the course of the piece. Every individual wind and brass player, and also the timpanist each gets at least one solo at some point. Individual string players are also given solos, and the various sections of strings have prominent solos or duos. One more note on the solos and the question of virtuosity: I think it’s important to point out that musical virtuosity is expressed by performers not exclusively by the ability to master extraordinarily difficult passages, but rather to bring their full musicality to bear on any passage, whether it’s simple or not.

B.H.Why did you choose the baroque dance suite form?

C.G. – I was on a Bach kick last year. I was listening, reading about and playing through lots of Bach. For me, as with many composers, Bach is a life-long mentor and sustainer, one of the ones to go back to for subconscious composition lessons from time to time. I started every day for about 6 months by playing through some Chorales. During this period I became interested in Bach’s Suites, and the idea of artistic and intellectual commerce flowing throughout Europe at that time. The Baroque Dance Suite by the time of Bach became a semi-standardized multi-movement work whose non-variable core included the Allemand (a stately German dance in 4/4 time), the Courante (a lively French or Italian dance in 3/4), the Sarabande (a slow Spanish dance in 3/4), and the Gigue (a lively English dance in 6/8). There are many variable additions to the Suite, including Overtures, Minuets, Gavottes, etc. While in the traditional suite, all the pieces are related by key, they are not related thematically.

Since one of my major composerly preoccupations is with non-Western and folk musics, it struck me that the international nature of the Baroque Suite might make an interesting vehicle for the creation of a suite of pieces that explore elements of world and folk musics.

B.H.In your program notes, you talk about composing the piece, “with a contemporary eye toward the meaning of internationalism today.” Do you feel you accomplished this? If so, how?

C.G. – The original plan was to write a five movement suite, beginning with an Overture. As I was writing, I realized that the piece was getting long. After I’d completed four movements of the planned five, I realized I’d already had approximately 26 minutes of music. You stopped me (for now) from writing a fifth movement, which will eventually be located in the spot between the current 2nd and 3rd movments.

Movement I – Trance Overture. After a muscular opening featuring a big role for the timpani and aggressive writing for the brass and strings, it quickly moves to a hypnotic expansion of the opening ideas that employs (in the winds and strings) some of the rhythmic interlocking characteristic of Indonesian and Balinese music for Gamelan. Download a perusal copy of Movement I here.

Movement II – Pavane. The Pavane, along with the Tombeau, is a French relative of the Allemande, which was typically the first proper movement of the Suite. An Allemande is typically in 2/4 or 4/4, unsyncopated, and builds from smaller fragments into a larger work. Here, I took a 13th Century anonymous Hymn tune called Novus Miles Sequitur, most likely of British origin and similarly build the piece from smaller fragments or phrases. This is the most traditional sounding movement in the piece, with a harmonic and color palate that is a blending of English and French classical styles. Download a perusal copy of Movement II here.

Movement III – Not yet written, but this is where the Courante would occur in the Baroque Dance Suite. I will eventually write something here based on Eastern European traditions.

Movement IV – Tierra de luz, Cielo de Tierra. This is where the Sarabande, a dance of Spanish origin, would occur in the Suite. I based this movement on the Siguiriya, one of the Flamenco dance forms. A ritornello based on flamenco guitar styles occurs three times in the movement, contrasted by solo sections and flights toward non-flamenco tonalities, though the Andalusian scale dominates the piece at various transpositions. Download a perusal copy of Movement IV (identified as Mvt III in the score) here.

Movement V – Weaving Olden Dances. This is where the Gigue would occur in the Suite. This movement is a blend of Irish traditional music and its American stepchild in Appalachia. Download a perusal copy of Movement V (identified as Mvt IV in the score) here.

Do I feel I accomplished this? Well, it’s an experiment. The Overture movement cannot stand on its own, but the others all can, I believe, which was a secondary or possibly tertiary goal for me. I’ll let others judge how they hang together in sequence. That being said, and to be quite honest, the piece won’t be fully complete for me until that remaining movement is written and placed together with the others. I think the missing movement will help to deepen the sense of stylistic contrast that already exists from movement to movement.

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foto1.jpgThe Long Island Composers Alliance hosts a performance by the Italian flutist Andrea Ceccomori and Bulgarian pianist Elitza Harbova on Tuesday, September 25 at 7:00 PM at the Hewlett-Woodmere Library (1125 Broadway in Hewlett – Tel: 516-374-1667).

After Andrea gave the Italian premiere of my Fragmentary Rondo at the Goethe Institute in Rome, I connected him to the Long Island Composers Alliance, and this concert is the result of that collaboration. In addition to performing my solo work on this concert, other works for solo flute or flute with piano accompaniment will be included by LICA composers Jay Anthony Gach, Julie Mandel, Dana Richardson, Herbert Rothgarber and Margaret Collins Stoop.

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Spiral Frog
In late August, Universal Music Group (the world’s largest music company and parent of dozens of labels such as Geffen Records, Motown and Universal Music Classics) announced its agreement to offer free legal downloads of music from its entire, vast catalogue through a new online service called Spiral Frog.

Industry consultant Celia Hirschman said in a radio interview that the major labels each negotiated with New York based Spiral Frog to get a $2 million upfront payment. It’s unclear how much, if any, of that pre-launch money will go to the artists themselves.

The company will generate revenue and pay royalties to artists and record companies through advertising. Perry Ellis, Levi’s, Aeropostale, and Benetton may be among the companies to place advertisements there.

What will be the nature of this advertising? According to Reuter’s, consumers will be subjected to a 90 second audio advertisement for every track downloaded. That’s 15 minutes of advertising for a 10-track album. (Imagine downloading Schubert’s song cycles Winterreisse or Die schöne Müllerin, where each track would be roughly 2 minutes!) Spiral Frog describes it thusly: “The company’s research revealed that consumers are more than willing to ”˜pay’ for their content by watching non-intrusive, contextually-relevant, targeted advertising in an online entertainment environment where advertising is already part of the overall experience.” Brace yourself, while corporate America tries to sell you it’s wretched things.

Rumors are rampant among bloggers regarding what happens after that, because of the unknown nature of the particular Digital Rights Management technology that will be embedded into all the tracks. They haven’t disclosed it yet. According to Spiral Frog’s press release, “Digital rights management technology is built-in to all audio and video content as part of measures the company and its partners are actively taking to address piracy.” DRM is, to put it lightly, a controversial subject. See what wikipedia says about it. In the end, though, piracy is not a technical problem, it’s a social one.

Some suggest that the track will be erased anywhere from one month to six months after the download, with various scenarios involving whether or not the consumer logs back in to the website within a certain period, and views more advertising to retain the tracks’ viability. Others suggest there will be links to third party sites of the record labels’ choosing if you’d like to buy your freedom to at least skip the ads.

Spiral Frog states that its intention is to combat piracy by offering a legal alternative to piracy, which, according to International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) outpaces legal downloads by an estimated 40 tracks for every 1. Incompatible with the ubiquitous iPod MP3 player, the in-between-the-lines intention is to take down the 500-pound gorilla, iTunes, which has maintained its 80% share of legally downloaded music for so long it’s the envy and target for everyone from Bill Gates (Zune) to MTV (Urge). I would not be the first to suggest that iTunes’ success is due in no small part to its being DRM-free.

The SpiralFrog website is still dormant, though due to go live in the U.S. and Canada in December 2006 (just in time to shake things up for Christmas-Hanu-kwanza spendphase?) and in the U.K. in January 2007. The IFPI has predicted that 180 million MP3 players will be sold worldwide this year, many of them incompatible with Apple’s services.

If you want to see some alternative business models to iTunes that are also DRM-free, see:

Magnatune
Amie Street
Tamago

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