Saturday, June 15, 2019


I was commissioned by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition to write a piece for their brand new Grossman Ensemble, and on its first concert. The instrumentation is flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, horn, two percussion, piano, harp, and string quartet — with all the customary doublings included. When I saw (bass) clarinet and (baritone) saxophone on the list, I resolved that it was finally time to write an in memoriam piece for Lee Hyla, who was one of my best friends — as that's the instrumentation of We Speak Etruscan, one of the coolest pieces ever written by anyone. The piece puts things that resemble Lee's licks together with things like my licks, and this is how it turned out — the story of the first movement is Lee-like licks encroaching into my licks, become more complete each time, and taking over the climax. The ending of the movement is a root position D major triad, in reference to Lee's Violin Concerto. What a fantastic performance, and, wow, multiple cameras. The conductor is Ben Bolter.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Préludes Book IX

Préludes Book IX was begun in April, 2019. Titles in this book are names of flora in my yard.

Ailanthus (#81) takes off from uneven repeated notes played contrapuntally and against/with falling figures. Here is the MIDI crapfest.

Hydrangea (#82) is based on a figure from an academic memo -- members of a committee I am on were listed as Appointed or Elected, and there was a column that read AEAAEAE. I was challenged by the Provost, Lisa Lynch, to write a piece on those notes. So I did. Arabesques are followed by broken octaves are followed by parallel fifths, while that pitch sequence evaporates, comes back little by little, and are briefly the basis of an ostinato. Here is that crapfest midi.

Virginia Creeper (#83) is based on repeated notes ornamented with grace notes in the middle register with chords and some vigorous low register stuff around it. The persistent repeated note thing made Beff say it was about a vine, and so I found out what that five-leaf thing that so dominates the foresty sections of our yard is called: Virginia Creeper.

While we were looking for the name of the Virginia Creeper by googling "invasive vines northeast," one of the hits was the Mile-a-minute vine (or Mile-a-minute weed), with triangular leaves, which we have some of in a small garden. Thus was Mile-a-minute Vine (#84) born. Obviously it's fast, and gets progressively more tangled (one of them made 27 turns around a short mint plant). It starts high and progresses downward, and lo, broken octaves under arpeggations. Here is the crapfest midi.

Beff suggested that one prélude in Book 9 be called Rhubarb (#85), and so that's what I called this one. It's got a fast rising figure in double octaves counteracted by swing eighths figures, and over the course of the piece they become a little more like each other. Crappy midi follows.

Rhododendron (#86)consists of a stream of eighth notes arpeggiating chords, with an indication to be flexible and expressive. It moves slowly and requires intelligent pedaling, so I haven't put the MIDI here.

Oriental Bittersweet (#87) is the vine that grows everywhere, climbs up trees, infests bushes, etc., and I have done a lot of unraveling it and removing it, especially from bushes. One thing it does a lot is grow beyond the edge of the plant it is in, with sprouts simply reaching into the air. The piece tries to capture some of that, particularly the part where the vine make spirals around the branches. This is the crap MIDI, and the tempo is very fast.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Music for multiple pianos

I have exactly one piece for multiple pianos, and it's for two pianos eight hands. Eighters Gonna Eight was started in February, 2017, backburnered, returned to in July, 2018, and finished in August, 2018. It's a project originated by Sarah Bob to play with Marilyn Nonken, Donald Berman, and Geoffrey Burleson. It was finished a day before this post, so what I have is crappy MIDI.

There are four movements, taking 21 minutes to play. The MIDI of three of the movements is embedded below.

The first movement is slow to develop, and is originally about hocketed E's passed between the pianos, and the upbeat figures that slowly develop to become the main material.

The second movement is about fast swing eighths and is jazzy.


The third movement is a slow movement, and slow piano music in MIDI sounds about as bad as anything in MIDI sounds, so I haven't included it here.

The fourth movement begins with dorky middle register stabby stuff that resonates on the low strings of the piano, which the secondo players depress silently -- the resonances are not in the MIDI. The stabby stuff eventually acquires a low bass partner that becomes a bass line somewhere between walking bass and funk; at times there are stabby parallel fifths in the bass as well, in tribute to John Mackey. The hocked unisons return as a third element, and at the ending, the resonances return. Bye.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Symphony #7

My seventh symphony is 31 minutes long, and consists of four tone poems: Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. I wrote in in May to December of 2017. Here is the New England Philharmonic's premiere of it in April, 2019, Richard Pittman conducting. Water depicts flowing water and the reflection of sunlight on water; Air is airy, and has a heterophonic trumpet fanfare in it; Earth develops stark crescendo gestures and overlapping falling lines; Fire is about a fire catching and then smoldering.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Violin Concerto No. 2

Violin Concerto 2 is from 2015-16 and was written for Danielle Maddon, the concertmistress of the New England Philharmonic, which commissioned the piece. In the first movement, both the soloist and all the string sections play only pizzicato, and apparently this is the first time that was done in a string instrument concerto (I could be wrong). The second movement is a chewy slow movement, and the third is a fast scherzo in compound time.

This is the premiere performance from April 29, 2017 with Dani and the orchestra at Tsai Performance Center in Boston, conducted by Richard Pittman. The concerto is published and © by CF Peters.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Préludes Book 8

The eighth book of piano préludes was begun in May, 2017. It is in progress. Each title is the name of a spice.

#71 Paprika is a prélude on a syncopated falling figure, and was written for Talia Amar.

#72 Mustard is a prélude on broken octaves in both hands, sometimes with extra notes, culminating in competing strands of parallel fifths at the end. Here is the crapfest MIDI.

#73 White Pepper takes off on the texture of the B-flat major prélude in WTC 1. Here's the rather wooden MIDI.

#74 Asafetida is about triplet upbeat figures to repeated notes that are approximately at the tempo of my walks around the lakes at Yaddo. Helen O'Leary suggested the title.

#75 Cayenne develops an uneven repeated note figure in octaves that uses swing eighths. Sometimes it feels jazzy, sometimes not.

#76 Jalapeño is about uneven rising lines that eventually incorporate and combine with repeated notes.

#77 Salt is only B-flats. It can be played a half step higher or lower, or a major second higher. In the last case, the name becomes Sea Salt.

#78 Coarse Ground Black Pepper develops a falling figure and uneven repeated notes. Here is the crappola MIDI.

#79 Black Garlic is about flourishes that spawn chords via finger-pedaling. No crap midi offered here, since the finger pedaling doesn't happen in it.

#80 Oregano is the slow one of the book that I can play. L.H. plays dyads in quarter notes, R.H plays dyads in dotted quarters, and eventually a minor thirdy melody emerges on top. The MIDI sounds awful as it always does in slow piano pieces.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Préludes Book 7

The seventh book of piano préludes was begun in October, 2016 and finished in January, 2017. In this book, every title is the name of a color.

Maroon (#61) is about repeated notes exploding into chords. Here is the crapfest MIDI.


Ivory (#62) is about scales and arpeggios just goin' up and down.

Azure (#63) is layered on top of an ostinato offbeat repeated note. Here is the crapfest MIDI.


Sepia (#64) is a study on a rising funk lick. Here is the crapfest MIDI.


Periwinkle (#65) is about upbeat rising arpeggio figures decorating a tune in slow notes.

Slate (#66) is a study on two-note warbling figures that diminish in volume. Here is the crapfest MIDI, which does not do the diminishing thing very well.

Cerulean (#67) is about another generic R&B lick and the sixteenth notes that swallow it whole. Here is the glitchy Finale MIDI.

Canary (#68) is a fractured madcap waltz that sounds suspiciously Second Viennese. Here is Maria Paola Parrini's premiere of it in Cleveland.

Here is the crapfest MIDI.

Emerald (#69) is the obligatory prélude-Davy-can-play, and is a slow one (duh) based on a left-hand ostinato.

Bronze (#70), being numbered a multiple of 14, is music ripped from the first movement of my second piano concerto. With practice, I could probably play this one, too.