Well, I’ve been gone far too long and it’s time for some general housekeeping. First, the primary reason of my (otherwise inexcusable) website-neglect: I just finished my written comprehensive exams for the doctorate. After a total of 9 hours of frantic and awkwardly-left-handed scribbling of every last thing I know about music history and theory, I now emerge, badly shaken, a bit delirious, but breathing. When I lean my head to one side I can still feel little musical-historical tidbits drip out (…”L’Orfeo 1607 Figaro 1786 Tristan 1859 Octet 1923 Sinfonia 1968 Nixon in Ch..” – that kind of thing). I still need to keep some of that in my head, since orals are on Monday. But in general it’s so refreshing to be back at composing, practicing, looking forward to the next plans and projects, etc. Despite the stresses and the total time-suck of studying for the several months before the exams, it was actually invigorating, at times, making new discoveries or re-discovering something (a composer, genre, era, whatever) that I had previously neglected. Some examples: Monteverdi – his later continuo madrigals, especially the ones built on ostinati (I also realized a strange thing – I had never, not in any of my graduate or undergraduate classes, once studied Monteverdi. He seems to get the short shrift in Baroque-era classes, and truncated off the end of Renaissance courses. One of those ‘transitional’ composers who, because of our need to parse history, gets the concluding chapter in a Renaissance book and the introductory chapter in a Baroque book, though the reality is, I suspect, all music is transitional (wasn’t there a composer who said that about a piece of music itself?…a work constantly in transition? I digress.)) A few other “finds”: Frescobaldi/Froberger keyboard music (I’m taking breaks from writing this to read through some of Fro’s suites). Mozart’s disgustingly inexhaustible and effortless melodic impulse (okay, I was already pretty much aware of this, but between re-visiting his concertos, sonatas, and symphonies and developing a new-found appreciation for his operas, the ‘disgusting’ aspect of it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.) Also, this aria. And also, the eight or so years leading up to WWI, around 1907-1914. Thinking of this era, I always thought of Stravinsky’s ballets, Schoenberg’s Pierrot, etc. But also this: Webern, Berg, Bartok, Scriabin, Ives, Busoni, the Futurists, Debussy, Prokofiev, Strauss, Ravel, and others were all hitting their stride and making some of their most important contributions at this time. Put another way: Strauss’s Elektra, Scriabin’s Prometheus, Schoenberg’s Pierrot, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, and Stravinsky’s The Rite came out in consecutive years, 1909-13. And that’s just to mention a small sample.
And so comps are (mostly) done. Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of joining my former piano teacher, Peter Gach, in a concert of solo and four-hand music at the Encinitas Public Library in Southern California. Peter performed one of my solo pieces, a few pieces by composer William Bradbury, and I joined him in the premiere of the full set of four Beach Scenes for piano four hands. The photos strewn about this post are from this concert – as you can see, we had a beautiful view of the Pacific, basically just up the road from a few of the beaches “featured” in my piece. I’m currently finishing up another solo piece for Peter, to be performed throughout California in January. I wouldn’t be surprised if some traces of Frescobaldi wind up in there. I’ve also got a pending commission for a violinist out in Oregon for a violin/piano piece based on Oregon scenery, anything from the greyish-blue hues of urban Portland to the lakes and rivers of the Cascades, or perhaps the rocky, windy coast. Whatever I decide, it’ll be a good way to mentally transport myself back to Oregon while stuck in Houston traffic (didn’t Debussy write La Mer (1905!) in Paris?).
Besides those projects, I have my dissertation to think about as well as various recitals, jazz gigs, lessons to teach, and generally just more days of music to enjoy. I’ll try to keep posting here more often, especially with any new musical discoveries I might stumble upon. Oh! Almost forgot: I also made a SoundCloud page, which can be found here. I haven’t really decided whether to rely primarily on that or my own “music” page here, or whether I might just link the two together. But I’ll likely keep the SoundCloud updated with more recent recordings as they become available.