"Better late than never" is how the saying goes. It certainly applies to me catching up with a musical education several decades after I should have signed up for music school or conservatory. The University of Southern Maine's School of Music and in particular my mentor, Prof. Daniel Sonenberg, are providing me with every opportunity to improve my skills. Without the dogmas, I'm happy to say, as I was told "Don't let the education stifle your natural instincts!" I have been part of the Composers Ensemble for five semesters now, and here are pieces I wrote for ensemble, smaller groups and soloists, recent ones first.
These are (mostly) digital renderings, using i.e. Vienna Symphonic Library sound samples.
The USM Composers Ensemble is an experimental platform where composition students and others, together a random group of instrumentalists, with only a few ground rules, compose pieces from scratch and perform these compositions in the school's Concert Hall at the end of the semester.
Fear Not, Precious Child! (The darkness will pass) - (4:38 - video: 5:27)
This composition exercise was created for the 2020 Spring Semester Composers Ensemble but not performed due to the devastating Coronavirus Outbreak which brought the entire educational system in Maine to a halt. Dark times indeed, how fitting. My intention was to write a traditional tonal piece, with a baroque undertone, based on an uplifting message from a mother to her child, when in 1642 they are confronted with horrible news from the battlefield. - We finally (remotely) managed to dub in the voices and some instruments, as you can hear in the video. We kept the subtitles in place as well.
One meaning of Deconstruction refers to a philosophy originated by Jacques Derrida. It seeks to understand the relationship between text and meaning, a philosophy of language so to speak. I attempted, in my own small way, to apply that idea to music, and mix that with the common meaning of the word as in “dissect”. This short piece tries to build up a transparent skeleton of discords by juxtapositioning instruments and their players to find out if in the end all parts will flow together and will acquire “meaning” again. (Deconstruction II is in the planning.)
Cubicles is my (mildly) satirical commentary on the rampant epidemic of computer-voices and robo-calls and may be I didn't express enough how annoying they are. I've never heard a computer-voice apologize for putting you on hold for extended periods of time, so I gave "Sorry" a cynical undertone. The voice was performed live at the Composers Ensemble concert, but in this digital version the voice is computer generated. Repetition through ostinatos sets the backdrop for endless waiting times.
I wrote this very subtle and short piece for a master class performed by the renowned Transient Canvas duo, with Amy Advocate on bass clarinet and Matt Sharrock on marimba. Here is the recording of their live performance on April 18, 2019 at USM's Corthell Concert Hall after only one reading and one run-through. They pretty much nailed it! Thank you guys! (The opening notes are produced by bowing the marimba keys.)
For comparison (if you like): here is my digital rendering of the piece.
Morning-Midday-Night, A Tryptich For Solos (10:07)
I. Morning (for English Horn): Five minutes of serenity - Daybreak - Clarion call - Wake up! - Pace picks up - Tired! Already? - Get up. You’re late! - Good morning?! - Arguing ritual - Coffee. Please!!
II. Midday (for Flugel Horn): Wake-up coffee - Happy commute - “Singing In The Rain” (quote) - “An American In Paris” (quote) - Siren / Traffic - Office work - 5 O’clock slump - Introspection of Life - Happy Hour turns sour.
III. Night (for Alto Sax): Relaxation - Reflection - He sa(i)d, she sa(i)d (Bar Talk) - One more? - Home now! - Really sleepy.
(A license is required for performance of any or all three pieces. Contact Damen Digital.)
Salieri's Fate (Sempre Secundo) (6:35)
In this ensemble piece I ask myself the question how Salieri, a composer depicted in the movie Amadeus, at the age of seventy, twice the age when Mozart died, would look back on his career. If he was doomed to stay forever in the musical genius’s shadow and be forgotten, or would be forever remembered because of it. While writing, I realized I wanted Salieri's voice to be heard and then I knew it became a kind of mini oratorio.
Back to basics to see what you can do with just a few chords and create a simple (instrumental) pop or rock song. I wrote this especially for class-mate Bryan Waring so he could go all "gently weeping" on the electric guitar. Only a few semi complicated rhythm changes make playing this song a bit more challenging. Have a listen.
Rhapsody For Lucy (5:35)
With this piece I intended to write somewhat in a jazzy style with funky rhythms and, given a small chorus of women voices, with a kind of feminist message of empowerment. Wondering who my Lucy was (the title was there first), I decided that she should be similar to the famous one with diamonds in the sky, and besides the Beatles, I used a few haikus for inspiration.
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