Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An old student of mine recently emailed me, asking if I had a recording of the Wind Quintet that was performed by the Solstice Woodwind Quintet back in 2005 at the WSU New Music Festival. I had actually forgotten all about this piece. There was quite a bit of drama going on when I wrote it...one of the people in the Solstice Woodwind Quintet was trying to get me thrown out of the department because a student had told her that I had been critical of European classical music (see the first post, below), and after asking me to write them a piece it appeared that they now weren't going to play it. Once the department had actually decided to eliminate my position, however, the Quintet deigned to play my piece once in performance and the last time in my recording studio. As you might imagine, I was not terribly inspired to work on anything for these people, and I ended up taking the sketches I had created for three movements before all of this unfolded and put them together in one piece. Actually, it seemed to work quite nicely, its somewhat fragmentary state being for me deeply expressive of the context of its composition and performance. Click here to hear the piece.

A problem for me with "Art Music," or whatever you want to call this peculiar withering branch on the old tree of European classical music, is that composers in this tradition are left with spending hours and hours creating a piece of music that generally will be played badly once. I was lucky this time that the Solstice Woodwind Quintet at WSU actually did work this up and gave its best performance right here in my studio.

My wife remembered this piece and reminded me that the original idea for the piece was that it was a kind of soundtrack for a "Three Mile Idaho," a ritual walk we take east of here. I have written about this ritual on my friend Ashley Cooper's very cool blog (she has a bunch of really cool blogs), "Rituals for Healthy Living," the link is below (scroll down to January 2009), if you would like to read that...You will notice the same photo as above, taken by Thomas Arthur, looking east from our back porch.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

I am going to begin posting music that I'm working on, or things from my past that may not be accessible otherwise...

Click here to hear my arrangement of Beethoven's "Sonatine in C for mandolin and piano." Richard Kriehn is the extraordinary mandolin player, and I'm playing the piano part on guitar, tuned in "DADGAD." I have been producing a CD for Richard here this winter, and this is the only track I'm playing on. You've got to hear this guy play his transcription of the "Fuga" from Bach's Gm violin suite, but for that you'll have buy his CD, or maybe he'll post it eventually on his MySpace music page.

I have flirted with playing classical European music like this off and on for years. My first album had this exact piece, except that I played the mandolin part on the banjo. I love the music, and it is so fun and challenging to work these things out, but I realize that this isn't my language, exactly. It is as though I have learned to pronounce the music, ABBA-like, through my peculiar voice. Richard, though, can really do this stuff as a classical player, but he also has a wonderful way with the language of American music. It is thrilling to work with him, honestly.