July 1, 2019

On July 1, a new work of mine titled Random Acts for trumpet/flügelhorn and piano was premiered at the Aspen Music Festival in Harris Hall.  The performers were Kevin Cobb, trumpet and Derek Wang, piano.  Over the years with a plethora of performances under my belt, I have lived through the entire gamut of performance possibilities.  Since I knew Kevin Cobb very well, I was confident with half of the team.  Derek Wang was unknown to me and to Kevin, so when I received an email from Kevin a few days before the performance letting me know that Derek was very well prepared and highly accomplished, I immediately relaxed. Fast forward to Sunday, June 30 at one of the Aspen Music School’s rehearsal spaces.  Kevin and Derek were there along with several students who were curious to hear how hard this new piece was and experience first hand how professionals rehearse.  My responsibility was to catch any copying mistakes along with suggestions for interpretation.  As a composer, notation only gets you close to what you want so it’s up to the performers to close the gap.  It’s so much easier when the performers are as good as Kevin and Derek.  I mostly spent time finding just the right articulation with Derek since pianists’ interpretations can vary quite dramatically.  

We also had a dress rehearsal in Harris Hall noon the next day.  This was when the piece started to come alive because the acoustics were rich and warm and the performers responded by raising their level of playing several notches because of the detailed rehearsal the day before. The anticipation of performing Random Acts in front of a highly educated audience also added a bit of adrenalin.

My work was preceded by Contrasts by Bartok and “The Lark” String Quartet by Haydn.  Sitting in the fourth row so I could get on stage to take a bow before the applause died down, I felt closely connected to the performers.  From the moment the first aggressive entrance of the piano sounded, I lost all sense of time.  What I was listening for was not how well they were playing the piece but how well I had calculated the flow of the musical ideas.  This was the first time I had heard the work from beginning to end without stopping.  Music, just like any art form that uses time as an element, only works well if the creator calculates when and how long to present the hopefully engaging ideas.  We have all watched movies thinking “will this thing ever end.” 

I was pleased to realize that the end came at the right time and that I was always engaged. Judging by the response of the audience, they also felt the same way. After not tripping on the steps to the stage, I took my bows with the performers and went backstage.  With my heart pounding, I realized that the circle had closed: creation, giving and receiving.  This was as good as it gets and why I will keep doing this as long as I can.

June 26, 2019 First Blog

This is my first blog.  Here I am sixty-eight years old just now writing my first blog…. Why do people write blogs?  I suppose it’s because they think they have something to share that others may either learn from or at least be amused by.  Just look at the constant stream on Facebook.  So, what is it that I think others will find interesting about me?  I don’t have a clue but here it is nonetheless.

First, let me give you a thumbnail sketch of my life and where I am am now.  The great passion that has consumed most of my being for as long as I can remember is music. Piano lessons early on, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, saxophone later, composition, conducting, teaching.  All of these were tributaries to the ever constant flow of music.  I have played, conducted, taught and written it.  My wife is a violist.  My best friends are musicians.  So, guess what this blog will focus on.

Example 1.  I am going to fly out to the Aspen Music Festival on Saturday to attend the premiere of a new work of mine titled Random Acts for trumpet and piano.  It is a twenty minute, five movement work written for Kevin Cobb and nine other trumpet players who are part of a consortium that funded the piece and will play the work during the coming season at their chosen venues.  Having been a professional trumpet player, this piece has special meaning to me.  Whenever I write a piece, one of the many results that I desire of the music is that it become a staple of the literature.  I want my music to be played, to be shared with other musicians and the audience.  So, my hope come Monday is that a new piece of mine is favorably received by the general audience and the inevitable musicians (Aspen is both a music festival with concerts open to the public and school with musicians from all over the world).  

So, as these blogs progress, they will offer first hand experiences of a 21st Century composer of serious/classical/concert music (what do they call it these days?).  I will do my best to consider the reader and not just make this a self serving diary.  Until next time…