Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nobody Listens to That Stuff Anymore

Nobody listens to that stuff anymore

We hear that classical music is dying. We hear it all the time. I've heard it ever since I entered music at the age of 11. I've also heard that you can't get a job, it's hard to make a living in music.

For something that's dying, classical music is still pretty strong. So who says it's dying? Well, people who judge things by numbers: 90 is more than five so 90 must be better. Of course 90 cheeseburgers compared to five Maseratis…

I'll get into this dying nonsense in another blog. Right now I want to address something more disturbing.

I've worked with colleagues in the educational system who have tried to dissuade students from enrolling in classes based on classical music by asserting that nobody listens to that stuff any more. Now, this is either self-serving in order to populate a different class, uninformed simply because they themselves are unaware of the classical music community in their town or city, or intellectually dishonest – a lie serve their own preferences. Whatever, it's reprehensible.

Not only do people still listen, over 40 million people attend at least one classical concert a year. Now granted, that's only 16% of the concert going public, but that 16% is steady through all age groups from 18 to 73. Imagine having that as a target audience to market to.

And every year 155,000 students graduate with degrees in music: not music education, not the music industry – professional and/or academic degrees in music. I suspect that number is actually a little low. The source I got that number from listed only one university in my state that gave degrees in music: there are at least seven. Now, I don't suggest that the number is off by a factor of seven, but it's off.

Okay so everyone doesn't find a full-time income from those degrees. But neither does everyone with a marketing degree, or a math degree, or an engineering degree. And sure music is hard profession, with many hardluck stories and many failures. The same could be said of entrepreneurs, but we keep encouraging them while we keep discouraging musicians.

So what did this educator at my school want the kids to study instead of classical? Pop and commercial styles. Good luck getting into a college auditioning with rap or Celine Dion. To be fair, there were courses offered that are reflected in college degrees: courses in jazz.

By the way, the only genre of music that has less listeners than classical is jazz at 7%.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Selections from Tides

This link will take you to Box where you will find 3 selections from Tides,each about 30 seconds long. There is one at the 4'03" minute mark, another at 10'58" and 17'39".
The work was recording on a single microphone suspended over the orchestra. No editing or mixing was done. It's a very raw capture.
The work was commissioned and performed by the University of Florida Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Raymond Chobaz conducting.
I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I received a call from ASCAP on January 8th to tell me I had received an Award of Special Distinction in this year's Rudolph Nissim Foundation Competition for Tides, a 20 minute setting of Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach, for contralto, antiphonal brass, organ and orchestra.
The Nissim Competition is held yearly, open to works requiring a conductor by writer members of ASCAP. This year there were over 250 entries, with one cash prize and 2 special awards.
Tides was commissioned by the University of Florida as the key work of their 50th President's Festival celebration. It was conducted by Dr. Raymond Chobaz, a very close and dear friend who has conducted a number of my works including Elegy (for Vladimir Ussachevsky) for viola solo and string orchestra, Symphony No. 4, Overture to the French Lieutenant's Woman, the Shape of Fire, and a number of chamber works.
I will be posting some samples from the work later this week.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Interview with the Artist

(Another re-issue, this one from the Bush era. With apologies to Terry Gross and Fresh Air.)

 So, tell me, Doctor; did you find that formal training interfered with your development?

Undoubtedly, Terry. The classes were too structured. And they didn't have anything to do with what I was trying to accomplish. I had to find my own voice, I had to do it my way."

So, did you read alot about the human body and surgical procedures?

Ha, ha, ha. No, Terry. I did no reading. I can't read. Reading is too structured, the ideas are dead. They can't express my feelings, they don't allow me to follow my vision, what I want to do with my surgeries.

So, then, how do you do a surgery?

Well, first I find an idea I want to express. Then I find a patient, one that we might call "sick," if you follow my meaning. Then I assemble a team to work the machines, you know surgery has gotten so technical these days. Me, I prefer to rely on the tried and true, the traditions of the people - hitting knees with hammers, squeezing a persons wrist while I look at my watch. These have always been enough for me.

Yeah, I've always wondered why they press down peoples tongues with those kinda popsicle sticks? Why do they do that?

I doubt if anyone really knows anymore, the technique is so shrouded in history. But I think it comes from long ago. In the middle ages they used to push the tongue down out of the way so they could see if any imps were living in there in what we call the throat tract. With most people now they do it out of a sense of ritual. But it's very useful to see whether anyone has cavities.

Wow, a holisitc approach.

Exactly. Most people think only dentists are interested in the oral hygiene of their patients. But even when I do brain surgery I find it connects me with the whole patient, it gives me an emotional understanding to serve as a basis for my work.

Exactly how is that?

Well, this is where who I am is different from who you are and where my work comes from.

Ok, so let's get back to doing a surgery.

Right. So we have a "sick" patient that I think I can work with.

I should tell everybody here because this is radio that you made those hooky things with your fingers when you said - I'm making hooky fingers here - "sick."

Yeah. So, surgery. First I try a couple of standard things, things that work in most situations. I take out the tonsils, maybe the appendix, do some exploratory surgery until I get a picture of what I want to do.

Supposing someone just want a rinoplasty.

I don't work on animals.

No, a nose job.

Oh. See that's an example of what I'm against. Why make it so mysterious? I mean we all have the same bodies. We all learn the parts of the bodies using common terms - throat bone, head bone, tongue bone. Why should I have to figure what part of the body is like a rhino. You see, the "educated" doctors equate the rhino's horn with the nose! As if that's all a rhino is. It's demeaning to the rhino. It's a stereotype. They don't understand the whole animal, it's hopes and dreams and favorite foods. It's absurd. But to answer your question, sure I still start with the tried and true. It's my signature style. It's what sets me apart from the hacks.

Are all your operations successful. I mean, do you always get results.

Sure everything results in a result. But that's why they say medicine is more art than science. You can't always know what will happen. Some things just don't work. But you have to follow your vision and see if you can get it right next time. But one way or the other, good or bad, you have to be true to who you are and use the materials, the sick guy in this case, to do what your inner sense... I mean, there are some operations I've done that I don't like. But you keep on plugging.

Well, I want to thank you for talking with us.

My pleasure, Terry.

That's what it sounds like to me to hear most pop, jazz, or world musicians talk about music. It's not that they are uneducated or rely on improvisation or the style of music. All musics of all cultures started without training or models, made up or improvised on the spot. It's more a hostile defensiveness, a willful ignorance that equates innocence with purity or authenticity. And then there is the curious narcissism of our age where we all demand to be recognized as artists of something, that all activity is a sign of creativity and that creativity is self-expression and that self-expression is the stuff and substance of art.

The problem with rejecting formal education is that you have to re-invent the wheel. The untrained musician spends years finding the chord progressions and teaching himself to play them. He could learn the progressions in a half hour. He could spend the next years learning to expand his control over them, building unique music. Instead he winds up claiming cliche as success.

Ok, so some cliches have become overworked because they're powerful, effective, and flexible. But others are simplistic, a stereotype, an excuse not to have to think.

From time to time a get a new guitar student who taught himself a few chords and now wants to learn a specific song. Most often it's "Stairway to Heaven", actually. Not a particularly difficult song but it requires a certain group of techniques, both right and left hand. I explain that I could take the next six months teaching them that one song, or we could spend six months studying the techniques we need by learning other songs, simpler and graded, so that in six months he can learn the song in an hour. And it always works.

By that time they usually see how simple pop styles are and learn them on their own, often after only one playing. After all, the studio musicians that back up most soloists get hired because they can read the music and get it right the first time.

As for reading music, those who knock it can't do it in the first place. It's like asking a five year old what's easier, talking or reading. The written word can be read with a great variety of expression, emphasis, and emotion. Reading music allows for even greater expressiveness than reading words. Look at the tortures of emotion opera can express. And imagine a symphony orchestra or even Tom Jones' backup band not being able to read.

Think of the great works that are written, works by Bach, Beethoven, Gesualdo, Berio.

I've got a library of books. How long would it take to memorize just one. And would you trust the work of a playwright who couldn't read, or the work of an airplane mechanic would couldn't read the manuals, or the work of a President who couldn't read his speeches?

Well, I guess there's an exception to everything.

For the California Guitar Trio

This is a "re-issue" from an earlier blog. I've updated it a bit but mostly it's true to form.
Many of you know I do most of the classical works the Trio performs. I've also done a few original works, Leap on CGT's Pathways and now Prelude, Hammer and Rude which is just coming into performance.
I met Paul Richards through an old friend and the former Salt Lake City jazz guitar guru, Don Ayers.*(*There's a Buddhist belief that there are seven secret masters alive at any given moment. If Don isn't one of the seven secret guitar masters he at least knows where some of them used to live. He's now appearing as Prometheus Bound by Carpal Tunnel Distress in a city by a bay. ) Years later after both Don and Paul had enrolled to study under Robert Fripp, Paul approached me to produce some works for them. I was surprised given that I'm totally involved in contemporary atonal and modernist styles of writing and the symphonic and chamber repertory. I was even more surprised when Paul said that was exactly what they wanted.

I couldn't imagine how the works would be received by their audience. Some great moments were a standing ovation - scratch that; the audience were on their feet halfway into Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor at a summer blues festival in Park City. Paul told me that on their first solo European tour of the same piece they heard someone in the audience chanting "Fuga, fuga!" while they were still backstage.

When I heard the trio play Beethoven's 5th here in Salt Lake, as soon as the first notes were played a giggle rustled through the audience. I thought "uh oh" I watched the audience realize it was no joke, they were going to hear a symphony. Soon they were beginning to listen. By the end they were so enthused and ready to jump to their feet and applaud before the piece was finished: they almost couldn't wait
This isn't about me or the Trio, it's about the music. It's about Beethoven and Bach. I always thought that more people would like classical music if they gave it a chance, and this proved it. Not that we didn't have anything to do with it. It's easy to butcher an arrangement when you're reducing an entire symphony orchestra down to three players. And, even when I get the lines in place it takes a great deal of skill just to play it, let alone bring it to life.

I also learned something else. The people at these concerts went there intending to listen and expecting they'd enjoy themselves. They were ready to be involved. I used to see people look like that at Utah Symphony Concerts when Maurice Abravanel was conducting. I've seen it in Europe but I seldom see it here anymore, mostly because orchestras are run like corporations these days. Keeping works like these alive, giving a new audience a chance to experience them, is a debt I owe.


If you've never heard this work live, then you don't really know the work. For some reason the producer decided to mix the piece with a dominant upper melodic line instead of equally balanced independent three-part counterpoint. But as it is it serves as a perfect example of the difference between harmonic thinking and contrapuntal writing.

When I first gave the piece to Paul I mentioned that I couldn't decide between the thick chords just before the return to the opening material of the piece played in a higher or lower octave. I preferred the lower octave but I thought it might be too muddy down that low. So I wrote it in the higher octave where it came in the piece and at the end I added two blank measures and then wrote it out in the lower octave. I told Paul they should decide which to use once they played through the two versions.

They didn't have a chance to work on it for quite a while and once they started, for some reason or other I didn't get to hear them play it before they put it on their program. The next time they came into town I got to hear it. They did a great job, but instead of choosing between the two versions they played through the piece with the upper octave as written and waited two measures at the end of the piece - I thought it was over - and then they played the low octave. And it worked better that way!

The Toccata and Fugue

My wife Lou and I still argue over whose idea it was to do this work for the Trio. I keep reminding her that if it was her idea we can't get royalties because sheĆ¢€™s not a member of ASCAP. One thing we do agree on is that we were just sitting down to watch one of our favorite movies, the original Rollerball with James Caan, when the Toccata comes booming out of the speakers.

Toccata means touch piece. It was first used in the Renaissance and gave the performer a chance to warm up on the job, going through scale patterns and chords. By time Bach uses this form, it not only gave you the chance to go through scales, but to play more specific parts of the piece to identify what to listen to in the following fugue.

Fugues themselves are described in terms of a great number of rules that if you think about it a little you'll see are practical solutions to combining a line with itself in this manner. Once you decide to write this kind of piece, a lot of it makes perfect sense. It's said that only the first one is hard. I think that's because the first time through you're figuring out the concepts behind the rules. From then on you work from the concepts. Most often the rules aren't written by composers but by theorists who try to explain what's going on. They are only human and should be forgiven.

There isn't a single form that is a fugue. They all differ from one another in some respect or another. But they all have a number of things in common; subject and answer and sometimes a counter subject, too; episodes based on some more or less recognizable fragment of the subject; a dominant prolongation and stretto, and a coda. Bach adds an extended cadenza that echoes the toccata between two dominant prolongations.

The Fifth Symphony

Besides being a powerfully evocative work, it is also one of the first to be organized throughout by a motive. Before this, motives were extracted from a melody. Here the motive is the melody.

And there's great evidence of St. Ludwig the Jokester, especially in the first movement. Okay, it's not a haha joke; it's a composer's joke on common harmonic wisdom. The opening - GGGEb_____FFFD_____ - should identify Eb as the tonic. We hear the tonic and its third which identifies home and whether we're in major or minor. We even hear the all-defining leading tone, the 7th note of the key. But somehow we don't hear Eb but C as home.

Harmonic theory suggests that it might be the absence of harmonic roots that leaves the fragment open to interpretation. Roots a fourth apart are the strongest in defining a key, from the first note of the key to the fourth or the fifth to the root. Oh yeah? Later Beethoven introduces the second theme with that exact series of relationships - Bb up a fourth to Eb and then F down to Bb. This is the classic I IV V chord progression that the harmonists assure us will identify a key, in this case Bb. Not here. Bb is not the root - Eb is.

There's another "joke." If you sing the melody you begin to see that beneath the familiar opening is a very powerful descending second, from Eb to D. This is the tonic and 7th of Eb but C is the real root. When he gives the series of fourths ending on Bb that we saw above, it seems that he is extending the downward step from notes within a melodic fragment to movements between keys - from C (minor) to Bb (major.) Bb may be the tone that most affects the passage, but it isn't the tonic, it's the fifth, extending the joke of what you see is not what you get. What a card. It isn't until the triumphant ending that these two factors - the motive and the supporting leaps of fourths - come together.

God Rest Ye

I chose to set this Aeolian tune with principles of Renaissance or "strict" counterpoint, the most important being imitation. Portions of the melody recur but often in disguise; in "inversion" or upside down, "retrograde" or backwards, or even "retrograde inversion" both backwards and upside down. All of these occur with some curves thrown in.

The opening begins on the second note of the melody and combines two sub-phrases of the melody played at the same time and then repeated in inversion. Leaving off the very first note, the "pickup", forces you to listen a little closer to find out just where in the melody we are. Even though it only takes a note or two before the melody comes into focus, by that time you"ve begun to hear these as individual lines rather than a melody and harmony.

You"ll notice that, although the first two phrases are accompanied simply by a descending line the effect of the two is very different because the first begins on a consonant and the next begins one step lower on a dissonance. In the next section the lines begin to combine in something like a fugal "stretto" before moving into a higher register where the three lines combine in a dissonant ensemble. Finally, the melody is heard over a very dark and poignant ensemble that is the melody of the tune played in "augmentation" - longer rhythmic values.

There is a disguised recurrent figure that organizes the work. The first two part statement of the melody ends on a fifth - D and A. The next begins on a second - C and D. This recurs at the end of the first three part phrase after "let nothing you dismay." Here it is a leap from D to Bb to A. We still have the D to A fifth, but now the second is above the fifth. In the following higher more dissonant statement I control the construction of the lines so that they combine in various combinations of fifths and seconds. And the very ending note of the arrangement imposes the Bb once again over the D A fifth.

Sugar Plum Fairy

As of this writing (5-4-02) you haven"t heard this yet, but you will. Tchaikovsky is generally thought to be a facile melodist but somewhat lacking in depth. This is a classic case of being so good at something that you make it look easy.

In one of his works, the famous piano concerto, he's still criticized for not sticking to the normal procedure of using two contrasting themes, that he uses over twenty, none of which ever return. Actually, every one of the more than twenty "themes" are transformations of the exact same small motive.

It's true that Tchaikovsky's melodies flounce just like the tutus on the ballerinas he wrote for, but don't think there aren't any brains behind that pretty face.

(The trio never did do this work. I eventually re-did it for the guitar ensemble I conduct at Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts. We did it last year and we're working it up again for this.)

Prelude Hammer and Rude

Those of you that like to figure out odd meters are going to love this one. Through much of the work there are seldom two measures in a row that are the same meter and even then they're almost all either odd meters or oddly "pulsed." One twelve measure stretch has the following meters - 5/8 3/8 2/4 3/8 5/8 2/8 3/4 2/4 7/8 7/8 7/16 3/8.

This is a fairly common procedure for me. I don't decide on meters beforehand. In fact, I write without meters or even bar lines. I just indicate notes as groups of two or three or more eights that belong to a "beat", obviously of flexible length, and then group them into meters on the basis of metric pulse - a succession of strong and weak with the first beat of the measure being the strongest. Take for instance 7/8. I might group that as 2+3+2 eighth notes, or 3+2+2 or any other grouping that adds up to 7/8. The above two groups have three beats in the measure, like a measure of 3/4 with an expanded second beat in the one and first beat in the other.

I had two goals with this work. First, I wanted to give the Trio a work that would make them look really good. Second, I wanted to scare the neighbors. I didn't realize what difficulties my metric organization would cause. It's pretty common for classical musicians to just read this type of writing on first sight. They've been working on it for over 100 years in situations a lot more complex than this one. In some cases they have a conductor to help. They just react to the groupings of the notes and don't notice anything about the meter except the bar line.

The Trio, like many musicians, keep time by tapping their feet. Most often, beats have two subdivisions, so your foot taps on every other one. This works even in odd meters. In every other measure you're tapping on the beat and in between you're tapping off the beat. It's a real trick and takes a lot of concentration. But here that doesn't work at all where one beat has two and the next three parts and the next measure may have something completely different. The solution was to learn to react to the beat and not the meter.

As far as scaring the neighbors: the Trio is only playing the prelude so far and it's a set-up. Just wait for the Hammer and Rude!

(After doing this for a short while the trio retired the work. I never heard it although Paul tells me a recording does exist somewhere. I reserve the right to re-use the title for another work at some future date.)

The Ninth Symphony

Considering that Beethoven is my personal spiritual master this was a difficult task. The movement is a 17 minute set of variations, a perfectly balanced structure, where each variation is a link in a chain of logical developments. I had to cut about 8 minutes without interfering with the structure, the development or the emotional impact. The problem was compounded by the expanded orchestra and chorus. Both the chorus and orchestra make their own specific, highly identifiable, and very different contributions to the overall sound.

The Moonlight Sonata

This is nothing like the textbook description of a sonata. It's almost as if the first movement were missing. You might almost think Beethoven was playing another joke this time with form, and you'd be right! Instead of contrasting themes and the mixture of the two in the development, all in a single movement, Beethoven gives each its own movement. The first two movements contrast on every level (The CGT hasn't recorded any of the second movement, only a fragment of the first and the entire last, so you have to trust me on this. Or better yet check the original.) Slow, fast; dark, lively; minor, major. And the last movement combines the two in one of the most dramatic movements of any of his 32 sonatas.

Catalogue of Compositions 1967-2012

(For those of you who asked, and even those who didn't, I've finally put together a list of my works. It's incomplete: many arrangements and transcriptions have been left off, there are no durations, no instrumentation, and a number of works written in recent years don't show up at all. Some works are only in ms, some ready for publication. I hope to add everything that's missing at some later date.)

Stanley A. Funicelli
List of Works

1967      4 Pieces for Guitar
              Calando, for Gtr.
              Sonata for Piano
              3 Pieces for Pno.
              Piece for 2 Flutes
              String Quartet No.1

1968      5 Pieces for Guitar
              The Exception and The Rule (incidental music)
1969      Burlesca for Chamber Orchestra
              various arrangements              

1970      Overture to “The Absolute at Large”
              Piece for Double Bass
              Two Songs for SSA
              5 Beatles Songs arr. SSA
              Fantasia for Piano
              Fantasia for Orchestra
              Fantasia for Flute
              Dickenson Cycle (voice and gtr)
              Buffalo Bill’s Defunct (e e cummings) SATB
              Scenes for Solo Cello

1971     Variations on Christ and St. Marie
              String Quartet in One Movement
              Suite for Guitar
              Mass (SATB)
              Various arrangements for Brass Quintet
              Sonata for Bassoon and Electronic Tape
              5 Sections for Solo Clarinet
1972      In My Craft (Dylan Thomas) vc and gtr
              Fantasia for Horn and Bassoon
              Piece for Chamber Orchestra
              Two part invention for horn and bassoon
              Two part invention for Bb Cl and Bsn
1973      Octet for Trombones
              Setting (No Necessary Justice: Sue Simmons) tenor, SATB
              Book for Winds
              2 Duets for Viola and Gtr
              Trio for cl, 2 vlas
              Rhythmic Canon
              Retrograde Rhythms in Canonic Form
              Cluster Duet (gtrs)
              Fantasia for Multi-perc and orchestra
1974      Theogony; 3 mvts for viola and ch. ens
              3 Pastorelles for fl and gtr
              Fanfare for Brass quintet
              Chapter One Suite, pno
              Amalgam for 11 soloists
              Ballet (Wounded Warrior)
              Dithyramb, fl, gtr
1975      Amalgams 2 and 3 for brass quintet
              Bassoon Concerto
              “I wake and feel the fall of dark, not day” (G. M. Hopkins) soprano and ch. ens
              The Heiligenstadt Testament for baritone and orch
              Chamber Piece for 6 Soloists
              Trilogy for ch. ens
              3 Pieces for Piano
              Trilogy for Symphonic Band
              Consort for wind ensemble

1976      2 Fantasies for recorders
              Technema, for tpt, cell, pno, perc
              Technema II for concert band
              Lyricalisms for Hn, Vc
              Fugue for String Quartet
              Fleur de fers, orch

1977      “3” for solo flute
              String Quartet
              Dances of Thought, lute
1978      for Orchestra
              Moto Perpetuo, pno
              Protoglossa for solo clar and ch. ens
              Piece for Galilei Consort
              Fragments, pno
              Imago Humanis I
              Imago Humanis II
              Imago Humanis III
              Variations for Brass Quintet
              Office of Fire, Office of Shadow, for large ensemble
              Endura, vc and pno
              Almagest, perc ens
              Noumenos, performance piece
1979      Amalgam III for 11 brass
              Dickenson Cycle (rev)
              3 Movements for Orch
              Cycles, for pno
              String Quartet
1980      Avian, ww quintet
              Raptus, ww quintet
              Lucina, string trio
              Interface, pno and ch. orch
              Scintillae, ch orch
              String Quartet
              2 Essays
              3 Rhapsodic Vignettes, orch
              Movement for String Quartet
              28 Studies
                            Violin               Solo
                            Flute Solo
                            Viola Solo
                            Clarinet Solo
                            Chamber Ensemble
                            Piano Solo
                            2 Hns
                            Orchestra (“Rhapsode”)
                            E Hn/Gtr
                            Three for 2 Vlns
                            Two for Orch
                            Two for String Trio
                            2 for Brass
              String Quartet (No. 6)
              3 Pcs for Solo Vln
              3 Pcs for Solo Fl
              3 Pcs for Solo Viola
              4 Pieces for Solo Clar
              3 Pieces for Cbs
              4 Pcs for Pno

1981      Metamorph, string quintet
              3 Mvts for Pno
              4 Miniatures for String Orch
              Mass for 4 Players
              Canticles for Band
              Introduction and Saraband for Orch
              Inscapes I for Orch
              Inscapes II, string quartet
              Inscapes III, string septet
              Cenotaph for 14 flutes
              Miniatures for String Quartet
              Overture for Orch
              Sleep, Silence Child (Wm. Drummond of Hawthornden), sop/gtr
1982      Music for Film (The Way Out, dir. Russ Johnson)
              Ferlinghetti Fragments, sop/pno
              2 Short Works for Orch
              Sym. No. 2 (Anodyne)
1983      Music for Film (Michael Burton)
              Music for Film (Steve Mayhew)
              From the Dark Lands, string quintet

1984      Tides, a setting of Mathew Arnold’s Dover Beach for sop, ant. brass, organ, orch
              Cenotaph for Orch
              Suite for 2 Guitars
              Trombone Trio
              Lux Tenebre, fl, 2vlns, hp, pno

1985      Suite for flute
              3 Studies for String Quartet
              7 Etudes for Piano
              Dances for Viola and Perc
              Mathesis, ww quartet and string orch
              Contrapuntal study for brass

1986      “con fuoco e sforza”, pno
              Etude for Solo Oboe
              16 Etudes for 2 Guitars
              Portraits, 2 gtrs
              2 Pieces for String Orch
              Sample, vc
              Etude, gtr

1987      Oscures, ch. ens
              String Quartet No. 9
              Pc for Pno
              Brass Quintet
              Ricercari for large ensemble

1988      Distance and the Sea (SATB)
              Stormsong, etude for gtr
              Distance and the Sea, solo guitar
              Reger Transcriptions for Brass Quintet
              Short Pieces for vln, pno
              Study for Guitar
              Study for String Orch
              Kontrapunkt 1, ch ens

1989      Variations for String Quartet
              Grand Variation for Solo Guitar
              Fantasia for vln, gtr
              Etude No. 2, gtr

1990      Elegy for String Quartet (No. 10)
              Study no. 2, gtr
              Symphonic Movement
              Intermezzo for Strings

1991      String Quartet ( Verbum Salutis) No. 11
              Hermetic Variations, orch
              Suite for String Ensemble
              Etude No. 3, gtr
              Etude 4, gtr
              Etude 5, gtr
              2 Chromatic Studies
              Simple Suite for solo gtr
              6 Studies for gtr
              Six and the Dragon, fl/vn/vc
1992      Symphony No. 4
              Leap, 3 gtrs
              Concertino on Sor, for gtr and stgs.
1993      Canzona, str. orch
              Trans, Reger Viola Suites for Gtr
              2 Sonatinas for gtr
              Chronicles for orch
              Toccata and Fugue in Dm, arr 3 gtrs

1994      String Quartet No. 12
              Grand Sonata, gtr
              Sonata No. 1 (the Merciless) for Unacc. Vln
              Larghetto, str. orch
              Sonata No. 2, vln
              Fugue, Vln Son 1, Bach for gtr
              Sonata No. 2, gtr
              Sonata No. 3, gtr
              Fantasia, orch
              Sonata No. 3, vln
              Sonata No. 4, vln
              Sonata No. 5, vln
              Symphony of 4 Guitars
              Guitar Quartet
              Passacaglia, gtr
              2 Studies for String Quartet
              Fantasia, solo gtr
              2 Studies for Orch
1996      Symphony No. 5
              Sonata No. 6, vln
              2 Studies for Guitar
              String Quartet No. 13
              Moonlight Sonata, mvt III, for 3 gtrs
              Fantasia for Guitar
              8 Studies for Guitar
              Sonata No. 4 for Guitar
              Adagio, pno
              Suite for Pno
              12 Studies for Guitar
              Fantasia, Adagio, and Fugue, gtr
              Symphony No. 6              
              Sonata for Unacc. Cbs
1997      Trans, Bach Cello Suites for Guitar
              William Tell Overture, trans for 3 gtrs
              Beethoven Sym No. 5, 1st Mvt, arr for 3 gtrs
              Parodos, solo guitar
              String Quartet No. 14
              Sonata No. 7, vln
              Suite for 10-string guitar
              4 Pieces for Piano
              2 Pieces for Guitar

1998      Prelude, gtr
              3 Studies for Strings
              Hut of the Baba Yaga, arr 3 gtrs
              Great Gate of Kiev, arr 3 gtrs
              Ricercare for Guitar
              Pavane for Guitar
              Sonata No. 1, pno
              Trio for snare drums
              2 Trios for guitar
              Ricercare, 3 gtrs

1999      Overture to The French Lieutenant’s Woman, orch
              13 Drum Solos
              The Shape of Fire, orch
              Konzertstucke, pno
              Sonata No. 1, cello
              15 Miniatures in the Form of a Sonata, clarinet quartet
              Sym. No. 9, mvt IV, Beethoven, for 3 gtrs
              QuartetNo. 15
              Hommage a Bruckner, Prelude and Sarabande for guitar
              Prelude for 3 Guitars
              Soundscapes 1-5

2000       Prelude, Hammer and Rude for 3 gtrs
              Duo Sonata, vln/gtr
              Principia, sonata for solo flute
              Essays for Orchestra
              Sonata No. 8, vln
              String Quartet No. 16 (“Munch”)
2001      String Quartet No. 17
              Study for Guitar
              13 Miniatures for Piano
              2 Pieces for Organ
              Gradus for Organ
              Varied Gentlemen, 3 gtrs
              Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, 3 gtrs
              Beethoven, op 135, mvt 2, trans for 3 gtr
              Piece for Guitar

2002      Prelude and 4 Movements for Guitar
              2 Fragments for String Quartet
              15 Episodes for flute
              For Orchestra
              5 Miniatures for Solo Violin
              Canon for 2 Violins
              Shiva Stomp, guitar duet

2003      Trinity for Solo Flute
              String Quartet (“99 seconds”)
              Sonatina for Solo Flute

2004      Adagio for flute and guitar
2005      Discourse for flute and guitar
2006      Meditation 1, organ
2007      5 Movements for String Trio
              Fragment for Solo Vln
              Piece for Solo Cello
              Contrapunctus 1 for guitar ens
              SPA Ensemble
              Nocturne for Guitar

2008      Many Hands, clapping ensemble
              5 Nocturns for Guitar

2009      String Quartet No. 18
              String Quartet No. 19
              Guitar Ensemble No. 1

2010      Prelude and Fugue, Organ
              Prelude and Fugue, orch for strings
2011      Sonata No. 2 for Piano
              Guitar Ensembles No. 2-4
              Discourses, Guitar Ensemble
              Scherzo from Beethoven’s 9th for guitar ensemble
              From Vivaldi’s Winter for 4 guitars
              Flower Duet from Lakme, trans for 2 sop and guitar ens

2012      Guitar Ensemble Nos. 5-6
              4 Divertissements for Guitar Ensemble
              A Counterpoint, gtr

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Modern Music, as in the rap against

I keep hearing that people don't like modern music with lots of  reasons why. You get this from performers, composers and songwriters, conductors, the listening public, from educators and amateur musicians and highly trained classical performers. In response, let me quote from a famous military reply: Nuts.

Okay, I admit it. I'm a composer, I write in the modern style and I'm passionate about atonal music. At the same time I have a great deal of very strong criticisms for modern music. And there's a lot to be critical of. But I am critical simply because I believe so strongly in the value and expressive power ot the atonal style.

This will undoubtedly be a recurring topic of this blog. It's a complicated but vitally important discussion to have. It bears on everything from history to education to performance techniques to aesthetics to economics to contemporary culture in all its flavors, in short on everything. And every aspect of present musical culture, training, the profession and "industry" are each affected. And these effects should be examined at both the macro and micro levels, as they bear on musicians in general and as exhibited by specific musicians.

I make no claims that this will be an ordered series of topics. It will more likely be a series of shortish essays on specifics, some very casual in tone while others may be more formal and complex. And personal experiences will have a part as well.

So to begin.

Something to consider: What if we were to assemble a copy of every composition written during the Classical era, everything in manuscript and printed, every work by every composer - good and bad, trained and untrained, amateur and professional, "popular" and "classical", sacred and secular- and then were to at random chose one score? What are the chances we would choose a Beethoven, or Haydn or Mozart? What chance that we would be so lucky as to choose one of their greatest works?

More likely we would have chosen a work by an undistinguished composer, maybe some poorly written popular song or a piece that was awkward to perform. Those works were, as they are now, produced in vastly greater quantities than the masterworks of a style.

If we were to judge the style itself on the basis of this random choice, or even a group of random choices we might come to the conclusion that the classical style is awkward, amateurish, unskilled, unlistenable.

Luckily, history has removed many of those choices for us. We have retained only those works that continue to bring value. And of those, many versions exist ranging from first sketches to numerous revisions of the complete work. Those are removed for us as well. We have the final version of Don Giovanni and the 9th Symphony. Often a work was revised after each subsequent performance. Subsequent performances are not as available as they once were. Today, a work must be in its most perfect form on first hearing.

The random choice of an unknown score is exactly the situation facing us today. History has not made that choice for us. When we are faced with a new work we have no way of knowing whether it will be a masterwork or a monumental bore.

Even reading through the work may be no help. Every performer has had the experience of not liking or understanding a work at first, but coming to love the work as it reveals itself. The same is true for listeners. A friend once read to me from a book of concert reviews, all by well known critics, journalists and composers. The book compared reviews of the premiere of a work with a review done years later, same work and same critic. They were diametically opposed. Works praised on premiere were panned later. Works dismissed, often with great hostility on first hearing were praised as masterpieces later. (I'll try to get the name of the book and post it later.)

Admittedly, this opens a lot of topics for speculation. Leaving those unsaid, the point is that our first impressions can be misleading. And a great deal hinges on the performer. My first hearing of the Shostakovich preludes and fugues convinced me they were mere mechanical, textbook exercises, uninpiring and uninspired. I was urged to listen to them played by a different performer and now they were magnificent works. I've had the experience of receiving two reviews of the same work, one performed in the mid-West and one in Europe. The US review called the work cold and intellectual. The European found it an emotionally thrilling work.

It's not purely technical facility. It's also understanding. This is perhaps more vital to the performer than the listener. I believe that a well written work will express itself to the audience clearly and directly, providing of course that the performer understands the work well enough to play what's on the page. But if the performer doesn't understand the grammar and language of the work he can do a great deal of damage. As an example, imagine trying to teach yourself to read Russian and then perform a monologue from Dostoevsky. What are the chances your phrasing and pronunciation would be accurate, that you would parse out the cultural references and subtext, understand those special uses of language and unique thoughts contained in the work?

There are many more topics to consider. For now, I'll end on bias.

I teach a class in Western music for beginning students at a performing arts high school (more on this another time.) When I ask if they like or listen to classical music they moslty say no. I can see most of the students not knowing how to listen or avoiding getting involved in listening to the first works. But then you can see some starting to hear the music rather than tuning it out. And when I play them some of the classical works they hear either directly quoted in film or borrowed by film composers - Bartok, Ligeti, Penderecki, Stravinsky - the game changes.

Yes, there is a great deal of disappointing modern music out there, perhaps most of it. But the same is true of all fields. And it has been true in all eras. The great works being created now will not live on if we turn our back on the new. We keep music alive by finding these new works. But someone has to play them to find them. It might as well be you.