The Heroine premier

On Saturday, November 14, 2015, the Composers Collective held our first orchestral performance. Led by maestro David Štech, the Composers Collective Orchestra played through sixteen world premieres by members from the group at Flushing Town Hall in Queens, NY.

From the program notes:

The Heroine: Chapter 12 – After being away for many days, our heroine returns home to a warm welcome. Chapter 17 – It seems inevitable that the encroaching evil will… Chapter 23 – A new sword, a new companion, life is good on the road! Chapter 24 – It is all around: war, evil war! Chapter 29 – …if nothing else, her burned flesh will heal and leave marks by way of hardened skin, ready to tackle the next challenge without fear.

I attempted to create a cinematic scape with hard, dynamic sections butted against melodic movement. The solos were performed by concert master Eugene Muneyoshi Takahashi and principal violist Brian Thompson.

Brahms Piano to Small Orchestra

Before the end of 2014, I was tasked with orchestrating a piano piece. I chose to arrange Brahms Piano Sonata 1 and was able to get a reading done of it. I recorded it with the Rode iXY on my iPhone. Quality was superb on the tiny $200 device – all the way up to 24-bit/96kHz.

Arranging the piano score to string instruments was very simple coming from the Brahms piece, mostly because the entire structure was there waiting to be uncovered. Any mistakes you hear in the recording is due to the fact that the players only had 2 times to play it and this is the second – stellar musicians. The ensemble consisted of five violin I’s, four Violin II’s, three Violas, 2 Celli, one Contrabass, and one harp.

Teaching at the Apple Store

This week on December 17th, I did a training session for GarageBand on iOS (iPhone/iPad) at the Lincoln Center Apple Store in Manhattan. Along with Eimi Tanaka and Matt Mezzacappa, we covered pretty much every aspect of composing from a portable device, to the desktop, to recording live singers and mixing them. It was a fun experience and I’d love to do it again.

You can read my review here on the Composers Collective site.

Holding Your Breath

I wrote this piece, Hold Your Breath, at the end of 2013 and “rediscovered” it in the recordings on my computer. I’m very proud of it as I was venturing out into strange meters and opposing two-handed rhythms while experimenting with the range of the piano.

But beyond any compositional features, I think what really gave this recording life was the amazingly expressive playing of Blair McMillen.  I was so impressed with his rendition upon the first read I really had no comment or correction. He basically nailed it. On top of that, he’s such a nice guy.

Here’s his second take, recorded on a Steinway at Juilliard:

The Bakery show

Last week on the 12th, I had the pleasure of performing alongside my good musical friend Chesney Snow again for a show called “The Whole Enchilada”.

The Whole Enchilada
The Whole Enchilada

The wonderful Rachel Harrington, Orlando Arriaga, and Liz Days, also know as “The Bakery“, put together a sketch comedy show at This Theater in NYC. Chesney and I provided the soundtrack for three short comedy films that were showing between set changes. It was so much fun and the trio is a very talented group. It was no big thing to meet during a quick whirlwind dress rehearsal the night before where Chesney and I knocked out composing three songs for the short interstitials. That man is a beatboxing master! Such a good collaboration.

“Cannon to the right of them! Cannon to the left of them!” Kudos to The Bakery team! Looking forward to the next project!

New Composition Performed

Last night I had a new piece, Always, Ghosts, played by the Composers’ Collective ensemble at the National Opera Center in NYC. Written for piano, cello, clarinet and horn, its a relatively short piece. The musicians were amazing and I look forward to getting the audio and video we had captured posted here. Here are my notes on the composition:

Always, Ghosts was composed as an intention to be a short film. In four parts, entrance, searching, realization, and exit, the music follows the plot of a ghost experiencing these moments and thoughts. The piano is the foundation of the scenery while the cello, clarinet, and horn together act as its observations. In the story, the ghost comes into reality floating, pre-dawn, over the Hudson, returns home to find its child asleep in bed, finds its own body in the woods, concludes its wife was the murderer, and then leaves this plane resigning itself to confusion, sadness, and helplessness. Set in a summer scene on the Hudson River, the composer found inspiration from very early train trips. He would listen to solo string music between New York City and his childhood home in Albany, seeing the sleepy old towns in the grey morning light.

Nocturne for Trumpet and Cello

With this piece, I used a non-repeating 12-tone pattern twice. This means there is an A and a B section, but since there was no repetition of a melody, you won’t notice it without counting tones. But the repetition of notes is allowed, so I used rhythm more as a compositional tool in this.

The structure itself hides the A – B idea in that there is simply a point where I finished all twelve tones and then used another twelve tones. In all, this piece only uses 24 tones.

The idea that it is a nocturne-style composition comes from the slow and hushed nature, using muted trumpet and cello.  The title “Sleepy Hollow” has no reference to the children’s story, instead alluding to that feeling of waking up sleep deprived before the sun is up and you can’t seem to form thoughts yet.

iPad Compositions

Now that i-Products are so fast and powerful, way more than my first Mac, a beige G3 running at 333MHz and an 8GB hard drive, I’ve been excited about music composition on only iPad or iPhone. Plus, when I heard the Gorillaz made their album The Fall primarily with iPad instruments, I thought the device may actually be ready for real composition and writing. And when Korg released the Gorillaz version of the iElectribe, I felt my thoughts were confirmed.

The challenge used to be that applications on i-devices didn’t talk to each other. That meant that working on a synth from some random company wouldn’t interface with Garageband, the multi-tracking software, so you’d either have to record it on another iPad/iPhone or your computer’s DAW. Enter into the picture, Audiobus, an application that acted as software routing from certain apps into Garageband, as well as filters and effects apps along the way. Apple saw that novelty and added inter-app audio support to Garageband.

So now, with a recording studio in my bag, I can record on my commute into the city. The first results of using Garageband and an app called Chordion, over the last week, are posted in Soundcloud, as well as on my music page.