A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Friday, July 29, 2016

Old media

I was too busy last summer, so this summer I took July off, at least in the sense of not being on the road. Some home renovations included the floor of my studio, so it has been a good time to throw stuff out and reorganize. I've kept two scanners busy--sometimes both at once, digitizing old programs and contracts. 

I have lived through an age of technological change for the way music has been recorded. I have reel to reel tapes, cassettes, Digital Audio Tapes (DAT), CDs and digital files. I have 5.25 floppy disks, 3.5 disks, and something called an Imation Super Disk

I've spent the last couple days converting cassettes into digital files. The only way to do it is to actually play them. There are some moderately depressing aspects--piles of tapes of songs that never got heard by anyone--but many good things. Just a few of the notable performances are an orchestra piece called FLOOR EXERCISES which imagined an olympic gymnastic competition. Each piece was preceded by witty narration by David Manning. My music doesn't rise to the standard of David's delightful parody. It was performed in the mid-eighties in Durham, North Carolina. Another great performance was BUOSO'S GHOST at Chicago Opera Theater in 2000. It was beautifully conducted by their maestro at the time, Lawrence Rapchak.

I've always found getting rid of stuff a bit difficult, but I was inspired by this article about Marie Kondo in the New York Times. 

I'm probably going to end up sending a big box of cassettes to Washington state for recycling. Fortunately they can go "media rate."

Friday, June 10, 2016

SHOT! opens tonight in Buffalo

production photo by Glenn Murray

For nearly a month, we've been at Nickel City Opera in Buffalo helping birth a new opera, SHOT! by Persis Vehar. About the assassination of President McKinley at the Pan American Exposition, the opera has been given a beautiful production. It should go well tonight!

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Nice interview here about the upcoming SPEED DATING TONIGHT! production at University of Texas at El Paso. Tickets to their production include a dinner.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Lutefisk dinner in Fargo

Out on the road at Fargo Moorhead Opera and there was an opportunity to try lutefisk. Although it wasn't something I'd crave, I've certainly had things that were more challenging to eat. They served it with a butter sauce and a cream sauce. The lady who served me the sauce on the lutefisk said "I don't eat that stuff." 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

This weekend, March 24-26, is the California premiere of SPEED DATING TONIGHT! at Humboldt State University. They have a nice blog post about it.

"The characters are fresh and modern, and very diverse. Directors have (almost) complete discretion to place the daters' interactions in whatever order best fits the casts' strengths. This flexibility is crucial, and also ensures that no two productions will be the same. (Just like no two people are the same!)."

Meanwhile I'm up in Fargo at Fargo-Moorhead Opera where we are doing Puccini's SUOR ANGELICA and GIANNI SCHICCHI. Boy are geese loud in the early morning!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

San José Chamber Orchestra 25th Anniversary Recording

I'm so pleased that the San José Chamber Orchestra has included Craig Bohmler's performance of my PIANO CONCERTO in the recording celebrating their 25th anniversary. You can go to Craig's website and hear some of it. Buy it and help them celebrate! The recording was first released in 1997. Their conductor and founder, Barbara Day Turner, has been an unceasing supporter of contemporary music. Both the orchestra and BDT should be better known than they are. Their 25th anniversary concert is this weekend.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Canadian spin on a SPEED DATING TONIGHT! song

Here's a link to a performance by Lee Clapp from last fall's production of SPEED DATING TONIGHT! at McGill University. The Bus Boy song has a fantasy bit that is supposed to be tailored to the particular fancy of the singer, the production, or the locale and their director Jonathan Patterson has done a super job with that. Watch out Justin Trudeau. It's all in keeping with the collaborative nature of SDT! and my particular belief that a composer is an important part of the team, not some kind of god-genius.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How much of SPEED DATING TONIGHT can I do without a grand rights license?

Thanks for clicking on this post. Here's your answer until I decide otherwise: FIFTEEN MINUTES. SPEED DATING TONIGHT! is protected by grand rights licensing. That means you can't do it with staging unless you've contacted me and I say you can. Even if you have the pdf of the whole thing. So what I'm saying here is if you want to do up to fifteen minutes of the show, go ahead without contacting me.

The good news is that you can download a perusal copy and it will cost you nothing. Why? I'm the composer and librettist and publisher so I get to decide if that is ok or not. And I believe that for a composer, "the big problem isn't piracy, its obscurity."  (Tim O'Reilly via Cory Doctorow) I want you to do an excerpt and have that make you want to do the whole thing, so you can get the satisfying arc and closure that you'd get from a full production and then I get a fee. Plenty of folks are deciding to do the whole show and I want you to join them.

So go ahead and do your fifteen minutes of favorite pieces of SDT!. There is a small catch--the perusal score doesn't have every version of every song in it, so if you want that fifteen minute excerpt in a certain key range, unless you are lucky, you're going to have to contact me and let me sell you the versions you need. I will charge you for those, cause of the time involved.

Here's a further explanation of grand rights licensing. It's what a traditional publisher like Boosey and Hawkes might do, or a licensing organization like MTI or Tams-Witmark. But in this digital age, it's gotten simple enough for business minded creators to do it themselves. I love the fact that SPEED DATING TONIGHT! has filled a niche implicit in opera production--shows that fit available personnel. It's kind of how the composers in the 18th century wrote works that showed off the particular singers available at an opera house. But it would have been a pain to do on any scale before computer music notation and things like pdfs made information so easy to share.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Everybody can (and should) write music and words

Although I love collaborating with professional writers, I also like to work with untrained folks. In Memphis I the opportunity to write songs with students, teachers, and even a group of adult offenders. This is an example from 2003, written with a group of elementary students from Orange Center Elementary

I miss my family
I miss my mother
I miss my home in Mississippi
I love my brothers
I love my sisters
I lost my home in Mississippi

Grandma's got her teeth in a jar
Uncle's looking up at the stars
Grandma's in the garden picking roses
My sister's folding up the clothes
Baby brother's saving souls
Everybody's having family dinner.

Here's an link to audio. You can feel the nostalgia, and the uprooted hurt in this.

Untrained writers take you to unexpected places. They say what they feel, and don't default to rhyme. The challenge is they don't always understand the need for tight forms, especially in songs. I need to keep a wild, untrained spot in my own writing, lest it become too predictable. 

For the writers, it's exciting and empowering. I remember the teachers I worked with at the Memphis Arts Council's summer institute. Whenever we saw each other we'd be able to sing the things we collaborated on. It was a special bond. 

I've been in Iowa a good while now and I'm starting to reach out to a group of non-professional creators to see what can be accomplished. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

And Beyond

I have been trying to learn how to play the guitar in public. It will add some nice variety to a program of originals, mostly done from the piano. Still can't play bar chords without looking at my right hand. This was from a recent evening at a wonderful little place called Byron's in a very little town called Pomeroy, Iowa.