Category Archives: Music

Dissertation Update and Some Thoughts on Composition

I was deleting some spam off of my site today and realized that I haven’t posted in a long time, so I thought I’d give an update.

I am currently trying to finish my dissertation at LSU in case anyone reading this didn’t know. I have to have a completed draft to my committee by October 1 – which is in exactly two weeks. The dissertation must be a 20-minute composition and a sizable document. I have also chosen to add electronics, which means I had to create software for the performers. The document and software are mostly finished. I have roughly six minutes of music left. That includes a short movement (4 minutes) and then some room to elaborate what I have barfed out in the last month.

The work has to be for large orchestra. If you have never written for orchestra, it presents a unique set of challenges from both a compositional and performative standpoint. That is mostly what the written document of my dissertation is about.

I write mostly solo and chamber music, so one of the hardest things for me has been to tone down some of the string parts (I resisted the urge to write “dumb down”). Imagine taking 30 random people and have them all step forward while simultaneously touching their nose in exactly the same way. You also can’t use words – only dots and lines on paper to show them how to do it – and they only have 15 minutes to look at your diagram before it happens. It is easy for one person to do it because he can’t really be wrong, but 30 becomes a real challenge.

When writing music, constraints are both creatively irritating and refreshing. They are irritating because you are limited in what you want to do, but refreshing because pulling off what you want while adhering to the constraints is very satisfying. It’s like solving a jigsaw puzzle looking at only the back. Solving a jigsaw puzzle is already refreshing, but adding a constraint like I just mentioned adds a challenge that might be difficult – but never impossible – to overcome. For a great example of an extreme musical constraint, check out the Musica Ricercata by Gy├Ârgy Ligeti. Ligeti constrains himself to only a single pitch class – the note A. It’s a short piece, but very musically refreshing.

Anyway, I just finished the opening theme for my final movement. It is going to be a Rondo (a theme plays back several times throughout the movement). I’m excited to write it, but I want it to be a fast tempo, so that means more notes. diss3_themeI better get back to writing. Thanks for the break. Hope you all enjoy the post. I’ll try to write more I promise!


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Filed under Dissertation, Music, Music Composition, Uncategorized

Current Composition Project

vocal1I haven’t posted in awhile, but I thought I’d give an update of what I am working on at the moment.

Currently, I am taking a break from my dissertation and working on a chamber piece for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, cello, and voice. The goal is to have the piece done by sometime in March, with the premier in April or May. I haven’t been feeling like much of a composer lately, so it’s good to be getting my hands dirty again.

The text I am using for the voice is a suicide note my cousin found in the attic of her new house in West Virginia. It is dated June 14, 1930. She researched to find who it might be, but was unsuccessful. The text never makes any reference to whether the writer is a man or woman, nor does it mention a name. The writer does not give any particular reason why he or she cannot bear life, only that they no longer wish to do so. In perhaps the most interesting line, they ask the reader to “destroy all of my pictures that I have not got hold of. I would not have any one to remember that such a looking mortal ever existed.”

The text is sad, especially in light of the fact that this person is completely unknown. I also find it fascinating, and it is easy to try to imagine why they were the way they were, or what happened to them. The setting has also led to some interesting debate, such as whether it should be set musically or more rhythmically like speech, or whether it is appropriate to change or reorder the text for musical purposes. Some might even feel that setting this text is not appropriate, but my answer is that if I can make something contructive out of it, then maybe the world will seem a little less bleak.

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Filed under Music, Music Composition

An interesting scam


Which is which?

So for those of you who do not know, I have been traveling across Austria and the Czech Republic the last week or so. Two of my colleagues and I have just performed at the International Tuba/Euphonium Conference (ITEC) in Linz, Austria. We gave a 30-minute lecture on developing electronic instruments, specifically one we have been working on since 2009 called GUA.

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Filed under Music, Travel

Jackie Evancho arrangement

I recently completed an arrangement of Vincent (Starry Starry Night) for singer Jackie Evancho. This is the premier performance of the work, played by the San Francisco Symphony. Unfortunately, the recording is from someone’s cell phone, so the quality is not the best. There are some really nice moments in the work, but there are a few little things that maybe I could have tightened up as well. The piece is a little strange anyway, the way some of the accompaniment lines up with the melody seems slightly skewed. The song is originally by Don McLean, but my arrangement leans a little more toward the Josh Groban arrangement (I was asked to use the Groban as inspiration). Anyway, hope you all enjoy it!



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Music Added

WordPress won’t let me upload music to my blog, so I did the next best thing: I put it in dropbox and attached it via url. Not every piece is on the site, and I am still missing information on some of the pieces, but it’s a start.

If you want to download the pieces, just add ?dl=1 to the url in the browser window.

If you don’t see a recording and want to be the first, let me know, and I will be happy to get you the score!

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Filed under Blogging, Music

Article in the Daily Reveille at LSU

Yesterday, I was interviewed for part of an article in the Daily Reveille, the newspaper at LSU, to talk about some of the things we are doing right now. For those of you who are unaware, we just performed at the Electroacoustic Barn Dance Festival at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA this past Saturday. The article details this performance, along with a multimedia art exhibit done by some other students at LSU. It is titled: “University grad students debut electronic instrument.” You can find the article here.

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European Performance

I just got an email today asking for a bio pic, because my piece Selva Oscura is being played at a European Composer’s forum in Ljubljana, Slovenia! How cool is that? I think I am (with maybe the exception of Dr. Constantinides) the only composer I know that will have been performed in Slovenia.

For a little more info, the performers will be Katarina Jovanovic, soprano and Natalija Mladenovic, piano

For a bio of Ms. Jovanovic, click here.
For a bio of Ms. Mladenovic, click here.

Thanks to the Composers Association of Serbia for selecting my piece for performance and finding the performers.


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Musicians Abroad

Good news! My friends and I were accepted to perform in Linz, Austria at the International Tuba/Euphonium Conference (ITEC) 2012. We are going to compose a new work for two tubas and laptops. Nick Hwang and I will be writing the work and performing on laptops; Andy Larson and Sergio Carolino will be performing on tubas.

While playing in Austria will be awesome, we would also like to hit the road (or more accurately the railways) and show off some of the cool stuff we’ve been doing the last couple of years together. The goal is to play in different venues across northern Europe on a mini tour, culminating with the performance with Sergio in Linz.

If you want to learn more, feel free to visit our wordpress blog or our kickstarter page. We can’t do this on our own, so the more help we can get the better. Please consider donating. Every little bit helps.

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Lines in the Sand

The history of composition is riddled with battles. It is what breathed life into music. If Monteverdi hadn’t written new music, conservatives wouldn’t have had anything to bash. For every Brahms, there is a Wagner. For every Mozart, a Salieri.

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Filed under Dissertation, Music

WordPress and Musicians

As a musician and composer, I am used to playing second fiddle to video. People rely on their eyes to digest information, mainly due to television and other modern digital media. People use their ears to listen to music, but few people actively listen, preferring music that is simple and transparent. I understand this, and know that it is a product of our times.

However, it irks me that WordPress forces me to pay to add audio content to my Continue reading


Filed under Blogging, Music