Got three performances in the next few months. May not seem like a lot, but I’m happy with it. Plus, they made lead to more.

Rational Exuberance, my short curtain-raiser for orchestra, will be performed in Kirtland, OH and Ft. Myers, FL this spring, and my setting of Psalm 120 (KJV) for soprano and euphonium will be performed soon at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. As you might imagine, this makes me very happy.

If anyone is looking for new music, let me know. If not from me, I know a few composers who may be more to your liking.


There is a controversy in the classical music world.

Yes, you read that right. Those words haven’t appeared much in the past 100 years, but there they are.

In a nutshell: The composer Osvaldo Golijov, who has been quite popular amongst people who commission works over the past decade, submitted a work called Sidereus for orchestra to fulfill a commission from 35(!) orchestras. In the notes for the piece, he noted that he used a melody from a piece by a friend, Michael Wald-Bergeron’s work Barbeich. This is nothing unusual, as composers have appropriated small themes (sometimes with due credit, sometimes without) throughout the history of music. Bach used to rewrite Vivaldi’s works.

A music critic and a trumpet player who were at the concert (and who were collaborating on a recording of Barbeich) noticed that Golijov used more than just “a melody.” By their reckoning, Golijov used a significant amount of the piece – “at least half,” according to the critic (Tom Manoff). Golijov is the composer of record. We do not know the interpersonal relationship between Ward-Bergeron and Golijov in terms of how much permission was given and if any money changed hands, and neither one has been willing to comment on the matter.

I did my dissertation on the third movement of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia for 8 voices and orchestra. That movement uses the third movement of Mahler’s second symphony as a starting point, and by starting point I mean that the work pretty much quotes the entire Mahler movement. On top of that, Berio adds quotes from dozens of other pieces, including The Rite of Spring, La Valse, Der Rosenkavalier, Fünf Orchesterstücke and La Mer. On top of that, Berio adds a text adapted from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnameable.

In my opinion, here is the difference: Berio told you up front that is what he was doing. He described the movement as his summation of the history of music. Charles Ives did many of the same things, using quotes to evoke memory and musical response in his many collage-based and quotation-based works. Golijov is doing none of that. Perhaps he and Ward-Bergeron had an arrangement, financial or otherwise, but he is passing off the work as a Golijov work when a good chunk of it clearly is not.


Though I guess this is technically more composition than theory…

I’ve been thinking about orchestration lately and how we decide what notes/themes work best with the different timbres at our disposal. John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls is playing right now, and I’m intrigued by the interplay of the spoken names/words and the string writing.

Composers – Where in your compositional process do you decide on timbre assignments? I know that several of Stravinsky’s works (I’m thinking of the Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, among other things) started out life as something completely different timbrally-speaking. I personally make about 55% of my timbral decisions during the sketching and the other 45% during the final drafting, though those numbers may fluctuate (for example, I have made maybe 15% of the timbral decisions for the finale of the piece I’m currently working on; earlier variations had about 75% of the decisions made before the final draft) and are always subject to revision.

How about you?


Listening to Nico Muhly tonight. Interesting stuff; lots of good use and manipulation of found sound.

I’ve been thinking of going a little more digital on my next piece. As soon as my Variations on a Greek Folk Dance are orchestrated, I might try something for trombone and laptop/stompboxes/effects processing/something.