Search blog:
Subscribe to blog posts:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Summer ahoy! Recordings aplenty!

In a week, school will be out, and it will be time for me to begin sifting through my summer workload. My to-do list for the next few months consists of a pile of relatively minor administrative things like answering calls for scores, all overshadowed by one mighty task and two not-quite-so-mighty-but-formidable-nonetheless tasks, namely: finish composing Ayn, complete some sort of article for my dissertation, and redesign this website. Yes, it's time for a revamp! This site has looked more or less the same for about six years, and it feels stale to me, although apparently some people still rather like it. Websites are like hair; you have to change them up or you get bored. Well, I do, anyway.

One of the things I must include on the new website, front and center, is subscription information about the mailing list I finally started, after years of procrastination. Here's the Mailchimp page for it, from where you can read previous newsletters and subscribe—I should arrange for the newsletter to auto-publish to this blog as well, I suppose. I generally dislike the concept of newsletters, but there's no denying they are effective at getting word out, as Matt can confirm via the very successful click-through and sales stats on the mailing lists of e-commerce sites he administers.

Here is some news from my last newsletter, goody:
  • Here's a big one that you probably weren't expecting because it was super-secret news up till now: I can officially announce that I have been selected as the 2013/14 composer for the Choral Arts Laboratory held by the award-winning choir Volti in San Francisco. Yay! They'll be flying me out in October to workshop a new commission in progress, which they will premiere next Spring. This is a huge honor, and a rare opportunity to write something truly adventurous for a choral group with mad skills. Trust me, composers don't get chances like this very often. 
And more goodness:
  • A couple of years ago, the super-fun and eclectic new music collective Anti-Social Music premiered a piece I wrote called Handshake that was rejected by a, shall we say, less adventurous ensemble who thought it wasn't Serious enough for them. As in, they wouldn't even read it. Seriously, ASM did a smashing job, and the piece remains one of my favorite of my own compositions, despite the fact that Very Serious Music People are sometimes left scratching their heads. Anyway, earlier this year I wrote a piece for solo violin and "tape" (I don't know why we still call it tape. I don't even remember the last time I even saw a tape.) that falls into the same rough attitudinal category, and ASM will be premiering that on May 9 in Brooklyn. It's called Theme and Variables: Scallops and Bollocks for Tea, and the "tape" portion was made with Nintendo Entertainment System VST instruments and a recreated sample of the first ever computer-generated music: a snippet of the Colonel Bogey March performed by an Australian computer known as CSIRAC. It is Fun.
My next blog entry and newsletter is bound to be all about recordings. Hopefully by the end of the week, I'll have a video from Monday's terrific performance of Tesla's Pigeon in New York. (Jess had to wipe away tears at the end of her performance, which made me realize I was feeling quite verklempt myself. This only reinforces my belief that the true underlying goal of every composer should be tears.)

Also, very soon we should be able to upload a recording of Scallops and Bollocks for Tea (see above) from Tuesday night: Network for New Music (god, we are so lucky to have such a great organization in Philly) arranged for Paul Arnold from the Philadelphia Orchestra to record it, with the incomparable Eugene Lew from Penn providing his recording services. Despite being magnificently talented and in-demand, the two of them astonished me with their generosity; they actually volunteered extra time to get the piece just right. And they're two of the nicest people I think I know. I really can't speak highly enough of them. Here's a quick shot of the recording session from Matt's iPhone:

Paul Arnold plays Scallops and Bollocks for Tea


Oh, also:
  • Tesla's Pigeon is being recorded by Jess and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra next week*
  • I had a choir piece I finished last year recorded recently by Matt Curtis at ChoralTracks (who incidentally was in Chanticleer when they sang What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?) and I will put that up pretty soon
  • The same piece is quite probably being performed/recorded by another choir in June
  • Omaha Beach is being recorded by a major choir for a CD release
Recordings everywhere!

But I can't celebrate for too long. I have a goddamn opera to finish AYNAYNAYNAYNAYNAYN (This works fairly well as an ululation of anguish, actually.)

*Incidentally, I have completely run out of  Tesla's Pigeon CD's thanks to the recent wildly successful Tesla's Pigeon Takes Manhattan Kickstarter. As in, I do not even have an archival copy to keep for myself. Good thing this recording gives me a good excuse to reissue with both versions, piano-vocal and orchestral.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Crass "How Does It Feel to Be the Mother of 1000 Dead?" (1983)

I long to write choral music with lyrics like this. Punk rock choral. Why the fuck not? The choral community would have conniptions.


When you woke this morning, you looked so rocky-eyed,
blue and white normally, but strange ringed like that in black.
It doesn't get much better, your voice can just get ripped up shouting in vain,
maybe someone hears what you say, but you're still on your own at night.
You've got to make some noise to understand the silence,
screaming like a jackass, ringing ears so you can't hear the silence even when it's there,
like the wind seen from the window, seeing it, but not being touched by it.

HOW DOES IT FEEL?

How does it feel to be the mother of a thousand dead?
Young boys rest now, cold graves in cold earth.
How does it feel to be the mother of a thousand dead?
Sunken eyes, lost now; empty sockets in futile death.


Your arrogance has gutted these bodies of life.
Your deceit fooled them that it was worth the sacrifice.
Your lies persuaded people to accept the wasted blood.
Your filthy pride cleansed you of the doubt you should have had.
You smile in the face of death 'cause you are so proud and vain,
Your inhumanity stops you from realizing the pain
That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered -
It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.

You never wanted peace or solution.
From the start you lusted for war and destruction.
Your blood-soaked reason ruled out other choices.
Your mockery gagged more moderate voices.
So keen to play your bloody part, so impatient that your war be fought,
Iron Lady with your stone heart so eager that the lesson be taught
That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered -
It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.

****

Throughout our history you and your kind
Have stolen the young bodies of the living
To be twisted and torn in filthy war.
What right have you to defile those births?
What right have you to devour that flesh?
What right to spit on hope with the gory madness
That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered -
It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.

****

You accuse us of disrespect for the dead,
But it was you who slaughtered out of national pride.
Just how much did you care? What respect did you have
As you sent those bodies to their communal grave?
You buried them rough-handed, they'd given you their all,
That once living flesh defiled in the hell
That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered -
It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.

You use those deaths to achieve your ends still,
Using the corpses as a moral blackmail.
You say, "Think of what those young men gave,"
As you try to bind us in your living death,
Yet we do think of them, ice cold and silent
In the snow-covered moorlands, stopped by the violence
That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered -
It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered.

****

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - We don't want your fucking war!
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - We don't want your fucking war!
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - We don't want your fucking war!
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - You can stuff your fucking war!

Thirty years old, still topical, even when the subject is dead.