Yeah me neither. At least until some time after I wrote this tune (ok, so i’m using “tune” loosely here) for my electronic music class. On a later listen the thought came to me: if a bunch of robots got in a tub together, this is what it might sound like. They might also be talking on the phone.
I wrote this in the UC Santa Cruz electronic music studios for our analog synthesizer assignment using an Emu Modular. And let me just say that analog sythns are super awesome. I mean it’s fun and all to instantly have thousands of presets at your disposal, but nothing is quite like getting your hands dirty with voltage control and filters. I should have spent more time playing that thing.
To commemorate the 9th anniversary of 9/11, I’m releasing Nigun for the Victims of Terror, which I composed following this unprecedented event. My feelings, like many people at the time, were primarily those of immense sadness — for the people who died that day, their family, friends and for those affected directly and indirectly. In the months afterward, I began to sing a melody, more moan or wail than music. This eventually grew into the work heard here, scored for bass, violin, alto flute, piano, and soprano. Unable to find words that felt right, I called the piece Nigun, which is a wordless prayer from the Jewish tradition. This freed me to use the voice in a more instrumental way, combining it with alto flute and the other instruments, to create unique timbres and colors.
Nigun was selected as winner of the New Music Works Sound Horizons student composition competition and this recording is from the subsequent performance by New Music Works on February 23, 2002.
V’shamru is a prayer religious Jews sing every Friday evening to welcome in the Sabbath, and there are likely hundreds of settings of this prayer sung around the world. In my setting I attempted to capture a sound that could be both ancient and modern to represent every generation joining in song.
V’shamru v’nei Yisrael et ha-Shabbat,
La’asot et ha-Shabbat l’dorotam, b’rit olam.
Bei-ni u-vein b’nei Yisrael ot hi l’olam.
Ki shei-shet ya-mim ah-sah Adonai,
Et ha-sha-mayim v’et ha’aretz,
uva-yom hashvi’i shavat va-yi-nafash.
The people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath,
observing it in every generation as a covenant for all time.
It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel,
for in six days the Eternal God made heaven and earth,
and on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed.
Performed by the Temple Beth El choir with Leta Miller conducting and Malia Roberson on piano.
For the past several years one of my main projects has been writing music for the serial podcast Second Shift. If you haven’t checked it out, I encourage you to do so – it’s a great show, filled with magic, drama, humor and fun as three college students from Boston get transported to another world.
I was brought onto the show in 2006, by an old college friend from UC Santa Cruz, Brad Smith (Brad voices Jareth on the show and is also a producer). At that point the show was 9 episodes in and looking for music to accompany a large dance scene in episode 10.
After scoring the remaining episodes of season 1, I had the opportunity to rearrange the main theme, which had been written by the show’s original composer, for the launch of season 2. I wanted to keep the same feeling and basic melodies, but decided to bring in the brass to make it a bit more “epic”.
Imitation has been a staple of western music since the Renaissance. It involves repeating a musical gesture in a new part and is basically a quick and easy way to lengthen your music without having to come up with a whole new melody.
The simplest and most common example is the round, which most of us probably sang in elementary school - Frère Jacques and the like. On the other end of the spectrum is the fugue, with 3 to 5 or more parts and a list of rules about a mile long.
One day while working in the music studios at UC Santa Cruz, I had the idea to use imitation in a different way. From my original program notes:
Variations on a Fugue by J.S. Bach uses a technique I call imitative processing. I began with only two melodies and then processed each of them in turn, using delay, pitch shifting, granular synthesis, and many other techniques. For this project I could think of no better sound source than the music by the master if imitation himself, J.S. Bach.
The original parts from the fugue were performed by Peter Koht on guitar. Variations was premiered on April 19, 2003 in Santa Cruz, CA.
Today I turned 31 and Gustav Mahler turned 150. While he is, and always will be, a far greater composer than I, I can take solace in knowing that I look a lot better. At least for now….
Obviously there will be a ton of orchestras and record labels looking to capitalize on this occasion. But Deutsche Grammaphon’s Mahler150.com I think is pretty neat. Here you can listen and compare many versions of each symphony, which allows one to begin to hear the nuances of each conductor’s slightly different approach. If you create an account you can listen to entire works and select your own cycle of best performances.
Ok so maybe I never really forgot, but then why haven’t I been using it to distribute the music I’ve written to people who might like to hear it? I suspect the reason has been economic. At the back of my mind I must have thought: “Maybe some day a music publisher will want to publish my scores” or “Perhaps the Kronos Quartet will decide to record one of my pieces and the album will go platinum.”
Clearly these notions are insane. I haven’t even bothered to buy a lottery ticket. And while selling music online is an option for some, I feel that giving it way for free is greatest thing I can do. My hopes are the same as for any live performance of my music: that people will come, listen, consider, and hopefully take something meaningful away. Only now that something can downloaded.
So please do subscribe, share, and do what you will with my mp3s. All I ask is that you drop me a line to let me know what you thought or if you plan to perform or use my music in any way.