From the category archives:


Harps make magic

October 22, 2011

Sometimes I forget things. Like in orchestration and composing: putting a harp into the texture injects magic into the music, whether it’s Handel or Boulez. I realize that I’m a string guy, attracted to the plucked string world (guitars, banjos, ukes etc) and the harp is in that world, but guitars don’ts alway say “you’re […]


For our vacation this year we decided, again, to visit Hawaii: the first week with one set of close friends on the big island, and the second week with another group on Kauai. I’m not ready to relocate, but we love Hawaii. The big island is fascinating yet hauntingly hostile–volcanoes sleeping and simmering, past flows […]


Where is the pause button?

October 7, 2011

Last night I kept hearing the music I’m working on playing in my head over and over. It kept me up for hours. Not unlike “earworms” for regular music lovers, composers work on their music all the time. You might be chatting with us and we appear to be listening to you, but in reality […]


The quandary for a blogger

September 22, 2011

Although I am ranked as the 27th top classical music blog by, and my posts are read all the time, my regular readers know that I’ve not been a faithful blogger of late. I won’t bore you with the details as you can read them below. With the huge transition I’ve just made, I’ve […]

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What is the beguine rhythm?

August 27, 2011

I’m orchestrating a piece for guitar and orchestra with music by Kenny Burrell for a November concert. I have learned all kinds of new juicy suspensions common in jazz, and less so in classical traditions. One of the cornerstones of western harmony is resolving leading tones [do re mi fa so la TI has to […]


I attended Paul DesMarais’ funeral last week. It was good to see his family, whom I had never met, and old mutual friends: Paul and Claire, Elaine Barkin, Mark Carlson, David Long and others. Paul wanted to make sure that his final chapter as a gay man didn’t get swept under the rug. Rev John […]


Composing recharge

June 19, 2011

I make a point of having “down time” between composition projects. Recharging your batteries, tilling the soil, NOT thinking about music, and getting out of town. For a composer, this builds up an intense horniness so that I can’t wait to start composing. Well, tomorrow is the end of my mini-vacation away from composing. I […]

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Music majors are usually good at understanding musical form, but sometimes folks who are not musicians who want to learn more about music have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept. They kind of understand verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus in terms of “in this part they sing this and in that part they sing that” but […]

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Don’t set Frost

April 25, 2011

Ned Rorem told a class of young composers to avoid taking their favorite poem and ruin it by setting it to music. Many of us have sung Randall Thompson‘s “Frostiana” a multi-movement choral work based on the poetry of Robert Frost. I suspect Randall and Robert’s royalties were fairly good from this work, and would assume […]


Having three premieres in March was thrilling. It corresponded with the end of the academic term. Daniel went skiing, and Mark and I fled the city to Palm Springs, he to finish grading a huge pile of papers, and I to veg. As fate would have it, several “chair bombs” (crises that department chairs have […]