Apricots of Andujar commissioned by the Jerome Foundation is in development. Click here to view a short documentary made about the project.
Glass Blue Cleft recorded by the Escher String Quartet, is now available on Bridge Records (Bridge 9318)
New music for PUBLIQuartet January 31, 2013
I'm very excited to be working with the fantastic young group PUBLIQuartet on a new piece called Touch. It will be for the string quartet plus four foot-controlled MIDI sample players, and the group will premiere the piece in NYC in 2013-2014. I have composed a great deal of electro-acoustic music where the live musicians perform with fixed-media, but I want to raise the stakes and have them actually trigger the electronic component as they play their instruments. This hopefully will make the experience much more musical and visceral. This is a new challenge for all of us! The samples will be based on recordings of the group improvising, and four speakers will be placed under each of their chairs, with the hopes of blending the acoustic and electronic elements of the piece.
On My Way to Tallahassee! January 31, 2013
I'm on my way to Florida State University's 16th Annual Festival of New Music, where my piece Glass Blue Cleft for string quartet will be featured. There are many great composers also featured, and the guest composer is Pulitzer-Prize winner Zhou Long. I'm very excited to meet him and get to know his music, and to hear no fewer than 7 concerts! Glass Blue Cleft was recorded by the Escher String Quartet and released on Bridge Records, and can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, and Bridge Records (Bridge 9318)
The Table Where We Met ~ Sample December 1, 2012
Click below to listen to a sample of this evening-long piece for Esther Noh on violin and processed string sampels of her string quartet Praxis. This is a new idea that I am working on: electro-acoustic music where the electronics are played through localized speakers on stage near their acoustic counterparts, with the goal of obfuscating the sound source.
Apricots of Andujar - Update June 1, 2012
Here are some links to excerpts of the music-only version premiered with Birds on a Wire in March 2012:
Apricots of Andujar February 3, 2011
I recently got back from Oakland where I am developing a staged chamber opera for my father John Duykers and percussionist and movement artist Joel Davel. This piece was commissioned by the Jerome Foundation. Acclaimed playwright and filmmaker Philip Gotanda is writing an original libretto, and Melissa Weaver is directing. It is the story of Jon Swann, the son of an apricot farmer who experiences lapses in time as he "curves" to past events. Through a non-linear narrative form, we come to understand his complex relationship with his father, and witness his emergent acceptance of real beauty.
Here is a documentary made about Apricots of Andujar
We are developing the piece through a series of intensive collaborative workshops which are centered on improvisation within a predefined structure and story line. The piece will feature John Duykers and Joel Davel performing through-composed and improvised musical and theatrical material.
It is a real privilege to write for my father again, and especially in a project that features so many of his talents. It is also an honor to visit some father-son issues that we have dealt with in the past, but in an evolved and creative way that cherishes the connection we have.
The Left Eye June 26, 2008
I just got back from the Music08 festival at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, which featured many guest composers and performers, including Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, Jack Body, Gao Ping, Emanuele Arcuili. Duccio and Vittorio Ceccanti, and others. The pierrot ensemble eighth blackbird has been in residence for the festival (in its 13th year) and was there conducting master classes and coaching performances. About 30 young composers like myself had pieces performed by about 30 young performers, all of whom were invited to the festival.
Here I am with other composers in a masterclass with Eighth Blackbird
This was an intensive week! Two master classes per day of 2 1/2 hours each, plus two concerts per day, one of the young composers’ pieces (brilliantly played by the young performers from out of town and others who are students at CCM), then a second concert featuring the guest composer and performer’s music.
The whole festival is run by Joel Hoffman, who is a professor of composition at CCM, and he got help from two other great young composers and CCM students, Kyle Werner and Michael Ippolito.
They played my sextet “Twilight for Adored and Breathless Moments,” beautifully. Many people seemed to love the piece, and I got some great comments, including Kyle’s that my sense of harmony seems to be very well gelled with my sense of orchestration. This is intriguing and I have been chewing on that comment since he said it.
Most of the group with Rzewski (front right). I’m second from the left on the top
This was an incredibly inspiring exchange of musical ideas, and it was a truly profound experience for me to meet so many excellent young composers and to hear what they are doing. The discussions that began in the master classes carried on to lunch, dinner, and late-night to Christie’s - a rathskeller where the beer flows freely, and the locals play a game called “Cornhole” - something similar to horseshoes but played with bean bags thrown into holes on boards. After drinks, folks needing late night culinary fulfillment (Cincinnati closes early) head to Skyline Chili - a local dive chain which features chili and a pile of cheddar cheese on very soft spaghetti...mmm. I got to taste my first bite with Michael, Tim, and Nick from eighth blackbird...I knew most of these folks from Oberlin and was friends with Matt Duvall, the percussionist. We mixed sound together in the Oberlin Concert Sound Department, and I trained his future wife, Margie how to mix!
I had a very interesting lesson with Steve Reich...he loved my piece but hated the title. It is making me think about titles and programs in music - the very idea of titling concert music at all seems to old fashioned. I’m taking his comment to heart...my recent pieces do have less poetic titles. It is an interesting discussion.
Delicious Skyline chili
The week was almost overwhelming...hearing so much music and having so much social activity with so many people with whom I felt artistically and aesthetically aligned in many ways. I think I felt my brain literally grow...
My friends Hermes and Mark in an
and this seemed to have manifested in an identity with my left eye. Before the festival, I felt right eye oriented, and would often only converse with people by looking at the left side of their face.
Now I feel a bolt of energy through my left eye - perhaps connected to the right hemisphere of my brain - and now when I talk to people I look in both eyes. This may seem hoaky - I’m not trying to make more if it than it is...it just seems like some kind of metaphysical epiphany. I’ve realized I’ve been missing half of things.
So this quartet I am writing will be called “Left Eye.” No one has to understand...it means enough to me.
Steinsbrot...and a new tradition March 5, 2008
A recent cocodrillo - "The Crocodile"
Rebecca and I have recently begun learning how to bake bread...￼we’ve always loved to cookand bake other things, but really good, crusty, soft, mouthwatering freshly baked bread that makes everyone want to come to your house and stay a while has always seemed like the final frontier in culinary creation - something always out of reach.
We both come from strong traditions of baking...her grandparents on both sides were masters of pies, Italian breads, and other treats. The story goes on my Dutch side that my great grand father, Andreas, forbade his sons to be bakers or singers (presumably because he never got to fulfill these dreams for himself). Well, my grandfather Dirk became both, and my father John became both. Not sure how this played out with Andreas...we can only assume there was a rift somewhere...
When I was a kid growing up my folks had a close friend and colleague named Karl Goldstein who played the piano. I’ll always remember when, at a concert of his when he adjusted his sitting position for an unusually long time before playing, my mom leaned over to me and whispered as a joke “he must have holey underwear!” Then in my youthful naivete after the concert, I said to Karl, “Hey Karl - my mom says you have holey underwear!” He we mildly amused.
Anyway, Karl used to make this wonderfully dark, rich brown bread (recipe below) which became a family favorite of ours...as poor musicians my folks began to make this bread every week and live on it. I’ll always remember my dad pulling a fresh loaf out of the oven and the aroma that filled the house. It was an exciting thing for me to see my dad bake - I did not know my grandfather well but he owned and ran the Towne Talk Bakery in Butte, Montana where my dad grew up...there was something special for me about seeing my dad carry on this tradition.
Karl Goldstein’s original recipe.
Well, recently I decided to contact Karl and see if I could pick up where he left off. I would not have been surprised to get a simple email recipe or something equally uninspiring which is the norm these days...instead he sent this lovely hand-typed recipe, complete with some musings on baking bread. Rebecca and I have tried this recipe several times each time with some enhancements...basically you can’t add enough wheat berries or malt...and you can spruce it up with other things like sesame seeds, walnuts, cheese, or other flours like oat or corn...also - don’t be afraid to add more yeast if it comes out too dense. Just make sure the water from the wheat berries is not too hot (should be between 105 and 115 degrees) or it will burn the yeast.
This was the start of a beautiful thing! Now Rebecca and I try a new recipe every week, and we always have the aroma of fresh bread around the house. There is nothing more relaxing than baking bread...letting it rise overnight, kneading it, waiting for a second or third rise...it’s an all day affair. It makes your Sunday.
If you don’t already...please start baking for everyone's mental health! We need more nutritious and grounding food out there. And if anyone wants to come over for a freshly baked slice just let us know. We’ll toast to Karl.
Going to Pavia!... March 3, 2008
I was just accepted to the soundSCAPE music festival in Pavia, Italy for this summer from July 15th - 25th..it’s about 40 minutes south of Milan. This is a huge honor and I can’t wait to spend the time in Italy!
I think about 10 composers and 10 performers will be participating. We’ll be rehearsing andpresenting new pieces, having master classes with distinguished guest faculty, taking private composition lessons, and I can take Italian lessons! They host the whole thing at the Vittadini School of Music right in the center of town.
I’m making a version of “The Clemency of Milk” for violin,flute and piano for the festival...the original is for bass clarinet, contrabass and piano, and Trio Tara will premiere the bass clarinet, viola and piano version at the end of this month...it’s great to try different versions of the same piece without being too picky about the instrumentation! In fact the original original version of this piece was for contrabass and percussion (five octave marimba, vibes, tam, and some other metals)...marimba and bass would seem like a natural combination, but the bass is so quiet I had a hard time making it sound like something against the also very quiet marimba...anyway, the piano+ version is much better...today in rehearsal (for the Stony Brook premiere on Thursday) the bassist, Lisa Dowling, suggested a scordatura and tuned her E string down to a C...there is this one very loud cadence on a C chord and it sounds totally great. Thanks Lisa!
Rebecca and I may take a few extra days and tour Italy some...she is fluent in Italian and lived there for a while...knows all good sandwich shops to hit. A couple of years ago we went to Rome, the Amalfi coast, Sicily and Calabria (where her family is originally from) and it was excellent for me to see Southern Italy (where most Italians in the states are from)...their food, their coffee, their attitude...very infectious. Now we get to see some Northern Italy...it’s pretty close to France and Switzerland. Looking forward to comparing with the Southern flair...if anyone has any restaurant recommendations please let us know!
Remembering Telluride March 3, 2008
Recently I met an old acquaintance Marcus for lunch (at the Icebreaker IV Festival in Seattle)...
Composer-to-Composer poster from 1991
he has also studied with my mom) He reminded me of the Composer-to-Composer festival in Telluride Colorado that ran from 1988-1991. This was an awesome affair - composers from all around the world come to this little town tucked away in the mountains near Denver (normally a ski town) to listen and share.
I went to this thing for two summers...this is where I was introduced Louis Andriessen, who’s “Worker’s Union” is one of the two single most influential pieces for me (the other being Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony). As my mom was also featured in the festival, I got to hang out with all the folks...I played with Zakir Hussain’s daughter, chatted with the other composers, was able to hear some of Louis’ new opera before it was finished, met and was introduced to the music of Conlon Nancarrow (when the organizer of the festival,
Charles Amirkhanian, had just “discovered him”) and got to see some surprisingly lively discussions between John Cage and Anthony Davis. I was just beginning to identify as a “composer” and realizing that I was going to commit to this path, and so being around these brilliant creators was mind blowing for me. I will never forget it.
Well, after Marcus reminded me that we had met there, he also said he would send me a program or something from the festival...it’s one of those things that most people say they will do but never do. He did one better - a full poster...thanks Marcus - that was real sweet.
John Luther Adams at Icebreaker IV March 3, 2008
In January I participated in the Seattle Chamber Players’ Icebreaker IV new music festival, including a Seattle premiere of my “Twilight for Adored and Breathless Moments. This was a tremendous honor, not only because of their excellent performance of my piece, but because of the company I was in: Anna Clyne, Alexadra Gardner, Judd Greenstein, Nico Muhly, Mason Bates,
I’m on the left at the talkback after the concert. To my left are Nico Muhly, Judd Greenstein, and Alexandra Gardner. Picture courtesy of Kyle Gann
William Britelle. On the second evening of the concert the “older generation” of composers were presented: Kyle Gann, Janice Giteck (my mother!), John Luther Adams and others. In addition all the composers gave 45 minute presentations of their work. Seattle is one of my home towns (born in CA)...so it was awesome to spend some time downtown with my wife and be a part of the new music scene there.
Of everything I heard on either concert, John Luther Adams’ piece was the most memorable. I had heard his music before, but had not been open to until this time. He also presented some other pieces in his presentation - this music is like a wall of sound, but shifting and modulating very slowly...overtones popping out and dissonances resolving in a mosaic of timbre. Then my mother told a story in her presentation about visiting his home and composition studio in Fairbanks...completely remote and isolated from the rest of the world. I kept having images of the ￼opening scenes from “Insomnia” where the plane with Al Pacino is flying over the miles and miles of ice...then something struck me about his music in that it seems to represent Alaska. But not in a cold way - something which moves and undulates the way the seasons change...crystalline, remote, moving very slowly like a glacier. It was extremely memorable, and moving in such a unique way...looking forward to hearing more of his stuff performed live, as a recording could just never do it justice.
It was also very interesting to see how tonal this younger generation of composers is..I guessit’s being labeled as a “post-minimalism” thing. Reading the reviews it seems that my music is beinglumped into this Post-minimalism genre, and what’s interesting is that I don’tconsider myself a post-minimalist. I certainly have listened to and been inspired by Reich, Adams, and the other icons, but I feel like my primary influences are more melodic and gesturally oriented: Messiaen, Zappa...where tonal harmony meets atonal melody all in the service of gesture. As soon as you have a repeating fragment or groove, is that minimalism? Isn’t minimalism a process as seen in the notes? Isn’t it time to let “minimalism” die with the 70’s and figure out a more intelligent way to talk about these young composers?