Category Archives: Music

Children’s Concert/Steve Reich/St Louis

As I mentioned a little while ago it’s been a busy time recently. Just this last week I was in Palo Alto for the US premiere of Radio Rewrite by Steve Reich and St. Louis for an Alarm Will Sound performance. More on those in a second. I haven’t had the opportunity to post much on the Messiah College recording sessions from February and unfortunately I don’t have any media from them (not even a cell phone pic or two). Brass Cross, the college faculty/student brass ensemble, recorded two more Gabrieli sonatas (adding to the seven or eight we already have from previous years), David Diamond’s Ceremonial Fanfare, a new work by Anthony DiLorenzo and the Fanfare to La Peri by Paul Dukas. The college wind ensemble recorded Joseph Turrin’s Concertino for 11 Instruments and Wind Ensemble. I believe the recordings should be released sometime in the fall on the Klavier Records label.

On March 3 I had the joy of playing on a children’s concert for the College Music Society at Dickinson College. It was loads of fun to be able to play Prince Ali for little ones, my daughter and stepson included. Afterward I broke out the pBone and gave the kids a chance to try it out. photo (6) photo (5) On the opposite end of the spectrum I was in Palo Alto a week ago for Alarm Will Sound, the music of Steve Reich and the US premiere of Radio Rewrite, Steve’s new work that draws from Radiohead. I performed Clapping Music with Alarm Will Sound and Steve Reich and a sampler part to City Life. Performing on keyboard was a first for me and I’m happy to say I came through the experience for the better. I’m working on getting a recording of our performance. For now here’s a couple seconds of phone video of Matt Marks and I rehearsing the third movement.

Working with Steve Reich was fantastic. His attention to detail was inspiring. You can tell he takes every performance seriously. IS6A8140

Alarm Will Sound’s performance of Radio Rewrite, a joint commission between AWS/Stanford Lively Arts and the London Sinfonietta, was fantastic. My respect for my colleagues is always high but never higher than hearing them perform this difficult new piece. I had the honor of turning pages.

After that AWS was off to St. Louis for our second performance there this season. The concert, at the Sheldon Concert Hall, is part of our ongoing relationship with new music and St. Louis in particular and Missouri/the Mid-West in general. For this show we premiered Journeyman, a new work by AWS pianist/composer John Orfe, and new sections to The Hunger, a work that is to be an evening long opera by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy.Donnacha’s piece is absolutely gorgeous. Take a listen here:


Pitch Patterns in Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music”

Clapping Music

Alarm Will Sound will perform Steve Reich’s Clapping Music on the 16th at Stanford. (If you don’t know the piece, see here.) It will be a full ensemble performance of the piece with Steve Reich, the man himself, clapping along. Steve has never done the piece in such a way before, and quite possibly it’s the first time it will ever be done with such a large group. (Though it has been juggled before.)

Practicing it got me thinking about my past experiences with the work and particularly an anecdote that I vaguely remembered from a music theory course. What I recalled was that there was a way to map notes to the rhythm and as the pattern phased against itself it would line up in significant ways.

I did the most logical thing for me: I contacted Gavin Chuck, AWS managing director (and music theorist extraordinaire) and Alan Pierson, AWS music director. A lengthy (strange) email exchange ensued: Alan pointed out that there are twelve eighth notes in the pattern which can be mapped to the chromatic scale. Gavin took it a step further:

Gavin I

Geeky mathematics aside the short of it comes down to… yes, there exists a pattern. If we map each beat (rests included) to the chromatic scale we get this pattern:


which is a D minor scale starting on the seventh scale degree and including the raised seventh. OK, so what next? If we continue to map the subsequent patterns the same way we end up with all the other minor keys (natural and sharp seventh scale degrees included). Now, we can look at the way each key lines up with our original minor scale by noting which “beats” line up. I’ve done the work for you:


I’m not sure if it’s much more than a novelty but I took a few minutes and created a score highlighting the common pitches. Enjoy!

Novus Residency At Dickinson College – February 12-17, 2013

Parable - Ravens

Novus had the great pleasure of being in residence at Dickinson College last month. It was a week of incredibly productive collaborations and interactions with students and faculty. We talked to the choir about blend and balance, performed and gave feedback on student compositions, collaborated with the Department of Theater and Dance on two pieces, worked with the brass students and much, much more.

Flight of the Four Kings

Flight - concert Dance Rehearsal In Rubendall-3

Dance Rehearsal

In Flight of the Four Kings, the trombone quartet written for us by Chris Brubeck, we collaborated with dancers from the college. Several months ago we sent a recording of the piece to Dawn Springer at Dickinson. Dawn selected dancers and developed choreography to enhance the music. This semester Sarah Skaggs, director of dance at Dickinson, took over the work and spearheaded an incredible performance.

Oedipus at Colonus

Oedipus-3 Oedipus-1

Another exciting collaboration was on Robert Pound’s Oedipus at Colonus. Several years ago Robert composed incidental music for the Sophocles play for which the work is named. He chose to write for oboe and harp, and trombone quartet because of their links with ancient instruments. For this production Dickinson professors Sherry Harper-McCombs and Karen Kirkham led college actors in performing excerpts from the play to go along with Robert’s music and even had students construct masks for the performance.  Benjamin Farrar, another Dickinson faculty member, did lighting design for this as well as the entire concert. Meghan Levy, a Dickinson alum, created images to be projected during each segment.

A highlight of the performance was Classics professor Marc Mastrangelo’s delivery of Oedipus’s curse of Polyneices. Here’s a clip from the tech rehearsal:

We also took the piece to the college library where we performed excerpts, the composer discussed the construction of the piece, Marc talked about the importance of the play and students recited lines.



With Choir Composer Readings

We spent much of our time at the college when we weren’t rehearsing talking to students in various classes. Other than the work we did with the choir, composition and brass students, we also talked to a music theory class about Webern’s Langsamer Satz, a music appreciation class about life as a musician, and middle and high school band students about everything from the trombone to practice habits to careers in music.

Final Concert

All this hard work was capped off with a concert on the final day. The students performed superbly and Novus filled out the program with works by John Orfe, JacobTV, Eve Beglarian and Webern. Thanks to everyone at Dickinson who made this possible starting with everyone mentioned above and also: Stacy Rohrer, Keith Novak, Amy Wlodarski, Blake Wilson and Blanka Bednarz.