This past weekend I had the great chance to finally meet some fellow contributors to the book It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God. Some really great folks involved here and I am grateful to have been a part of this. Head on out now and get your copy.
As part of the event I wrote a piece for solo saxophone (alto and baritone) and electronics. The inimitable Matthew McClure was to play the work but unfortunately came down with pneumonia two days before the show. Thankfully Matt is a great guy and will be performing it at a later date. In the meantime I hope to connect some others to the work, too. Some folks caught wind of my situation and were willing to help out by heading over to Lancaster, PA to play the work. They all seemed to like what they saw in the score so perhaps there will be some performances to come.
A few years later I had rolling around in my head the idea of a similar kind of book but devoted to the more narrow topic of contemporary art music. I contacted Square Halo about the possibility of just a venture but I was politely informed that a sequel to the 2007 book was already in the works. I was a bit disappointed but it was short lived. Ned Bustard soon asked me to contribute an article to the book which they eventually decided to include (which I hope they are not regretting!)
In any case the book will be released and I would encourage you to go over and pre-order it right away. Like its predecessor is full of great chapters from a multitude of perspectives and authors. Some of the contributors are Tom Jennings, Brian Moss, and John Patitucci. There are many others folks who have contributed really interesting topics and chapters and I look forward to giving it thorough read through.
Head on over to order your copy of It Was Good: Making Music to the Glory of God today!
post tenebras spero lucem for piano quartet
Lodestar for violin and orchestra
5 Poems of Nicholas Barker for chamber ensemble
…glass darkly… for alto flute, piano, and computer
das, das in mir liegt for piano trio
In light of that I am going to tackle a work for flute and electronics as Camilla Hoitenga, Sato Moughalian, and Carla Rees have expressed an interest in me writing something for them. If all goes well, hopefully this work will gain some traction with these fine performers as a bi-continental endeavor!
My work on the Bonhoeffer did lead to some break throughs for me in the programming environment Max/MSP. Part of my compositional process deals with pitch-fields and manipulating them in all kinds of ways and as such I have been working on a synthesizer in Max that allows me to work with these pitch-fields.
The attached screen shot shows part of the patch I have been working through un building self-generative synthesizer I call Pitchfiled Synth. I hope to further develop this aspect within a work for flute and electronics! This sound file is only a test file which I used to set-up up the synth (an FM synthesizer) but it does give an impression of what some of it may sound like.
Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing the Gregorian chants.
In the next few months I will be documenting (or at least hope to) my progress on my Bonhoeffer project, a setting of his poem Wir bin Ich?, translated as Who Am I? It is a poem that has captivated me for sometime. I even set the English translation as an undergraduate composition student at Samford University some years back. Bonhoeffer wrote the poem in Tegel prison while serving a sentence for his involvement with a plot to assassinate Hitler. If you are unfamiliar with his story I would recommend picking up a copy of Eric Metaxas’ outstanding biography on him.
As I have spent time studying Bonhoeffer I became aware of his love for the hymn writer Paul Gerhardt and in thinking through this project I have thought it would be compelling to include some reference to Gerhardt. In my research I came across this hymn by Gerhardt.
The text of the hymn is about the Lamb of God going forth to bear the sins of world without complaint but rather with resolve to carry out the will of God for the good of his people. I thought this a fitting counterpoint to Bonhoeffer’s self-sacrifice on behalf of his commitment to seeing righteousness done towards the Jewish people who fell under Hitler’s oppression. I then realized an even greater connection with the music of this hymn, of which Bonhoeffer would very much have been aware. The title of the hymn tune is An Wasserflüssen Babylon, a reference to Psalm 137.
What a great connection I thought! If you do not know this Psalm, it is a Psalm written during or is at least about the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people around 596 B.C. or so. What I found so compelling was the quote from Bonhoeffer I used to introduce this post. It seemed to me a logical connection to draw these items together into this work given Bonhoeffer’s admiration of Gerhardt, the text of the hymn, and Bonhoeffer’s commitment to the Jewish people of Europe during World War II.
How to handle this compositionally is another matter altogether. I want to draw these connections together in a musically meaningful way. Given my aesthetic interests I am certainly not content to merely quote the hymn. I have long thought of a solo cello loosely representing Bonhoeffer would carry this song. I am working through that solo right now with the framework of the solo line being based around the hymn. The remaining ensemble, 14 string players, will carry the hymn as a kind of Vuza Canon.
In musical theory and practice a canon is contrapuntal work that employs one or more imitations of the primary melody or theme. A Vuza Canon is similar but carries with it an algebraic framework. At its most basic level, a Vuza Canon is a canon of periodic rhythms that has exactly one note per pulsation. I am still trying to get my head around the math (nothing new there) but hope to have this problem worked out within the week. I have been mulling over some papers from IRCAM and some more rudimentary ones from Tom Johnson but still don’t quite have it figured out. I need to be able to understand it so I can then get it into OpenMusic to work out the details.