A Woman is Alive
The Knife Thrower
Four simple short works for piano, titles from the Erin Langley poem inspired by the Stephen Millhauser story of the same name. The score is here. As I was just telling Beth Levin a few minutes ago, there are few dynamics and few indications of tempo, but they are flexible. I personally played the first piece moving the soft pedal very slowly, and in synchronization with my own small dynamic movements, giving the feel of an organ crescendo pedal. The third piece can be even slower than indicated, and quieter, and una corda. The last should have some frenzy, wide dynamics fine, a caesura before the change to the soft part.
Three short works
Written quickly, none of these have yet been performed, but they are presented here for amusement. The first two were demanded by the Estonian soprano Sirje Viise and the third written as a gift for Michelle Jeanine Horsley.
Home, with illustrations
Certitude and Joy
The "bold and brilliant new chamber opera by composer-librettist Erling Wold" (San Francisco Chronicle) premiered in March of 2012 at Bindlestiff in San Francisco to rave reviews and sold out audiences. The libretto is here and the score here and a video here.
Certitude and Joy
For orchestra. Premiered the 2nd of June, 2011, by the Sofia Philharmonic, Alexei Kornienko conducting.
The words of the title come from Blaise Pascal's Memorial, his description of an irrational moment that shaped his life: a burst of insanity, an experience of love, an overwhelming affection. The piece is sentimental in terms of sentience, defining humanity's intelligence in its capability to feel. As a mathematician, Pascal is famous for many things, not the least of which is his triangle, an arrangement of the binomial coefficients, some sequences of which are used as structural elements in the piece. This musical work is a companion piece to two others, the opera Chosen and the piano duet walking along the Embarcadero past pier 7 and the flowers, both of which dance along the razor's edge between religious certainty and fanatical madness.
A remounting of my opera queer at Southside Theater, San Francisco, May 20th to 29th. The revised score is here.
DieciGiorni: 10 DAYS
I took part in a collaborative opera based on the Decameron which, after some behind-the-scenes toil, murder and conflagration, came out OK. Here are the musical bits I contributed, performed divinely.
Walking along the Embarcadero past pier 7 and the flowers
per Margherita Eugenia
Although my father was capable of some puccaloistic whistling, most of my musical talent came through my mother, who played in a piano-laden ersatz orchestra in her youth, a not uncommon animal in those areas bereft of a bona fide heterogeneous ensemble, performing multi-piano arrangements of familiar melodies, such as her favorite, my countryman Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King, whose inexorably testosteronic accelerando rubbed her and her fellow pianistes to the brink of ecstasy. But the LP most in rotation in my boyhood home featured the trademark cascading strings of the Mantovani arrangements of Italian melodies, including Come Back to Sorrento, a calorie-lacking fluffball that I still cannot hear without bawling like a little baby, and a few flavonoids of which I have stolen for my variation here for an ensemble sadly lacking the three thousand strings necessary. Score here and recording here and video here.
Continuing with the treacly investigation of romance and its elations, its euphoric pleasures, begun with Two Orchestral Waltzes for Lynne, the current work makes manifest, in sound, the joyous warmth, the sweet iron fetters and the small panics which flow from hogtying oneself together with one's chosen helpmeet and companion. In this piece, it is demonstrated in some detail how much one can gain in life simply by giving up one's philandering, and, while still given license to strut and flirt and still authorized to play the dandy, one must now, for the foreseeable future, festoon one's costume with the leash and collar and electronic ankle bracelet, sometimes visible but most often invisible, like the line that one might be enticed to cross save for the memories of the previous attempts' resultant truncheoning and electric shocks. But let us not dwell on such past pains, but please to look to that bright future world illumined by the brightest and whitest of most pure light where, joined in glory and set upon one's throne just to the right of the Empress, in a new Sagrada Familia, happily holding court, happily holding the hand of the one most beloved. Score here and recording here.
The Secret of Success: a chaconne for violin and piano
More or less a chaconne, in the modern sense of the word: a series of variations over a repeating harmonic progression. In this case, all the harmonies have a Bb in the bass, they are a bit insistent about it in fact, and are connected through a narrow set of chromatic major/minor alterations. Score here. Written for my friends, the duo Elena Denisova and Alexei Kornienko. A recording of the piece by my colleagues Marja Mutru and Michele Walther is here.
In the Stomachs of Fleas
Two Orchestral Waltzes for Lynne
"The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper - the art of tone turned bawdy. I venture to say that the compositions of one man alone, Johann Strauss II, have lured more fair young creatures to lamentable complaisance than all the hypodermic syringes of all the white slave scouts since the fall of the Western Empire. There is something about a waltz that is simply irresistible. Try it on the fattest and sedatest or even upon the thinnest and most acidulous of women and she will be ready, in ten minutes, for a stealthy kiss behind the door - nay, she will forthwith impart the embarrassing news that her husband misunderstands her, and drinks too much, and cannot appreciate Maeterlinck, and is going to Cleveland, 0., on business to-morrow..." H.L. Mencken.
The two waltzes here are written for my inamorata, and reflect two of her most beguiling facets, the first: as the fallen Russian aristocrat, the woman of a certain expectation lacking the allowance that would sanction it; the second: as the haughty and dominating sovereign, unwilling to brook any usurpation of her ultimate and crushing authority. Popularly, waltzes are thought of as dances in 3/4 time, but the word waltz merely means a revolving dance, as both words come from the same root, and many dances named waltzes over the last few centuries have been in a variety of meters: 2/4, 3/4, 6/8, 5/4. But in the end, composers get to call their works whatever they want, so, while the first soi-disant waltz is in 3/4, it is hardly a dance at all, more a concert statement of unbridled passion, discords and all, and the second, while primarily in a fast 3/4 with shifts to 2/4, carries us away in a whirl, a flash of ankle as the ball gown spins up, bodies pressed against each other, a fevered head falling to a shoulder in a swoon of sweet and utter surrender.
On the Death of David Blakely. November 8, 1896, Wednesday. David Blakely, manager of Sousa's Band, died suddenly yesterday afternoon in the Carnegie Building, Fifty-seventh Street and Seventh Avenue, from an attack of apoplexy. Mr. Blakely was in the best of health until stricken. At about 4 o'clock his typewriter went out on an errand. When she returned, she found Mr. Blakely lying on his face on the floor of his office. Score and recording.
Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi, Mass of the Blessed Notker the Stammerer, Monk of St. Gallen. Premiered April 12/13 in St Gallen and Jona, Switzerland, Hans Eberhard, director, Kimberly Brockman, soprano, Willibald Guggenmos, organ, Collegium Vocale der Kathedrale St. Gallen, Collegium Instrumentale der Kathedrale.
Orchestral Suite from Mordake #1 and #2. Played by the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra, September 2007 and March 2008.
Waltz for Lynne for piano. Score here.
Baron Ochs suite for orchestra. Orchestration of the original from 1985. Performed by San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra, March 2007.
La Lunga Ombra (the long shadow), a film by Jon Jost.
Blinde Liebe (aka Brother/Sister) a dance opera with the Palindrome Dance Company. Performed in Nürnberg and San Francisco so far.
an old man dies
Brightness exists in two versions, one for clarinet, piano and bass-baritone and an expanded score for orchestra. The text is a poem by Dan Bellm. The recording of the chamber version features Rachel Condry and Joe Kinyon (and myself). The orchestral version is played by the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra with Rachel Condry and Micah Epps as soloists.
Homecoming, a film by Jon Jost. Premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2004. Won first prize at Spirit Film Festival, 2005.
Raheel, a set of songs, and poem to you written in whispers, a song, both on texts by Dima Hilal, piano-vocal and orchestral versions. The recordings below feature Dina Emerson, soprano, and the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra.
Sub Pontio Pilato, an opera about the suicide and historical recreation of Pontius Pilate to a libretto by James Bisso. Various scenes presented in San Francisco, Nürnberg and the Alternativa Festival in Prague. An orchestral version of some scenes was presented in Seattle with the Seattle Creative Orchestra, Laurie Amat, John Duykers, and the Ancora choir. A workshop production was done in Wels, Austria in December of 2002 and the piece premiered in San Francisco at the ODC Theater in April of 2003. Some production photos are here. Below are recordings of the premiere performance and the orchestral performances.
Veracity, an ongoing suite of pieces for piano solo written for Marja Mutru. The performance below is a live recording of a performance by Erling Wold on the Kalvos and Damien radio show
queer, a chamber opera based on the William Burroughs novel. Premiered in San Francisco, April 2001. The libretto is here.
Harvest of Rage, a set of songs for tenor and orchestra.
I brought my hips to the table, collaboration with Cid Pearlman for the ACF Composer/Choreographer award. Based on Bearing the Names by Michelle Murphy. Presented at ODC, San Francisco, December 1998.
Hushed Piece, song to a poem by Amy Trachtenberg. Score is here.
London Brief, soundtrack for a film by Jon Jost. Premiered at the Yamagata and Rotterdam film festivals. DVD release on OtherShore.
Close/Minotaur, a dance choreographed by Cid Pearlman of The Nesting Dolls (San Francisco) as well as Robert Wechsler of Palindrome Dance (Nürnberg). Both versions were premiered in 1997. An MP3 recording of a performance by the San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble is here and a score is here. It has also been performed in Philadelphia by Relâche.
13 Versions of Surrender, song cycle for piano, bassoon, cello and voice based on the poem by Michelle Murphy. Premiered by Laurie Amat in several concerts in San Francisco, including Footwork. The libretto is here. Lauren Elder did a painting based on the piece.
13 Versions of Surrender (CD), released by Spooky Pooch Records.
Abstände, Duet, etc, several pieces for dancer-interactive computer system, computer-controlled pipe organ and electronics, performed at Tafelhalle, Nürnberg, and Gasteig theatre, Munich, with the Palindrome Dance Company. There are some approximations to possible realizations of the pieces in piano reductions here and here.
Albrechts Flügel, four pieces for piano solo. Marja Mutru plays them here.
Yoga Garden for a yoga dance performance by Gay White. An MP3 file is here.
A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, chamber opera based on the collage novel by Max Ernst. Scored for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, viola, horn, cello, keyboard, percussion. 50 minutes. Performed at Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, January-February 1995. Produced by the Paul Dresher Ensemble at ODC Theater, San Francisco, March 2000. Some production photographs of the ODC performance are here and the libretto is here.
The Bed You Sleep In, soundtrack for a film by Jon Jost, produced by Complex Corporation. Film invited to film festivals in Berlin, London, Vienna, Iceland, Istanbul, Sundance, San Francisco, etc. Scored for saxophone, oboe, flute, clarinet, piano, drums, cello, viola.
Modules and Loops, electronic music for a dance by Robert Wechsler, performed in Germany and Czechoslovakia. MP3 file is here.
Table for One, electroacoustic music for dance by Ann di Fruscia, performed in San Francisco.
Sure Fire, music for film directed by Jon Jost, who asked me to write country music that wasn't country music. Oh, and it had to be in Just Intonation.. Released theatrically in France, USA, UK, Germany. Winner of Caligari Prize, Berlin Film Festival 1991. First place in Athens Film Festival 1992. Scored for pedal steel, electronics and drums.
Egg Dance, electroacoustic music for a dance by Gay White and Leigh Evans, performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Included on I Weep.
Mo for piano. Included on I Weep.
It was in the summer that I first noticed your hair, your face, your eyelids. Scored for flute, clarinet, oboe, bells, retuned piano and electric bass. Included on I Weep. Included on Numbers Racket, Just Intonation Network, 1991.
Piano Concerto #4 by V.M. Included on I Weep.
Duncan's Long Day for synthesizer. Included on I Weep.
Incidental music for the play The Islamic Republic of Las Vegas: Dance of the Testifiers, for retuned flute, vibraphone and drums. Included on Music of Love. Included on Rational Music for an Irrational World, Just Intonation Network, 1989. Dance of the Polygamists for piano. Ten Tan Girls for Every Boy for organ, saxophone, bass, synthesizer.
318th 45th Street for string orchestra, included on I Weep.
Quintet, music for a dance by Robert Wechsler, performed in New York and Germany. MP3 here.
Tune for Lynn Murdock #2, included in Tellus #14, special issue on just intonation.
Crash, music for a dance by Gay White, performed at New Langston Arts in San Francisco, Nexus Gallery, Berkeley and Lhasa Gallery, Los Angeles. Included on Music of Love. Included in premiere issue of Leonardo Music Journal CD, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1991.
Baron Ochs (LP) released by Spooky Pooch.
Marriage for two trumpets and bass or slide guitar and bass.
Baron Ochs, music for a recitation. Text by Everett Shock and Erling Wold. Scored for two keyboards and solo instrument. 25 minutes. Included on Baron Ochs. Performances in San Francisco, 1985 and Berkeley, 1991.
Tune for Lynn Murdock #1, for 11 amplified strings and percussion. Included on Music of Love (CD), 1988.
Concerto for String bass and Chorus in quarter-tones and sixth-tones.
The Waste Land, setting of the T.S. Eliot poem. Scored for piccolo, flute, violin, vibraphone, percussion, piano/celesta and soprano. Eleanor Remick Warren music composition award from Occidental College.
Sonata for clarinet and piano in two tempi.