The William Paterson College music department was a hub of 20th century musical activity for several reasons, and I became an active student composer during my years there and also at Stony Brook as a graduate student. My compositions are for solo instruments, duos, a string quartet, percussion ensemble, and orchestra. Audio links and scores for a few of these pieces are located to the right, you can click links to listen and also read the score. I was fortunate to have some of my work accepted for publication by Music for Percussion Inc, and have also recently self-published a hard copy condensed score of my string quartet, available through amazon.com books.
At WPC, under the leadership of Jeffrey Kresky and Raymond Des Roches, composition students were fortunate to receive a good live performance when a work was completed. Accordingly, we prepared scores and parts and also participated in rehearsals, and sometimes in performances as either instrumentalist or conductor. In that sense, I started as composer but also became a performer and conducted two of my scores when in graduate school at SUNY Stony Brook. I remain deeply grateful to all the performers of my music.
String Quartet in Two Movements
- String Quartet in Two Movements - complete recording
- The Maranda String Quartet (please excuse analog audio, this recording has historic value)
In 1977, and while at William Paterson College, I composed a string quartet as a student of Jeffrey Kresky. This piece is one of my proudest achievements and happiest memories from those years. And in a surprising series of events, the quartet was performed in April 1978 by the Maranda Quartet, on a chamber music concert that was part of the annual festival of contemporary music held each spring.
I had distributed a few of my scores to faculty members the previous fall, and was shocked when Ray Des Roches let me know that there was funding available for a performance. We found the Maranda through a connection with the Group for Contemporary Music in New York and engaged them; they would play the Webern Six Bagatelles for String Quartet along with my piece as part of a program of varied works by Kresky, Crumb, and Wuorinen.
I hoped for a usable tape of the performance, and the only option was to record the quartet on a ‘boom box’ placed within twenty feet of the performers. I have kept this cassette since then, and recently revisited to digitize despite some damage. The recording reveals a highly skilled and excellent performance, and enthusiastic response, and the immediacy of the appreciation by the audience is very gratifying.
I also hear something in the recording in the present time that I was not aware of before this year. On listening again I remembered that my parents were in attendance. As refugees from post WWII Europe, I realize now that this likely was a deeply meaningful experience for them. My father had been a violinist as a child in Poland before the war. In April 1940 he and my grandmother were arrested by the Soviets, transported to Kazakhstan, and imprisoned; and he kept his violin with him. He escaped later that year and sold it to a local university professor in order to fund his escape. He did not play again, and after immigrating to New Jersey suffered an accident that disfigured the last two fingers of his left hand. I knew vaguely that he had studied violin as a child, but did not learn these other details until years after his death. At the time of the concert I thought we were an unusual immigrant family, but not much more.
My mom told me that he was so proud on the evening of the performance he couldn’t speak of it without welling up in tears. But after the concert, we hardly discussed the music other than for me to accept his congratulations.
I have recently digitized the original hard copies of my manuscripts, and worked with master copyist Peter Jarvis to create a digital engraving of the score. It is published as a condensed version on amazon.com, available at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08HGPPQ8Q . If any string players would like a set of parts for the quartet, please contact me. With deep gratitude to Jeff Kresky, Ray Des Roches, the members of the Maranda Quartet, and Pete Jarvis.
- Percussion Sextet Movement I
- Percussion Sextet Movement II
- Percussion Sextet Movement III
- The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, Bruce Tatti - conductor
The Percussion Sextet was also a suggestion from Bruce Tatti: he let me know that if I were to write for percussion ensemble, that likely the Stony Brook group would perform the work. Bruce was at Stony Brook one year before I arrived and we were in close contact. We settled on a group of six players, and I took liberally from the guidance of Charles Wuorinen's writing for percussion in that I divided the ensemble generally in half between pitched and non-pitched instruments. The 'front line' consisted of 2 vibraphones and marimba, and the back line had one percussionist playing six drums, another playing six metal instruments, and the last part has a combination of chimes, glockenspiel, snare drum, and string drum.
The original group consisted of Bill Utley and Dan Kennedy playing vibraphones 1 and 2, Jim Hurst on marimba, Bruce Tatti playing drums, Dominic Donato playing metals, and Steve Martino playing chimes and assorted instruments. We began rehearsing in late August of 1978, and had weekly Wednesday night rehearsals through the following May. I had composed the first two movements when we started rehearsing, and finished the third movement in December. At the risk of sensationalizing, this was a truly amazing experience for me. It was my first time conducting anything, and I appreciated everyone's patience. But, we all very definitely learned the music, and gave two excellent and well-received performances in May of 1979.
The piece was subsequently performed at William Paterson College in 1981 with Bruce conducting, and again in 1983 at Symphony Space in New York with Eddie Fay conducting.
Chamber Piece for Four Players
- Chamber Piece for Four Players
- Robert Avery - flute, Daniel Kennedy - percussion, Daniel Zollars - cello, George Fisher - piano
This piece originated as an informal double-commission in that Bob Avery and Dan Kennedy asked if I might write a chamber piece for them to play on a joint recital. I also wanted to write again for cello, there were many gifted cellists at Stony Brook studying with faculty members Bernard Greenhouse and Timothy Eddy, and Dan Zollars agreed to play my piece. Pianist George Fisher was a fixture at Stony Brook and played many premieres of new compositions. He is featured in two of my works, this quartet and the Duo for Violin and Piano.
The quartet received three performances, and an interesting footnote is that two performances were conducted by Graduate conducting student David Milnes, (I conducted the other performance). David has gone on to a noteworthy career as a conductor and teacher and is on the faculty of UC Berkeley.
Symphony in Three Parts
- Symphony in Three Parts
- Stony Brook Graduate Chamber Orchestra, David Lawton - conductor
I list this piece last because it was the last premier that I enjoyed, in February of 1983. I had composed this work while studying with Mr. Lessard, and completed it in 1981. At that time I gave a copy of the score to Stony Brook Graduate Orchestra conductor David Lawton, but I did not hold out any hope that it would be performed. As a result, I prepared the score but did not work on a set of parts due to the labor involved in those days before notation software existed.
I then received a call from David in the fall of 1983 saying that he had programmed the piece for a February 1984 concert, and asked for the parts. I had a small panic but promised to create them as quickly as possible, and this was when I learned of a grant program available from the American Music Center in New York City.
I was able to secure the grant and engaged New York copyist Stephen Dydo to assist. I copied the percussion parts; I believe Steve did the rest. The performance was quite successful, and I very fondly remember a conversation with Billy Jim Layton and John Lessard in the lobby of the recital hall afterward. They were proud of me, and I was gratified by their support and friendship.