Compositions

 

As an undergraduate at William Paterson, and somewhat by surprise, I became an active student composer and authored something like 15 full pieces between 1976 and 1982. These pieces are for solo instruments, duos, a string quartet, a piece for Percussion Ensemble, and a Symphony. Audio links and scores for six of these pieces are located to the right, you can click a link to listen and also read the score.

I am happy to share this material and also to report that the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble has agreed to another performance of my Percussion Sextet in Spring of 2021, and we also plan to do a studio recording at that time. I have only recently created PDF versions of all of these scores. As a general rule, at the time I prepared the final scores it would typically take two hours to copy one page, regardless of the piece or group involved. Now though, I am able to listen to the recordings while reading the PDF scores on my computer in full screen, and this is a very satisfying delivery. It is our intention to make that experience available here on the website.

At William Paterson my major specialty was Jazz Studies and Performance with guitar as instrument, and I was placed into second year theory classes with Professor Jeffrey Kresky. I became enamored during that time with jazz guitarist Jim Hall's playing; Bob DeVos introduced me to him. I was aware that Hall had a degree from Cleveland Institute of Music in composition and felt that conceptually his playing was unique. I wondered whether studying composition would help my approach to improvising jazz as a supplement to my private guitar lessons.

I very much enjoyed Prof. Kresky's classes, and also became swept up in the fervor for contemporary classical music that was evident at William Paterson through Ray DesRoche's groups and Jeff's efforts with student composers. I approached him in the spring of 1976 about studying composition privately, studied through that summer and continued with him through graduation and the summer of 1978. I was then accepted in the graduate composition program at Stony Brook for the fall 1978 semester.

In my first year at Stony Brook I studied with Billy Jim Layton, however I had counterpoint classes in my first two semesters with John Lessard (tonal and modal counterpoint) and became curious to study privately with him. I had weekly lessons with Lessard through the summer of 1979 covering composition, modal counterpoint, harmony, fugue, and orchestration. He was a noted pupil of Nadia Boulanger at the Ecole Normale du Music in Paris in the 1940s, and I enjoyed the work to develop these traditional compositional skills. Many of our lessons extended beyond four hours in length that summer.

With Lessard I composed the Chamber Piece for Four Players, performed three times in Spring 1980. After finishing this piece Mr. Lessard suggested that I compose a piece for orchestra. This ended up being the Symphony in Three Parts, performed in 1984. I received a grant from the American Music Center in 1983 to help underwrite the cost of preparing parts.

There was one more change in teachers in store for me: due to some personal differences with Mr. Lessard that became evident I decided to ask permission to switch composition teachers again, and was accepted to study with Daria Semegen. I had taken electronic music seminar with Daria and we got along quite well. She is brilliant in all compositional forms of contemporary music, with a notable career in electronic composition.

Partita for Marimba

Recording

  • Partita for Marimba

Personnel

  • Daniel Kennedy, marimba

Score

Notes

As a student at William Paterson College I gained many friends who were percussionists, and at the top of the list was Bruce Tatti. In 1976 I had written a trio for Flute, Vibraphone, and Double bass that was featured in a composition master class with Charles Wuorinen in spring of 1977. After hearing this Bruce asked if I would compose something for him. He was a year ahead of me, and was entering the Masters Program at Stony Brook in Percussion in fall of 1977. Bruce was the first person to introduce me to the beauty of the Bach solo cello suites played on marimba, and I sought to compose something new as a suite or partita with short movements similar to the suites. I also took the idea of the opening from Stravinsky's "Requiem Canticles," a piece that I came to love through studies with Jeff Kresky. The Partita is dedicated to Bruce and I remain grateful to him for his friendship and support. I regret that we did not record any of his performances.

I was also surprised to learn on arriving at Stony Brook as a composition student that another percussionist, Daniel Kennedy, was learning the partita and planned to play it on his senior recital. I made the recording of Dan on a small cassette deck with external microphones, it is not great audio quality but is the only one I have. Danny gave a beautiful, dramatic reading, and also performed the piece from memory. The score was subsequently published, and I remain grateful for the interest in this work.

 

Percussion Sextet

Recording

  • Percussion Sextet Movement I
  • Percussion Sextet Movement II
  • Percussion Sextet Movement III

Personnel

  • The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble, Bruce Tatti - conductor

Score

Notes

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. Music for Percussion accepted the work for publication, however they lost my manuscripts and we were forced to withdraw the piece. Many years later they discovered the lost manuscripts, and I have donated everything to Peter Jarvis and the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble. We have agreed to mount another performance in the spring of 2021, and frankly I can't wait to revisit this piece, it is a work that I am very proud of.

 

Chamber Piece for Four Players

Recording

  • Chamber Piece for Four Players

Personnel

  • Robert Avery - flute, Daniel Kennedy - percussion, Daniel Zollars - cello, George Fisher - piano

Score

Notes

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 that they were planning. 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.

 

Duo for Cello and Piano

Recording

  • Duo for Cello and Piano

Personnel

  • Andrew Luchansky - cello, Betty Miller - piano

Score

Notes

This piece came into being as an offshoot of the Chamber Piece. Another cellist in the department, Andy Luchansky, heard the performance and invited me to compose something for him. I took the opportunity to write this duet for Andy and Betty Miller, and they gave a superb performance. I have listened recently and noted that the musical language very much was in keeping with my Percussion Sextet, Chamber Piece, and Symphony. Soon after though, I started studying with Daria Semegen and this marked somewhat of a change in my writing.

 

Duo for Violin and Piano

Recording

  • Duo for Violin and Piano

Personnel

  • Rachelle Vetter - violin, George Fisher - piano

Score

Notes

Daria suggested that I write another duet, and for this one I was fortunate to have the concertmaster of the Stony Brook orchestra, Rachelle Vetter, give the premier performance. Her partner was George Fisher, and they gave an excellent rendition.

Daria was a terrific teacher and fun to work with, and had a compositional approach that owed to her mastery in electronic composition, but was quite comfortable working with traditional instruments.

 

Symphony in Three Parts

Recording

  • Symphony in Three Parts

Personnel

  • Stony Brook Graduate Chamber Orchestra, David Lawton - conductor

Score

Notes

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.