Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My First Orchestra Work to be Performed This Week - Reflections

This coming Wednesday night (Dec. 3 @ 7:30pm) the Western Oregon Symphony will be performing one of my pieces, Citations Musicales, an arrangement I made of three Erik Satie piano pieces, transcribed and adapted for full orchestra. This has been a wonderful project for me, and it will be the first time a complete orchestra work of mine will be performed publicly. (Listen to a sample of the music on YouTube here.)

It is actually going to be the third time I have worked with an orchestra on a piece of mine. This past March, I had a reading session with the visiting strings-only group, Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, of two movements of a totally original composition titled Enkidu Suite (inspired by the Gilgamesh epic). The reading went really well — they are amazing players — but the piece is still a work-in-progress and not ready for public performance. Still, while working on that piece I was inspired to work on a piece for full orchestra, and came up with the plan of doing the Satie arrangement and began working on it almost a year ago. In June, The Western Oregon Symphony performed an early version of the first movement of Citations Musicales.

I find Satie’s style very evocative and striking. The Sarabande that I orchestrated is probably my favorite of his pieces, and I find it very charming and beautiful. Each of the three pieces I selected presented different challenges for how to use the orchestra to capture the essence of the music. i am sure with each one my technique has grown considerably.

Something else I am learning in this process is how much work is involved with seemingly simple tasks such as revising the score and parts when I decide on a change or find a mistake. I have done one relatively “minor” revision to the first movement, and made small changes or fixes to quite a few of the parts. (Just tonight we found a mistake in the cello part, and decided on a change in the timpani part!) I have no idea how much time total I have spent just revising parts and score, but any change always takes longer than I would anticipate. “Engraving” a music part involves not just the notes, but anything relating to the overall format that might change when you change a note. A change in a part also needs to be reflected in the conductor’s score, which has very different formatting requirements. So revisions are a detail-oriented and time-consuming task! When possible I try to maintain a file of my own notes on changes needed, so I can do as many in a batch as I can.

I am pleased to be presenting my piece, and thankful to the orchestra players and director Dr. Ike Nail for making this possible. I anticipate a great performance on Wednesday night, and I know this has been a great experience for me as a composer!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Minding the Melt (A Sonnet?)

Minding the Melt

Walking without a wrap, despite my recent cold,
the morning air stings inside my tender nose,
and trees patter down so much melting ice,
they must be wringing out the moss
that coats the crotch and purfle of every twig.
A gray squirrel with his tail fluffed wide
skids in fearless leaps from leaf-patched grass
and scales the nearest trunk.

Above the scene, the November-angled sun spotlights
his fast acrobatics and embosses the glassy
chilled surface of everything – curbs, shrubs, puddles, mud.
The trees don’t seem to care who might venture under
their sagging limbs. They distill a private
rain song from last night’s freeze.

(Nov. 14 & 15, 2014)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


After warm rains, a
brown marmorated stink bug
hangs on my bed stand.


Apparently these are an invasive species accidentally brought to the U.S. from Asia a few years ago. They are considered pests because they damage ornamental and crop plants. We're seeing a lot of them in the area right now.