My New Work for Large Horn Ensemble is Completed

Posted By on May 10, 2011

I am happy to report that I have completed my latest commissioned work for large horn ensemble. The four movement work is entitled “The Seasons” and the movements are, obviously Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer. Mr. Kenichi Shimizu, who conducts the “TAMA Katatsumuri no kai” horn ensemble in Japan contacted me a couple of years ago about the possibility of commissioning a large, multi-movement work, which would be for three separate horn ensembles of different levels: professional level, advanced student or amateur level, and beginner or “easy” level, and percussion. The deadline was set for May 8, 2011, and my copyist, Mr. Geoffrey Winter and I did indeed deliver on time. This is what I have written about the work, which will appear in the score liner notes:

“It has been the desire of the composer for quite some time to write a work based on the four seasons. In Mr. Turner’s home in Luxembourg in Central Europe, three of the seasons are extremely pronounced. Spring, in all it’s verdant glory, is an uncommon relief after the bitter and snowy Winters. And in the Autumn, the trees burst with radiant colors of red, yellow, green and brown before the great multitude of leaves literally rain down from the trees. Mr. Turner traditionally spends his Summers abroad, either in New York City, Italy or Spain. During his holiday in these places, he can enjoy the heat of the Summer, the relaxing, lazy days, as well as the exotic feel that comes with traveling there.

The first movement is “Autumn”. From the first measure, the beautiful colors of Autumn splash onto the page. The main theme is melancholy and wistful. The second section of this movement, represents the excitement and positive mood of either returning back to school, or back to the job after a long vacation. This is followed by the dance of the leaves in the wind. As the late Autumn arrives, it is time for the millions of leaves to fall, drifting to the ground, until the trees stand bare and melancholy.

“Winter” opens with the sound of sleigh bells. The main theme of this movement is in the style of “Troika”. It is cold, rainy and grey. When the snow begins to fall, it falls in thick, wet blankets and piles high up on the ground. At last, when the snowfall has ceased, the scene outside is at once dreary and beautiful. Everything is white, except maybe the faint glow of a street lamp.

“Spring” opens with the sound of rain drops, at first light and then, growing louder, it turns into a real Spring rainfall with distant thunder. The melody is, however, youthful and full of hope. Following this, the listener witnesses the spectacular blooming of thousands of flowers, grasses and leaves. This section climaxes in a burst of color and life.

For the composer, “Summer” has always remained his favorite season. Not only the Summer heat, but the reunion with family members as well the exotic travel have always held a very special place in his heart. Trying to represent all of these elements and emotions in a horn ensemble piece proved to be difficult. Mr. Turner was composing this work in the heart of Winter, and the joy of Summer was really nothing more than a memory. In contemplating this, and given the fact that the work was commissioned by the honorable Japanese Horn Ensemble TAMA Katatsumuri no Kai, it seemed logical to use the famous Japanese folksong “Natsu no Omoide” or “Summer Memories” as the principal theme.

This work was conceived and created to be played by a large horn ensemble comprised of three choirs of different levels of difficulty:

Choir 1- Advanced level, to be played by 4 to 8 players.
Choir 2- Intermediate level, to be played by 4 to 8 players.
Choir 3- Easy level, to be played by 4 to 16 players. ”

A publisher for this major work for horn choir has not yet been determined. The “TAMA Katatsumuri no kai” retains rights to the work until May 2013. For those of you who may be interested in a similar large scale work for horn ensemble, please check out my work for three antiphonal horn quartets and percussion called “Bronze Triptych”. This work was commissioned by the horn section of the Dallas Symphony and is featured on the “Texas Horns” CD (Crystal Records CD774), a CD recorded by the combined sections of the Dallas and Houston horn sections. The work is published by Patti’s Prints, a link for which can be found on the AHQ website, www.hornquartet.com.

Virtuoso Horn Duo at BrassExplosion Singapore 2011

Posted By on April 30, 2011

On May 27th at 8 pm, Kristina Mascher and I- The Virtuoso Horn Duo- along with our pianist, Lauretta Bloomer will be participating in the opening recital of the 2011 BrassExplosion Festival in Singapore. Our portion of the program will include my “Twas a Dark and Stormy Night”, Introduction and Rondeau by Kalliwoda, and other pieces by Walter Perkins and Antonio Vivaldi. The following 2 days will see each of us presenting masterclasses at the Nanyang Academy of Performing Arts, the principal venue of this fantastic festival. Please click on this link: www.brasssociety.com to see all of the other events at Brassexplosion 2011.

The State of the Arts

Posted By on April 3, 2011

This past week has been a very interesting experience. My wife, Kristina and I had organized a small tour of four concerts in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, performing a wonderfully varied and virtuoso program with our pianist, Lauretta Bloomer. The suggestion to do this tour actually came from Lauretta and her husband, Bruce Rienstra, who works for the church in The Hague, one of the places we played. We were light heartedly calling it the “Sweet L’il Church Tour” as all four concerts were held at Anglican (or Episcopal) churches.

There was no sponsor for this undertaking. There were no fees involved. Bruce simply provided us with the space through his connections with each church, and we all agreed to do as much promotion and advertising for the tour as we could, given our collective busy schedules. The plan for payment- a suggested donation of 15 Euros (21 US Dollars) at the door plus the sales of VHD CDs as well as Lauretta’s solo CDs.

The idea was never a bad one. Throughout the many years I have toured with Kristina and my brother, Kyle, through the United States, Singapore and Australia, as well as my very extensive touring with the AHQ, we have, from time to time, scheduled just such a concert because either we needed to fill in the blanks (free days) on an otherwise full tour, or because we were playing in a home town of one of the players and there was therefore a lot of local interest. How have these concerts fared? Well, in the past, you could count on a rather decent turn out. Back in the 90’s, it didn’t seem to be too difficult to attract an audience of say, 60 or 70 to one of these self-organized events. Sometimes we even had a couple of hundred. As the new century chimed in, I did indeed notice a slight decrease in concert attendance. But it certainly didn’t seem prophetic or drastic by any means. Just a couple of concerts over a couple years that were poorly attended. This last year however has brought a new realization to my previous blindness to the state of the arts, as I have performed quite a few times for almost empty houses.

This past “Cute L’il Church Tour” proved, unfortunately to be a severely negative experience in terms of audience attendance. The first concert in Waterloo was very poorly attended indeed. Luckily some good friends and colleagues of ours made the trip (just south of Brussels) to be there and support us. The concert in The Hague saw a somewhat better turn out, although still quite small. We decided to cancel the concert in Eindhoven since we all had the least friends and connections in that city, and the final recital in Wiesbaden was just passing in acceptable numbers. There were horn players at all of these concerts. And the enthusiasm from the audiences was extremely high! I think we played the poorest in Waterloo only because of the initial shock of seeing such an empty church sanctuary instead of a wildly applauding crowd. It was demoralizing and embarrassing, as anyone who has been in that situation knows. I personally could not really focus for the first half of the concert.

You see, over the past few months, I had been coming to grips with this new reality of the classical music business, a term I despise because I will never consider it a business and thoroughly believe that doing so spells out the inevitable demise of this magnificent art. My orchestra, the OPL, has been delivered an entirely new mandate, suggesting that we follow in the footsteps of American orchestras. Fund raising, privatization, audience targeting, seeking out large corporate sponsors and strategic programming and promotion are the order of the day now for us. This way of funding the arts is exactly why I left America back in 1982. Europe was the golden land of thriving orchestras and was an unbelievably sumptuous performing arts scene. There was money everywhere for the arts, mostly government money. And this way of providing for their culture created this ideal dream environment. Well, all that has changed now since September 11, 2001 and the subsequent world financial crisis (I’m not linking the two necessarily, it’s just coincidental). The opulent coffers of the European fine arts have been drained and everyone, it seems, is going the way of the U.S. fine arts set-up. Interestingly enough, they seem to have it developed to a pretty sophisticated level over there, whereas here in “the old country” we are total beginners in this way of doing things. This ironically prompts the desire to return to the States and continue working there, where they seem to have it together, more or less.

And all of this is hitting me as I step out in front of the tiny but beautifully enthusiastic audience in Waterloo and attempt to play the Haydn double concerto in Eb. What has gone wrong? We knew that these events were going to be a little under par in attendance, but never this! I had a similarly catastrophic situation in Luxembourg back in December where I organized a concert under these same conditions at the International School of Luxembourg for trumpet player Brian Chin. And I swore then and there never to do that again.

But Kristina, Lauretta and I love to play these recitals! And if I do say so myself, and please forgive my boasting, we play the living hell out of our repertoire, which is very entertaining and enjoyable (twice on this tour we received the comment, “that was much more fun than I thought it was going to be”, or something to that effect). And this one of the important ways we all make a living. So where is the audience? Where is the demand for this sort of fine art entertainment? For culture? Have the fine arts been totally drowned out by the obnoxiously loud and way overly financed (and shockingly low standard, by the way) monster machine, which is the pop culture?

Well, I have decided that the answer to that question is not “yes.” That is, the audience is indeed there. And they are loyally attending both symphony and chamber music concerts. This year in the Philharmonie, the OPL played several times to sold out (or nearly sold out) crowds. And the Philharmonie in Luxembourg is a huge facility. And when the AHQ has performed on a regular community chamber concert series, there was standing room only audiences. But the key word here is “regular community concert series”. The concert goers of the new century seem to desire to adhere themselves to a properly planned out and structured series of say, 7 or 8 chamber concerts which are held at a fine concert hall, offer a nice variety of ensembles and fit their busy, structured schedules. And sponsors, unfortunately the new way of funding the arts, quite logically opt to sponsor and advertise a concert series, where they can get advertising and cultural association in the community, not by supporting a one-time event, but being plastered on the programs and posters of 7 or 8 concerts over the year. It means more exposure and is simply good business (there’s that word again…) The result of this new way of thinking is what I have experienced over these past few years, namely if someone decides to organize a concert or recital as a “one offer”, it goes under the normal concert goers radar and sponsors are very reluctant to get involved.

Another new and frustrating phenomenon is the newly developed importance of having an agent or manager. With the vast ocean of touring musicians all scrambling for performance opportunities (so sad), the artistic committees for these regular chamber concert series are simply overwhelmed with choice. So the simple solution- turn the entire thing over to an agent. Or consult with artist managements, which have produced good results for you in the past. But artist managements and agents are businesses (did I say I strongly dislike that word?) They are principally interested in making money. Or of they do indeed have higher, loftier artistic ideals, they certainly don’t want to lose money. So they have one, maybe two brass players or brass chamber groups on their roster. And they are just as easily satisfied with selling their string quartet or piano trio as they would be selling a horn quartet or duo. In fact, I have been told by a very large music agency in Brussels, that “your ensemble is spectacular! If anyone ever needs a horn quartet, we’ll call you.” But nobody ever truly NEEDS a horn quartet.

So where does this all leave me? Well, the American Horn Quartet now has management. And Kristina and I could also pursue an impresario who would go to bat for us. The sheer time, frustration and patience involved in procuring a decent manager however, is a bit too daunting for me, especially at my age. I mean, aren’t my activities as a member of the OPL, the AHQ, the VHD, and as a composer and soloist enough? Just to give the reader an idea of the promotion I did for the “Cute L’il Church Tour”, we designed a beautiful poster for the tour, sent out hard copies to over 40 music schools, local community bands and horn teachers, as well as a mass e-mailing (including the beautiful poster) to more music organizations and conservatories and teachers, and even contacted over 12 retirement homes, offering half-prize entrance to the recitals. Fliers were printed up, to be distributed to the church congregations as well. Embracing the way of the future, we set up an event page on face book and blogged about the tour as well. And this sort of promotion cost me a lot of time! Time I really should be using to compose and practice, not to mention relax a little bit from time to time.

I decided to write this blog, not to the purpose of whining about and lamenting the state of the arts, but more to put into writing the thoughts that have been going through my mind this past year, and especially as I walked out onto the concert platform to perform incredibly difficult and beautiful music, only to be greeted by a handful of friends clapping as loud as they can, and looking really embarrassed.

It's Back in the Saddle Again….

Posted By on March 20, 2011

Well, after a relatively calm autumn and Christmas season, musically speaking, things have certainly picked up recently. And it looks as if I will be pretty booked up until my summer vacation.

The AHQ completed a very successful tour of the USA, performing five concerts and giving three masterclasses in just under eight days. Immediately following my return home to Luxembourg, I was obligated to take my place on third horn in the OPL for rehearsals and concerts featuring Brahms 2nd and the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.

Starting this coming Tuesday, I will be fully engaged in the production and performance of my tone poem for symphony orchestra entitled “Karankawa”. The OPL will be playing it three times next week and I have been asked to participate in an interview on stage, in Luxembourgisch. On the day of the last concert (Saturday, March 26th), our pianist Lauretta Bloomer will be joining us in Luxembourg for rehearsals for a VHD tour, which begins the very next day. The program is a good one, featuring works by Haydn, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and my old buddy, Walter Perkins. These concerts will be in Waterloo (Belgium), Den Haag and Eindhoven (both in Holland) and in Wiesbaden, Germany. Please see the calendar on this site for details.

Right on the heels of the VHD tour, it’s The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. Kristina will be joining the mighty horn section of the OPL for this production. April 11- 21 will see Kristina and me in South Africa- on vacation!

Then it’s right back into the fire with a “Carmen” production with the OPL, and then off to Singapore with Kristina and Lauretta for concerts and other events at the 2011 Brass Explosion Festival in that wonderful and vibrant city. After about a week of recovering from jet lag back home, I will be flying off once again. This time I will be performing a recital and teaching and coaching at the Summer Music Academy 2011 on the campus of Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. If you are interested in this event, please contact Carolyn Blice at CBlice@aol.com. On Friday, June 17th at 3:30 PM, I will be performing a 1-hour recital on which I plan to play my own Sonata for Horn and Piano as well as the Larry Lowe Sonata Nr. 1.

I thought to write this blog because it occurred to me how funny my practicing schedule is. It seems that instead of practicing each program as it arrives, I am always working on the repertoire for two or three projects down the line. Today, for example, I was working pretty hard on the program for the Music Academy at Rollins College. But even stranger, why do I hear Kristina down in the basement, practicing licks from Bruckner 7? I guess she’s doing that somewhere along the way.

Posted By on March 6, 2011

The Virtuoso Horn Duo will be on tour in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany from March 27th till April 2nd. Please open this file to see all the details.

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Virtuoso Horn Duo Tour- March-April

Posted By on February 27, 2011

From March 27th till April 2nd, Kristina Mascher and I will be on a concert tour with pianist Lauretta Bloomer. It is certainly not the first time we have collaborated with this fabulous pianist on such a tour. We have performed together on two consecutive tours to the USA, and have presented concerts together in Rome, Singapore and Australia. This time Ms. Bloomer and the Virtuoso Horn Duo will be presenting four concerts in seven days in various locations in Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. In fact, the group is referring to this tour as the Anglican Church Tour since all of the performance venues will be at the local Anglican churches. Kristina Mascher and I are ourselves members of the Anglican Church of Luxembourg. Our program is superb, comprised of works by Haydn, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Kalliwoda along with a clever suite of American Folksongs. There will be a suggested donation of 15 Euros at the door. Don’t miss this wonderful music event!
For details, check the website at www.kerryturner.com (click on “blogs”) or call Bruce Rienstra at +31 20 428 8119. A full itinerary of this tour will follow soon.

American Horn Quartet U.S. Tour in February

Posted By on January 29, 2011

The American Horn Quartet will be on tour in the U.S. this coming February. It seems that we have made this a sort of tradition. That is, the AHQ has managed to tour the States just about every year since around 1990. Very often we return to universities and music schools where we have performed before. But usually we include a new location, Tennessee Tech and UW- Oshkosh being new this time. So from Valentine’s Day till the 22nd of February, the quartet will perform six concerts and present five masterclasses in four states. And here is our itinerary:

Feb. 14 Fly to from Europe to Atlanta.
Feb. 15 Masterclass and full recital at Kennesaw State University, Georgia.
Feb. 16 Full recital at the Northwest Universalist Unitarian Church in Atlanta.
Feb. 17 Fly to Milwaukee and drive to Steven’s Point, Wisconsin.
Feb. 18 Short Masterclass and 1-hour recital at UW- Steven’s Point.
Feb. 19 Horn Day at UW- Oshkosh featuring the AHQ- coaching and full recital.
Feb. 20 Band Festival at Valparaiso Univ., Indiana. Work with horn choir and 1-hour recital.
Feb. 21 Fly to Nashville and drive to Cookeville, Tennessee.
Feb. 22 Masterclass and full recital at Tennessee Tech University.
Feb. 23 The members of the AHQ fly off in three different directions.

The program for the full recital is as follows:

Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” W. A. Mozart
Andante in Db Major A. Bruckner
Quartet in Eb Major K. F. Homilius
West Side Story Suite L. Bernstein
INTERMISSION
Fugue A-Major J. S. Bach
Quartet Nr. 4 K. Turner
Moon River Mancini-Turner
Sabre Dance A. Khachaturian

The program for the 1-hour recital looks like this:

Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” W. A. Mozart
Sinfonia 11 and Fugue A-Major J. S. Bach
Quartet Nr. 4 K. Turner
Moon River Mancini-Turner
Sabre Dance A. Khachaturian

If you are interested in attending one of these events, here is a list of the organizers who may be able to help you with the information you would require.

Tom Witte at Kennesaw State:

http://www.kennesaw.edu/music/IMAGES/AHQ_schedule.pdf

Kathy Kelly George at the Northwest Universalist Unitarian Church in Atlanta:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=158741017511476

Dr. Pat Miles at UW- Steven’s Point:

http://www.uwsp.edu/music/people/faculty/pmiles.aspx

Dr. Bruce Atwell at UW- Oshkosh:

http://www.uwosh.edu/music/festivals-camps-1/french-horn-day

Jeff Hazelwinkel or John Schreckengost :

http://www.valpo.edu/music/performances/index.php

Jeremy Hansen at Tennessee Tech University:
Call: +931 372-3161

You can also access all the information about this tour on the AHQ facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Horn-Quartet/69086301272

or check out the AHQ website at www.hornquartet.com.

It’s going to be a fantastic tour. Hope to see you there!

Pre-concert routines: a fresh naive view contrasted by one formed out of years of experience

Posted By on December 18, 2010

Recently, I enjoyed a very interesting conversation with a young lady, a soprano from America who is studying in Berlin. We were collaborating on a concert project here in Luxembourg. As is my afternoon custom, we sat at a nice cafe and began this discussion.

I asked her if she had a particular routine she observes on the day of a concert. She answered emphatically “no”, and went on to explain why. Basically she doesn’t want to become “addicted” to odd little habits, superstitions and chemicals (caffeine included) which so many other artists have embraced. She prefers to remain pure. I explained to her that I like to have a warm-up in the morning, and a small bit of playing in the afternoon. Then I like to take a siesta after lunch, knock down a hefty coffee in the late afternoon, shower, dress and warm-up once again at the hall, preferably an hour or so before the concert. I also find it necessary to assess my “chop” and mind condition: if my lips are chap, I keep applying some sort of a salve. If they are swollen, I may take an aspirin. If I am jet-lagged or a bit sleepy, I may have another coffee. If I feel nervous about a particular concert, I may even take a beta blocker (although, this has become less and less necessary as I have gotten older). And then I fairly run to the pub for a beer immediately following the concert. I don’t know what it is. It just makes the whole thing complete.

Well, my young friend said she likes to sleep very late on the day of a concert. But other than that, she has remained “crutch free”. Then she sipped at her chamomile tea. I then asked her how she came to the conclusion that lots of sleep on the day of a concert is something she always likes to “observe”. And of course she said that she has found that she does indeed have a splendid voice when a long and rewarding sleep has been achieved the night before. So I said to her, “Just imagine that tonight’s concert goes absolutely swimmingly. Your voice is perfect, your concentration sharpened, and you are as calm as a sloth. And then, let’s imagine that you receive an offer to perform a Bach Cantata with a well-known baroque specialist in Berlin. On the day of the concert, you are a bit tense, and this causes you to have trouble focusing, something that happens to every performer. And then you remember, ah ha, in Luxembourg, doing that concert with Turner, I had a chamomile tea and that really put things straight. Why, it worked like a charm! And it indeed does work like a charm on the concert that evening. The only thing different that you did, besides of course sleeping very late and having the chamomile tea, was that you took a good long walk in the late afternoon, only to clear your mind and get some fresh air. And you say to yourself, “you know, I’m going to do that again next time I have a concert like this.” And you do. And it becomes a really fine habit which you enjoy on the day of a concert.

And then let’s say you have been offered a great position with a highly recognized opera house in Germany. You have received your repertoire for the season ( a couple of really juicy roles), and you have told your vocal coach that you really require six weeks to prepare each role. “I don’t know”, you say, “It seems to be the magic amount of time before I feel comfortable with the part and the music.” “Oh and by the way,” you continue, “could you please bring me some of that Italian sparkling water. It feels great on my voice, and with this salary, I’m not taking any chances.”

“Uh oh”, I say, “sounds like a routine forming.”

You see, my young, lovely collaborator that evening was basing her “purist” and dare I say “Utopian” ideas about a pre-concert routine on her minuscule performance experience. And above all, her experience as a non-paid performer. When you are receiving a top salary for your performances, or when you have developed such a reputation that concert goers desire nothing else than to hear you sing or play like a god, and they are willing to pay top dollar in order to be thrilled by you, it changes the entire way you think about concert preparation. One is absolutely obliged to find a method of preparation and execution which will stabilize one’s performance to a thoroughly consistent and dependable level. And one will do just about anything to assure that this happens.

After the concert was finished, she said, “you know, I think I should’ve warmed a bit more before the gig.”

“You will remember that next time,” I answered.

And so it begins……

Reprint of "Ricochet"

Posted By on December 8, 2010

It has been ten years since the release of the CD entitled “Ricochet”. This disc is a compilation of various chamber music works of mine which were recorded by the American Horn Quartet, the Saturday Brass Quintet and members of the Luxembourg Philharmonic. And now, after a sell out of the original print, the CD label, MSRCD has reprinted this exciting album. Despite the many recordings of my brass quintet, Ricochet, this rendition by the Saturday Brass Quintet is probably, in my opinion, the best of them all. It was certainly the first recording of this action packed quintet, and it’s interpretation was based on the experience of having performed the work live many times. Indeed the Saturday Brass Quintet sounds magnificent! It was therefore with some concern that I lined up the AHQ recording of “Fandango” right after “Ricochet”. But my concern was unfounded. The quartet’s performance of this staple of our repertoire easily holds it’s own. And this can also be said for the recording of my Quartet Number 4 which comes towards the end of the CD. One thing that I have never forgotten is the recording session of Quartet 4 with the AHQ. We put the whole thing on tape in one day! Just a few hours. It was really the AHQ at it’s zenith.

There is a very interesting group of three pieces on the Ricochet CD- The Labyrinth (large brass ensemble), The Seduction (string quartet) and Quarter-After-Four (horn, violin and piano). These pieces are sort of a trilogy and really belong together. On the CD, they lead seamlessly from one to the other. And when heard in this way, they make perfect sense. The instrumentation of these 3 works is such that it would be difficult to stage a performance of this trilogy. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that someday, somebody will attempt it. These pieces are dark. I composed them all from a very deep and dark place inside my mind. You can read all about them in the CD liner notes. The recordings of “The Seduction” and “Quarter-After- Four” are, by the way, taken from live concerts.

“The Pocono Menagerie” for trumpet, horn, tuba and piano may just be one of the most beautiful and atmospheric works I have ever composed. I have often pointed to it as one of my favorite compositions. This rendition was also done very quickly, as I recall. We were trying to record takes between bursts of jack hammer noise outside the concert hall. It was a tough business, I remember. But the recording turned out quite lovely.

You can order this CD directly from MSR Classics. The catalog number is MS 1064 and the website is www.msrcd.com. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for somebody who is a fan of the my music or the American Horn Quartet, then this CD would really be perfect.

Thoughts About Composition

Posted By on November 9, 2010

The other day, a very small comment made by a friend of mine at work sprouted a seed of thought which, over the next five days, grew into quite a bitter plant. The OPL has been recording the works of the French composer Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941.) His pieces have been largely ignored over the past century and I believe they are very much worth hearing. When I said as much to my friend, who generally has very fine taste, she replied, “You must be kidding! You like this stuff?” Or something to that effect. Now some of these works are for large orchestra and are of substantial length. And although not being terribly rhythmic, they are complex enough in harmony, melody and form. And I was thinking about how much time, energy and effort I know went into writing music like this. Sometimes trying to access that creative spirit, attempting to ride the wave of inspiration, is a frustrating and quite emotional experience. It is a state which all artists go through when creating something out of nothing. When the composer has finally finished the work, gone through it over and over again, written out a legible score and set of parts, and then cautiously presents it to a musical director, his entire endeavor is liable to end up in the “You like this stuff bin.”

I am thinking also if the premier of Anton Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony. You can read about it on Wikipedia. Eye witnesses report that at the conclusion of the performance, after the orchestra members and most of the audience had already left, Bruckner could be seen waddling around the stage, quietly collecting the parts to this unwanted masterpiece, which was only performed twice in his lifetime.

And then I began to think about the many composers of our time, who churn out uninspired, unenlightened, ugly sounding, dismal works and then lobby like hell to get them performed. And the many music directors who are somehow duped into programming these unfortunate pieces, “music” which will never last the test of time, completely fail to lift mankind to a higher plain- one of the purposes of art in the development of civilization- and are really disliked by both audience and orchestral members alike. And for some reason, they succeed as composers.

I have to wonder, how dare they! The call to be a composer is a serious business indeed. The bar has been set extremely high. Think about Schönberg’s “Paellas and Melisande”, or Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, Brahms Fourth Symphony, Bach Magnificat, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. The list goes on and on. It is a costly affair to financially support performances of new works, and I believe the money in this area of the fine arts is somewhat limited. Composers today are, more than ever, under enormous pressure to produce works of the quality of those I just mentioned. If you don’t present a piece on par with, say, Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses, your work will probably end up in the “You like this stuff bin.” I state as an example, the Piano Sonata Nr. 1 by Alban Berg. It is his opus 1! His first piece.

One of my pet peeves is when musicians and listeners alike (mostly the former, by the way) accuse composers of being plagiarists, or “borrowers” of other composers’ ideas. It’s interesting to me that it seems to only take three or four notes in a similar pattern, or sometimes only one similar harmonic change for a piece to be termed “plagiarized” or borrowed. Yet all artists, from sculptors to poets to writers and composers, painters and dancers have always built on the groundwork and concepts of other fellow artists who have gone before them. Everybody gives a respectful wink and a smile when they hear the works of Vivaldi blatantly quoted in the works of Bach. Listen to the Berg Piano Sonata, for example, and you will hear what I mean. I myself, have properly exhausted my own musical language. I have been attempting, with some success, to evolve to the next etape. I find it to be doable, albeit time consuming both emotionally and intellectually. An artistic development such as this demands deep, inner contemplation and serious probing of the very depths of one’s creativity. One simply cannot give in to the tendency to allow “intellectualism” to take over, thereby putting out the flame of true artistic creation. The very stream of genius which brought forth the masterpieces of ages.

I also thought about the endless time involved in proof reading pieces for publication. The huge financial as well as energetic effort it takes to get your works recorded and “out there.” And when I considered all of these factors, I felt overwhelmed. I felt smothered. Completely and utterly smothered. How can I write music of the proper and mandatory standard if I am up against all of these odds? Well, I can’t. It really is enough to make me desirous of stopping altogether.

This year I had decided that I was going to spend more time on the promotion of my orchestral works, being “Karankawa”, The Grail Symphony, and the concertos. I also really need to promote some of my major works for larger chamber ensemble, for example “Rhapsody” for nonet, “Postcards from Lucca” for concert band, and “Bronze Triptych” for 12 horns, just to name a few. Many of these are by far my best work. Yet they are really never played. And it occurred to me that I don’t have the right type of personality to push my music hard enough to get music directors interested in even listening to it.

Yet having written all of this, I will continue to compose. There is a voice inside me that is insisting that I continue to write music. It is what I was really meant to do. So I will at some point this year, start my next project. I would like to compose a chamber symphony, a four- movement work for about sixteen instruments. I have been studying Schönberg’s First Chamber Symphony (opus 9). And you know, I will most probably end up financing the recording of it myself, and there is a very good chance that it, like the rest of my orchestral opus, will only make it into the repertoire after I am dead. It sounds kind of depressing, doesn’t it?

But I have partial encouragement by the numerous performances of my Quartet Nr. 2, easily one of the easiest things I have ever written. I think it took me all of a Saturday and Sunday to pen that one. Oh well.