What’s New in the life of Sam?

Well, lots of things as a matter of fact. First of all, I applied to be accepted to a 12 day Summer Composition intensive in Indiana and….I GOT ACCEPTED!!! This is an awesome opportunity as I will get to study with professional composers such as Zae Munn, Michael Schelle, Kristin Kuster,  Jay Batzner,  and Joshua Marquez, meet and network with other young composers who have similar musical goals in mind, and learn some new techniques to broaden my horizons. I will also be working my tail off in the near future to save for this learning experience (though I will also be gratefully accepting donations so that I can justifiably afford to eat).

Secondly,I’ve recently heard back From Avguste Antonov concerning the upcoming CD with Cumulus Humilis on it and that is nearing it’s final stages. As a contributing composer to his Debut album, I am both honored and excited.

Thirdly, for your playing Pleasure (or agony), several new Scribbles and Doodles have been released. Please feel free to investigate these and if you wish to perform any of them, they are free of charge, though it would be appreciated if you would send a copy of any programs.If your instrument is not there, do not worry. It will likely make it on there in the near future. Also, any recommendations or requests for a new scribble are always welcome.

Fourthly, I wrote a new Band Piece! This one is very different from most other works I’ve produced as of yet due to its placid simplicity. It is called Reverence and was composed with a young or small band in mind. The profound Fraggle Rock quote from Cantus the Bard ” There is Movement in the stillness just as there is Music in the silence.” was the main inspiration for the mood of this piece (as well as the 2 night long bout of insomnia and boredom from not sleeping). I tried to Follow Steven Bryant’s advice that he gave to me during a very fortunate meeting at Midwest last December, which was to build off of a simple motive rather than be programmatic, and kept the lessons that were learned talking to music educators teachers about needs in repertoire and what would help their students in mind. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded…or at least come close.

Fifthly, life has been a whirlwind of musical performance meeting real life lately. A midst preparing to move out into an apartment this summer and searching for a new job (as sadly I must leave my library campus job when I graduate), life has had an interesting way of creating musical opportunities that present themselves to keep one busy. Since February, I’ve been singing with  the Youngstown Trinity United Methodist Church  on a regular basis (my first full time church choir gig since 2008), performing in several concerts (Trombone day,  The C.P.E. Bach premiere,  multiple recitals and others) writing essays, and working on Scribbles and Doodles to keep myself composing on a regular basis. Any spare time has been spent organizing, practicing and rehearsing groups for an upcoming recital.

Speaking of which, the planning for the Sr. Composition recital is well underway. This will take place April 25th  5pm at Trinity United Methodist Church in Youngstown. thanks to 23 willing Victims  musicians who graciously volunteered to play my music. Stay Tuned for an update on the program.



My Latest Expirament

Thanks to my composition inquisitor (aka teacher), I have been working on a piece completely unlike any other I have attempted as of yet. Scott challenged me to  abandon my usual frame of having a story to compose  and instead  write what is called a Visual-Spacial notation piece. Basically the piece does not have bar lines to designate strict meter subdivisions. Instead, it leaves it up to the performers to designate where the musical figure is to fit within where the designated time specifies. It calls for ordered improvisation with a demand for the group to play as an ensemble.  So far, the piece looks like this:

(Click picture for a larger view)

Composing this piece has forced me to think more freely about musical lines and textures and to consider multiple possibilities for the building blocks of a work.  Along the way, my teacher has had me looking at various scores with non-traditional notation by Cage, Varese and others I may not have picked up otherwise and we have discussed them in our lesson. Many Cagian  ideas such as indeterminacy have made it into this piece as a result. For example, I got the idea for how to break up the time by rolling dice except for the 30 second section, where I anticipate the performer to successfully make a sandwich with the ingredients already set (mainly because I timed this myself at home).

Other than the fact that I am using kitchen percussion and adding the humorous element of a musician making a sandwich for no other reason than to add improvised non- traditional sounds, this piece lacks a preconceived story and instead has its own underlying framework. Although I anticipate that the piece will sound “wonkey” if and when it is performed, I have enjoyed trying to think within this loose structure.

Highlights from the Last Month

So, it’s been awhile since I have had time to post anything on here. 1 month in Internet time is equivalent to “like forever” in real world time as we all know. In order to make up for that time, I will attempt to explain the highlights  in a nutshell:

1) Cumulus Humilis was performed 3 times by Avguste Antonov the week of the New Music concerts at the end October. In that time, he was approached by Hartshorn record company in NY to record a cd of New piano works. To make a long story short (too late) he chose my piece to record on the Cd and I am still ecstatic!!!

2)New Pieces have been written- As an added unexpected feather in my cap, I was asked to write music for the upcoming Worlds Quest browser game. This was my first official video game related project and I am elated to say that my first attempt was a success .To sum things up, they liked it-a lot and I am grateful. The game will be released  on December 20th.

Also, I have been working on a new experiment at the request of Scott. I will be writing a blog post about it shortly. Other plans include creating a  collection of one page solos for  from all of the 8 bar excerpts that were composed for Instrumentation class this semester. I am debating calling the collection Doodles and Scribbles or something to that effect.

Desiree Carrion and I after Carols and Cocoa 2013

3) I played my last Carols and Coccoa concert of my undergrad. This was a surreal experience as it is hard to believe that the time has flown that quickly. Kudos to my friend (and soon to be SAI sister) Desiree Carrion for having her first arrangement for Trombone ensemble performed. God Rest Ye Marry Trombonists was a ball to perform for a last hurrah ,and I especially cracked up singing the Lyrics “to save us all from Schoenberg’s Music when we’ve gone astray”. For a three hour plus long annual concert that we all complain about, I’m sure going to miss performing in it-sort of.

4) In November, I helped premier  a piece for Trombone quartet by fellow composer Richard Zacharias called Pardon My Slide with my friends Mariah Bailey, Bo Violette and Andrew Stamp. I also had the honor of Performing The Dance of Spring for Yanda Zhu’s Graduate Composition Recital. If you haven’t heard of him, you probably will soon.

Update on Summer Vacation ’13 and Goal list

A while ago, I posted a blog entry which outlined my intended goals for the summer of 2013. With the Summer drawing to a close and the beginning of the last  year of my undergrad swiftly approaching, I feel that this is a good time to reflect on what I have done  and still need to accomplish before school starts.

Goal number one: Compose/arrange twenty minutes of music

Mission Acomplished! However, the pursuit of this goal had some mixed/unintended results.

1)Orchestrating the rest of Of Wizards and Dragons For Wind Ensemble-and in the process learning how to orchestrate- This piece is now about 65% done. In the process of playing with this piece and having received valuable guidance From Scott Pfitzinger this summer, I have learned so much about this process, but there is still so much that I want/ need to learn still. There are  so many possibilities that I want to exploit before releasing the final version.

2)Working on Music for The Adventure Path series, and hoping to write a blog post about it soon-More Music has been written. However, before I can post a blog entry, I must get permission and clearance from the producers. Development for the series is now in progress and it sounds as though it will be awesome when it’s done. If you are interested in learning more about the series, click HERE for a link to their Facebook page.

3) Writing an accapella vocal piece per request of my teacher– This work is now in progress!

4) Correcting old scores, touching up Hoover’s Paradise, and finishing my just for fun band arrangement of Ghostbusters– Hoover’s Paradise has been improved/ reworked   (and will hopefully be premiered this School year!) However, I have yet  to finish the rest of this goal due to some of the pieces that have popped up. To Elaborate:

a) A  Fanfare that I had hoped would be played  sometime during a YSU Football game this season. It blends elements of YSU’s Alma Mater ( a melody from Brahms Symphony no 1) and the Fight Song. There is also an audience involvement cheer as well. At least the experience of having written it will hopefully help prepare me for if I ever get a commission to write something akin to it in the future.

b) Characture, a woodwind quintet that I had begun in early spring has been expanded an completed (outside of the edits that are sure to appear in my lesson). The piece illustrates the situations and people that one may encounter on a daily basis.

c) A just for fun brass trio about  cloud-sailing pirates. This has been put away for the time being but will likely be picked up on a day when  the orchestration for ‘Dragons isn’t flowing.

d)The Essay-UPDATE: due to a last minute situation with personnel, we were unable to perform it as planned. However, the professor has offered us the chance to come in and perform it in one of his fall classes. Sometimes things don’t work out as planned but I am elated that he is giving  us this chance. I am currently in the process of negotiating a time/date for the performance. Also, if anything, the piece will be performed live at my upcoming senior  composition recital (Date TBA).

Goal Number Two: Get as much trombone performance and practice in as possible

This goal is a never ending work in progress. Currently, I am working on the audition excerpts even more so after a lesson that turned simultaneously into  a confirmation that the work has been paying off and a wake up call that I need to learn the excerpts much better than I felt that I had them.

YACCB Trombones 2013 playing the National Anthem at the Scrappers baseball  game  August 11th.
YACCB Trombones 2013 playing the National Anthem at the Scrappers baseball game August 11th.

I feel that joining the YACCB for the summer was the best decision I made for improving my playing because of the ample performing opportunities and, the commitment that I had made gave me even more incentive to pick up my horn and practice. Also, as an added bonus, the Trombone section had the privilege of playing the Star Spangled Banner at  a Scrappers baseball game this past Sunday, This is an opportunity I would have missed if I didn’t join.

Goal number Three: Learn something new

I have definitely accomplished this goal and then some. Camping at Pennsic was the best thing that I did for this.  During that wonderful week in the current middle ages, I was taught (rather unexpectedly) how to tell a story as people might have done back then (and told to stand up and do it myself- and I enjoyed it too), the history, identification and application of henna, tips for performance in front of an audience, the art of filk and folk songs of the SCA, and a host of other miscellaneous facts.

Also, I learned that:

Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family

Pirates and sailors  used limes, not usually oranges, to treat scurvy.

Pirates would use rum for a variety of things, most notably to sterilize water (or to drink instead of water because alcohol kills germs and was deemed safer than water) and to get a person who needed a limb amputated , possibly from gangrene, so drunk that he wouldn’t really care that he was  in immense pain.

There is a proper method to choosing and tying a leather belt.

The Ghostbusters theme matches the medieval dance “Black Nag”.

Celtic/ Indian history fascinates me.

Goal number Four: Make sure that I spend some time with Friends every week and do something non music related with them (at least 3 hours per week).

I feel that I have done a good job in holding this goal up. Also, in keeping with learning something new as well, I have begun taking  weekly driving lessons.

Now my new goals to accomplish before I run out of time are to send out the rest of my letters, get the rest of the portfolio ready to send out, and to get some new music posted to the site for some feedback.

Matt’s Music

I know this is old news but it is also good news. Back in early February 2013, my mom approached me over the phone and asked me to write a brass piece for students to play for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Matt’s Music Store in Tonawanda NY. Gladly I obliged not knowing what I was getting into. For this piece, I got to practice writing music for a student level ensemble for the first time. This is something that I hope to do many more times in the future and this was a great opportunity to do so.

While I was beginning to construct the piece, it was requested that the piece be fun, attention getting, and that it include some of the music that students studying their instruments would be practicing and subsequently, the staff at the store would hear on a constant basis during student’s lessons. I then came up with the Idea of beginning with a Fanfare that made use of common chord structures and melodies like Do a dear. I then decided to make the piece go into a Polka that includes the infamous “Hot Cross Buns” because Mr. Matt is an avid accordion player who has appeared on the Lawrence Welk show. The piece then evolved into an eclectic style medley of swing (referencing the fact that the Store has a Jazz band) pop songs quotes that you may hear through the walls,and other typical lesson book songs.

All though composing this I had to keep the ability level of the players in mind and there were some things that initially did not work because of this. However, it was the process of changing things to make them more idiomatic for the students where I learned the most from this piece (thank you Mom for the guidance). Even though I was not able to be there for the premiere, I am told that the students had fun playing it and that Mr. Matt and the Audience enjoyed it. Also, it helps that those kids did a fantastic job, and my mom did great coaching the quintet, Without them, this would not have happened. All in all, it was a very rewarding experience that I am proud of and I had a BLAST doing it.

P.S. if you read this whole post and watched the video, you are AWESOME! Also, remember, Feedback is always welcome and much appreciated.