Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Opening Scene to Cuckolds

Thanks to the joys of Youtube, we can now view the dress rehearsal of Cuckolds, which is a 2-minute overture I wrote and arranged, and was choreographed! The only thing I didn't write was the ass-slapping.

Go see Cuckolds before it's over! The last show is this Saturday at 8pm. I'm really pleased at how it turned out- they pumped up the bassoon jams in it too!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cuckolds video promo

Promo video for the play, which opens in sneak preview tonight. I wrote this little musical ditty, and I'm playing harpsichord (somewhat badly) too!

CMU School of Drama Presents: The London Cuckolds! from The London Cuckolds on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

London Cuckolds Opening

Tonight marks the premiere of the CMU Drama School performance run of The London Cuckolds, to which I've recorded the incidental music. It's been a while since I've handed over my work to the sound designers, and I just couldn't stand waiting for Saturday afternoon when I could get to see the show, so I snuck in late last night and peeked in on the dress rehearsal. I got to see the Grand Finale music and the curtain call, and I couldn't be happier! The sets are beautiful, the lighting is suptuous, and I think the performance is going to be hilarious. But I wasn't there for the acting, per se...I was spying on my music, which blossomed in just the right place and surrounded the theater with sound.

I know the music is incidental. They don't call it that for nothin'- you could take it out and you'd still have a play. Nevertheless, I worked closely with the faculty to create music that (I hope) has become the foundation from where the play can take off. It's a period piece, written in the 17th century, but certain liberties have been taken with language, costumes, humor, etc. to make it more accessible (and knowing Drama students, scantily-clad). Likewise, the music sounds Baroque, as it was taken from Scarlatti Sonatas, but every now and then it's "tarted up" a bit with modern harmonies, and a certain sense of humor that still sounds like I could have written it. There should also be a dance choreographed to the music at the very opening, and a tiny song in the middle faked on the harpsichord. It's about pussycats...sort of. I don't write the wordz, I just sets 'em.

If the music in the final scene is any indication of how the rest of the pieces will sound, I think this could be one of the best showcases of my work, ever! Writing the music wasn't too difficult once I understood what the drama department was looking for. I'm also guessing that if I ever do another theater production, other departments will not be as intuitive about what they want to receive-I think this was a very cooperative collaboration!

This is the first music I've written for a production, and the biggest ensemble I've led, and the biggest audience that will be listening to it (albeit inactively). Even better was the fact that it's the first music I've gotten compensated for writing. A little daunting, in hindsight.
Certainly I owe many thanks to everyone involved! But let's not thank everyone least not until I see the whole thing on Saturday. Fingers crossed.

Come see The London Cuckolds!
Feb 19-28
Shows Tuesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm.
Call the CMU Drama School box office for tickets 412-268-2407.
(CMU School of Music students get in for free, thanks to a generous offer by the School of Drama.)

Basic plot, cast, and info can be found here.

I hope you enjoy the show!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stravinsky Box Set

Igor Stravinsky is all up in my grill like never before. Thanks to Alex Ross, who gave the heads-up, I now own almost the complete Ĺ“uvre of Stravinsky in one 22-CD box set. And thanks to the British across the seas at, it was only $30.00!! If I did the math right, that's just over $1 per CD, and I can't even find that kind of a deal on classical music even in the bargain bins with all the vomitous "Mozart for Lovers" CD's. And despite a delay in shipping, I received the box set within 7 business days. The set contains all the recordings he did in the 1950's for Sony, plus additional recordings by his protege Robert Craft, and recordings of Stravinsky interviews. And the recordings are beautiful; you would never guess they were a half-century old or more. According to amazon, there are only a few small number of pieces missing from his complete works, including Stravinsky's version of the Star-Spangled Banner (oh, snap). I haven't checked my Eric Walter White book to cross-reference (file under: nerdy!), but I can't imagine there's much missing.
I obviously have only made the smallest dent in the collection. So far I've listened to his 3 symphonies, and his series of Miniature pieces, and I had to listen to Circus Polka, which was written for a real-live choreographed dancing elephant. It's not performed much, though I can't imagine why. I'm moving onto ballets/suites I have never heard, like Agon, Card Game, and The Fairy's Kiss.
This could be tremendously helpful as a musician- not only if I ever have to teach, but if I ever am curious about a particular work, I'll have the composer's preferred recording at my fingertips! I'm looking forward to playing the guessing game of "Which Stravinsky Period Did this Piece Come From?". "French-tastic folklore"? "Neoclassic refinement-slash-Fascism"? Or "religiously serialist/serialistly religious"? Try it at parties. It'll be a huge hit. Or you'll end up with more cake and wine for yourself later. Either way you win.
Here's hoping someone will pull an all-day Stravinsky marathon and listen to all of his recorded works in sequential order.

photo courtesy unknown origin but a nice van gogh behind the composer. Stravinsky is saying, "I don't know about those brushstrokes, but I do like that hat."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

New York City

I splurged early in 2009 and I made a weekend trip to New York City to see friends and concerts. Luckily the concerts and lodging were all free! I met up with my high school friend Ben, who now lives in Manhattan, and we saw the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic being conducted by Keith Lockhart. We heard Mahler Symphony No. 1, also known as one of the few pieces Mahler wrote that's not about hellfire, the depths of despair, or the deaths of children.
Ben has beautiful dishware including triangular plates!New York is full of exciting architecture. This building has a lovely Helvetica (or almost Helvetica, the 'e' looks a little funny, no?) sign on it letting me know that the building's sole job is to suck air.
Then Ben and I met my friend Nicole for brunch and had multiple orange juices (I got two accidentally not knowing my food already came with some.)
I went to the Guggenheim Museum for the first time! The exhibit inside was good, but the outside had a little installation of its own made with shadows from the buildings around it. Also, the Guggenheim has only single-occupancy bathrooms. They're on every floor, but only one tiny door lets you know it's there. It makes it seem as if people in the 1940's didn't have to pee as much.
As if the weekend wasn't busy enough, I then travelled by train up to Poughkeepsie and saw a performance of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians with my friend Kelly, and the composer was in attendance. He's the composer-in-residence at this year's Modfest at Vassar, and I got to meet him! I couldn't get a picture, but the performance was amazing, and I now know that you can use more than 18 musicians for the piece, 'cause some of them may need a break.

Now that I'm back in Pittsburgh, I had a bunch of rehearsals and music events yesterday, and seeing how it was unseasonably warm I decided to walk most everywhere. Then B and I went dancing in Lawrenceville, and walked most of the way there and all the way back. I clocked my mileage this morning and I walked 9.82 miles yesterday. My thighs hurt.