about the music

consonance/dissidence (2021)
consonance/dissidence is the sixth work I’ve written expressly for string quartet. While it is very much pattern-based and uses some canonical techniques at times, it also includes motifs that are gnarly, rhythmically and harmonically complex, and hark back to some of the early 12-tone works I composed in the 70’s and prior to 1982. It is also the first work I’ve ever composed to include quarter tones, although this is only used in a few measures around midway through the piece. The word “dissidence” is intentionally used, rather than “dissonance.”
duophony (2020)
duophony is written for open instrumentation, and consists of two lines of streaming 16th notes. This is one of the few works I’ve composed in which there are no silences at all (except at the beginning and ending of the piece, as per my custom to start and end on empty measures). Thus, it can be performed on a single keyboard with a sufficient range or by any group of instruments (with performers not performing notes outside their instruments’ ranges as necessary). There is literally no real counterpoint, with both staves performing in unison throughout, hence the title.
gendarme de la libertad (2020)
gendarme de la libertad is a work for speaker and piano (or for just speaking pianist) and utilizes a text that I’ve wanted to set for many years, but was not certain of the best approach until recently. 

The text for the speaker is taken from the original Spanish words, as well as from an English translation, of the speech by Dr. Ernesto Guevara (Che) before the United Nations on 12/11/64. The words are applicable beyond their original intent and historical setting; they should be spoken plainly and the specified rhythms are intended more as a guide. Sadly, Che’s words are as relevant today as they were in 1964, and also just as necessary.

“¿Cómo puede constituirse en gendarme de la libertad quien asesina a sus propios hijos y los discrimina diariamente por el color de la piel, quien deja en libertad a los asesinos de los negros, los protege además, y castiga a la población negra por exigir el respeto a sus legítimos derechos de hombres libres?”

“Those who kill their own children and discriminate daily against them because of the color of their skin; those who let the murderers of Blacks remain free, protecting them, and furthermore punishing the Black population because they demand their legitimate rights as free men — how can those who do this consider themselves guardians of freedom?”

from this sentence, two segments were constructed and are used as well:

“Those who/demand their legitimate rights as free men/consider themselves guardians of freedom”

“They demand their legitimate rights as free men”

gendarme de la libertad is dedicated to the pianist Stephane Ginsburgh. The audio file consists of the piano part I performed using Reason 10 while the speaker is Timothy A. Cronin. The words do not have to be recited strictly to the specified rhythm, but as mentioned, the rhythm serves as a guide. The intent is not for the words to be dramatized or sung (or declaimed via sprechstimme) but rather recited as in normal speech. The words themselves convey their meaning and do not need additional interpretation.

improvisation april 2020 (2020)
improvisation april 2020 is based upon an improvisation on 4/18/20 while at home in Wyncote, PA during the Covid-19 pandemic. I had gone nearly five months without composing a note and was not sure I was inclined to, but got the motivation and tried out some spontaneous ideas, which led to this work. Most of it is very quiet and slow, punctuated by a section that is more animated. The last 8-9 minutes consist of the same 3-5 notes with rhythmic permutations. As with all my works in recent years, it begins and ends on a silent measure. The reason for that comes from Quaker tradition in which meetings begin with a moment of silence, which focuses attention and also divorces one from conversation and other activities. The use of often complicated rhythms and tuplets is meant to convey a sense of both improvisation and freedom for the performer so as to avoid both predictability and rigidity.
cello quartet (2019)
cello quartet was composed for four celli. Unlike most of my music since 1981, this work was not derived from improvisation; it was composed straight through. Some of the slower portions utilize all 12-tones but do not use serial techniques per sé. In other sections, palindromic rhythms are used. 
improvisation july 2019  (2019)
improvisation july 2019 is mostly unchanged from an improvisation done on 7/3-7/4/19 in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, being slightly expanded and edited in Wyncote and in a hotel room in Palo Alto, California during July of 2019. While performed on a piano, it can be repurposed for open instrumentation.

After composing music for several decades, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing silences is way harder than writing measures with notes.

piano loops (2018)
piano loops developed from two simultaneous experiments and improvisations in late December, 2018, one of which involved multitrack looping and another consisted of manipulations of a 12-tone row. Neither experiment worked well individually, although the looping was the more promising of the two. Combined into a piece for multiple pianos, it worked synergistically. As the first piano plays the same measure throughout the nearly 30-minute work, one or more pre-recorded piano performances could be used to facilitate performance with fewer than four pianos.
improvisation-december 2018 (2018)
improvisation-december 2018 is literally an improvisation performed 12/2/18 on a piano sample using an old Ensoniq KS-32 synthesizer providing MIDI input into Reason 10. With very minor exceptions (fixing a note here and there, and repeating a few measures in addition to what was done live in the improvisation). As the piece progresses, it gets louder and faster, which is not typical of my prior compositions. It may be performed by a solo keyboard (preferably piano) or any combination of instruments (with chords divided among the different voices as needed).
subversives (2018)
subversives is the first piece for string quartet I’d written since the 2-hour-long for philip glass of 2006. subversives is meant to be just that: subversive. The instrumentation is noted in the score as “for deranged string quartet” because performing the work itself may strike some, at various points, as bordering on insanity. Part of that derives from the social and political milieu in which the work was written, not unlike that of dystopia and jk (bad canon for four violins), both of which were written in 2017. The opening two minutes makes use of some glissandi figures, something I had not done in many years. Aside from a small number of measures, the work is entirely in quintuple time. Unlike most of my music, it was not composed outright based on one or more improvisations but was notated as the music developed in real time. While there are several portions that use serial techniques, palindromic sequences and often intentionally make use of all 12 tones, it is not a purely serial work. It thus “subverts” the formal applications of serialism and dodecaphony. The piece was started in Palo Alto, CA and mostly accomplished in Wyncote, PA. It is dedicated, as was this piece intentionally left blank, to Kel Smith.
variation (2018)
variation is a piece for French horn and piano that is very quiet (pppp throughout), slow and focused on very few tones and rhythms for a prolonged time horizon. While all 12 tones can be found, the majority of the piece is a variation on four tones.
quiet noise (2017)
This is a brief work for violin and cello based on an improvisation from 12/19/17. For the most part, it is a stream of eighth notes.
sonance (2017)
sonance started as two separate improvisations in Palo Alto on 8/15/17 and developed into a work for violin, cello and piano. It opens with a very quiet section largely containing palindromic rhythms but becomes more animated as time progresses.
jk (bad canon for four violins) (2017)
jk is a relatively brief work for four violins (or four identical treble instruments) that is entirely canonical. Coming after dystopia, it was intended to be less intense. For much of the piece, the first violinist is limited to playing a c-major scale over one octave. It was first performed by the violinist Yuka Matsumoto (on all four parts) in April, 2020 in Japan.
dystopia (2017)
dystopia is scored for two flutes, two bass clarinets and a farfisa organ. It started off as an improvisation for keyboard on 2/16/17 and seemed to work well for this instrumentation.
untitled 1 (2016)
untitled 1 is a work for open instrumentation and thus may be performed by any number of instruments, including solo keyboard if desired. It was composed for Stephen Downing and the UT Martin Contemporary Music Group.

This work began as an improvisation on November 10, 2016 and was developed into a composition mostly over a single week in December, 2016. It is written as two lines of music that, for the most part, are always playing together, largely in contrary motion and in C, although both of those were unintentional.

focused music (2015-2016)
focused music is a work for solo piano that is of extended duration (approximately four and a quarter hours).

It is entirely based on several improvisations to date beginning in 2015, and is in a free form. In keeping with the improvisatory, stream of consciousness quality of the work, some occasional wrong notes have been preserved.

From a pianistic perspective, this is a very difficult work requiring extreme concentration. Despite the use of fairly conventional rhythms, ‘focused music’ is a very challenging work to perform. Some sections are physically taxing, for the performer as well as the listener.

While music like this has often been called “minimalist,” “postminimalist” or worse, I’ve been fine with those terms, and have no desire to run away from an association with minimalism. However, I greatly prefer the term “focused music” for my works since the early 80’s. That is because it’s perhaps more accurate to think of such music as being “focused” on certain attributes for a period of time, be it a rhythm, a small number of tones or both. That degree of focus, I think, is what makes this music what it is, hence the title.

5/21/16-5/28/16 (for solo piano; from focused music for piano) (2016)
This is a portion of focused music and starts off the fourth hour
dual (for viola and cello; from focused music for piano) (2015)
This is a portion of focused music, arranged for viola and cello
canon 11/11/15-11/19/15 (from focused music for piano) (2015)
This is a portion of focused music, a work in progress, and is a canon based on five tones
voices and organ (2014)
I had a short improvisation using a Reason synth from September, 2014 and tried to recreate the arpeggiation and rhythm on a keyboard, but it was never going to work as well as the original. Rather than try to make the rhythms fit, I went with a variation that involved steady eighth notes for organ and voices, and while the rhythms are less dynamic than the original electronic version, the chordal structure is identical. The contrast between the eighth notes in the voices with the sustained chords in the organ provide a very different environment than the original improvisation.
air waves (2014)
I was interested in putting together a brass work with mostly static chords. But a few of the chords sounded best with a very low pedal tone, which unfortunately were a bit out of range of even a tuba. So my solution was to add a synthesizer that essentially doubled all the brass tones. Paul Bailey kindly looked it over and made some great suggestions (such as the addition of a French horn, which I was initially avoiding). The result is air waves, which lasts around 20′-25′.
flute loops (trio for flute) (2014)
On the same day that I started the piece for ruth first, I came up with a short piano improvisation for future use. I had first thought to take at least part of it and develop it into a piano work, but my daughter Arielle asked me for a short solo flute work for her graduation recital. I thought about a solo flute work, but before even trying anything, I didn’t have a good sense that it would have worked out. But the idea of a multitracked solo flute work (flute with prerecorded parts) was appealing. A loop from that piano improvisation seemed to work best, rather than other portions, and I developed it into a work for solo flute against two looped measures (the two measures coming from the piano improvisation, with the bass line transposed three octaves higher). The work was originally titled solo for flutes, then trio for flute, but as it was a work that consisted entirely of loops, I thought flute loops (trio for flute) worked best. The piece is fairly free in that it may be taken as fast or as slow as one wants, within the constraint of quarter = 78-96 bpm. Originally, I took it at the upper limit, but that seemed almost too fast, so I gave some leeway. The average duration is around 10′, but depends upon how many repetitions each measure gets (after the usual one measure of silence, each measure is repeated at least four times, until the final measure of silence). flute loops was premiered on June 15, 2014 in Wyncote PA by Arielle Toub.
for ruth first (2014)
for ruth first is a work for two pianos written from 1/6-1/9/14 over four evenings in Palo Alto. The title refers to the South African antiapartheid activist and journalist who was assassinated with a bomb in Maputo, Mozambique by South African intelligence agents.The entire work consists of six tones, which was not originally planned that way, and there are occasional canonical passages between the two pianos. It is entirely pianissimo in terms of dynamic level. I also realized after completing it that it is actually in the key of E Major, which is not typical for me as I don’t write tonal music. So I think of it as accidentally tonal.
music for viola (2011; arranged 2013)
A 2013 arrangement for solo viola of the work music for cello from 2011
12 (2013)
This was a work that is somewhat different from a lot of my other music. Rather than composing through improvisation, I created a measure involving 12 performers, each owning a single staff. Each performer is, in effect, a loop. While I have used loops in many of my earlier works, those were created via standard music notation, not a sequencer. In this case, I wrote directly into a sequencer (namely, Reason 7.0.1). This audio file was created in real time as I determined manually when each loop would commence or terminate. The rules of the piece are as follows:1. the measure is repeated by each performer ad libitum (or ad nauseum, depending on one’s perspective)2. performer 1 starts. After many repeats, performer 2 is added, then after many repeats of the combined parts of performers 1 and 2, performer 3 is added, etc. Once started, each part is repeated until all 12 performers are playing their respective parts together.3. once all 12 players are performing their parts together many times, the performers exit in reverse order (eg, 12 exits, then 11, …), leaving performer 1 to finish the work by repeating his/her part as many times as desired 4. tempo is between quarter = 60 and quarter = 120 5. the dynamic level is quiet 6. all performers could be identical (eg, piano), similar (eg, strings) or very heterogeneous; octave transposition is permitted, when necessary The score is literally one 3/8 measure. Performances could last anywhere from 12′-20′ or longer, depending on the number of repetitions of each part and the tempo. In this recording, I chose quarter = 104 bpm.
for philip glass (for string quartet (2005-2006); excerpt arranged (2013) for piano solo for nicolas horvath)
This is a brief excerpt, arranged for solo piano, from a two-hour string quartet written in 2006 entitled ‘for philip glass.’ The arrangement was made at the request of pianist Nicolas Horvath for an upcoming concert series that will include homages to Philip Glass. This work was not meant as an homage to Glass, and doesn’t even have anything much to do with him, but it suffices for the concert.
unfinished work for allan cronin (2013)
This work came out of an improvisation in a hotel room in Palo Alto, CA on the evening of 8/27/13. It is unlike my other recent works in that it involves more than one dynamic level, in this case pp, mf, ppp. It is scored for solo piano. This recording was realized with Reason 7.0.1.Why “unfinished?” Years ago, my wife and I attended a large exhibition of the works of Keith Haring in NYC, and one of his paintings was purposely unfinished in one of the corners. That always struck me as an interesting idea, that one’s creative work is really never truly completed. The question in this work is which portion was not really completed. I’m not sure I have answered that for myself.
300 (2013)
This work was composed in two days in Wyncote, PA, directly into the score rather than via improvisation. While it could be performed by a variety of instrument pairs (violin or viola + cello, flute and bassoon, etc), I liked the combination of flute and bass clarinet. As with several of my works, this is a very static piece involving a pair of notes followed by a rest. This goes on for a total 150 measures bracketed on either end by a measure of silence, so there are exactly 300 notes, hence the title.
tbd (2013)
I had had some ideas about writing a choral piece, but as I improvised something in a hotel room across from Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, it became clear that this would not be well-suited for anything but piano. So this work completely came into being from a 31-minute improvisation that was reworked into a solo piano piece lasting 45-50 minutes.The piece is largely based on two notes (d-f) as well as a two-chord sequence that I came up with while visiting the NAMM museum in Carlsbad, CA on vacation and playing one of their synthesizers. I wasn’t sure what to call the piece and gave it the provisional title tbd as a placeholder, but the name stuck.
brasstet (1997; arranged 2013)
Between 1996 and 1997, I composed a long work for brass sextet called brass piece for arielle victoria. I was pretty fond of it, but wrote it with the idea that, because so much of it required fairly continuous playing, the performers would have to be adept at circular breathing. At the time, I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it turns out that it was, and I’ve since come to realize that there was very little chance that it would ever be heard other than in a suboptimal MIDI performance with sampled instruments. And that’s where things have stood since 1997, except for the last section that was arranged for string quartet and can be heard in an excellent performance by the Rangzen Quartet.I had long toyed with the idea of scoring the entire piece for strings to circumvent the performance challenges, and this has now resulted in this arrangement for string quartet and contrabass. Other than some minor tweaks in a few sections, it is identical to the original brass work, but should pose no significant challenges in terms of performance. The audio file is not idea, of course, since strings are harder to convincingly sample compared with piano and a few other instruments, but overall it works.
for four (2012)
In late November, 2012, I had some time to improvise and managed to come up with the raw elements for two different pieces. One of these turned into two voices. The other improvisation was slow and quiet, basically just half notes followed by an eighth note rest. This was restructured into a new piece called for four. There are a maximum of four voices at any given time, so it could be performed by four instruments (eg, two violins and two celli) or for piano. The score includes a piano reduction along with the same notes displayed on four individual staves. It’s ppp throughout, and the tempo can be a low of quarter = 20 to a max of quarter = 40. Thus, depending on the tempo chosen, the piece can take as little as 23 minutes or up to 46 minutes to play. By coincidence, the composition of the work overlapped with the horrific deaths of children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. I mention this, because it struck me that the slow final section of the piece flutes and trombone was composed around the same time as a similarly terrible gun-related massacre in Aurora, CO.for four was originally improvised in Palo Alto, CA in late November, 2012 and restructured into a composition in Wyncote, PA and Palo Alto between 12/13 and 12/18/12. The world premiere was given by Nicolas Horvath during the concert series Night of Piano Minimal Music in Collioure, France on 6/28/13.
two voices (2012)
This is a work for any keyboard or two separate instruments. two voices started as an experiment in which one voice plays all the black keys and the other plays all the white keys. There are five black keys and seven white keys, so one has all 12 tones to play with. I wanted to see, just out of curiosity, if I could take some very banal themes and make them at least somewhat interesting. I was also curious how long this nonsense could go on.I imposed another constraint: each measure had to have each voice play all of its assigned notes. And no chords.If you haven’t figured out by now, I was really unsure of this approach, since it doesn’t seem entirely conducive to improvisation, which is how I generally compose and thus manage to avoid systems and processes, which are the bane of folks like me who hate academic and mechanical methods to write music. Surprisingly, one can actually manage to improvise within these constraints, and even make what I think is a pretty good piece of music.
flutes and trombone (2012)
I had an idea for writing a work for two flutes and a bass trombone. By splitting the notes between the two flautists, I could write continuous lines without requiring circular breathing and also write chordal music that would not be possible for one flute and a brass instrument, in the absence of multiphonics. And let’s face it, multiphonics are pretty harsh in terms of their sound quality.This work could also be done by two identical treble instruments and a bass instrument. It is important that the two higher-pitched instruments be identical, but there is no reason this could not be accomplished by two violins or two oboes and a tuba, for example.The last several minutes are very quiet, and largely consist of chords followed by silence, not too unlike the earlier work hevron-deir yassin.
piece for keyboard and another instrument (2012)
This work was derived from an improvisation and is scored for keyboard and any treble instrument. It could be performed by two pianists(one of whom performs with one hand), or piano + flute, etc.
piece for contrabass (2011)
This work is in three continuous sections. The first and third entirely consist of whole notes followed by a quarter rest. The middle section is played both pizzicato and col legno battuto. It is very quiet throughout. The use of sustained notes followed by a rest is reminiscent of the open instrumentation piece hevron-deir yassin.
music for cello (2011)
Written in three evenings in Palo Alto, CA. It consists of a stream of quiet 16th notes throughout its 13 minute duration. This performance in the audio file from October, 2012 is by the excellent cellist Maxim Zolotarenko, and the sound engineer was Andrew Popoff.
hevron-deir yassin (2011)
A work for several instruments (open score). The title refers to the 1929 Hevron massacre, the massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin in the 1940’s that is often overlooked and even denied, and the massacre of nearly 30 Palestinian Muslim worshippers at Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque) in Hevron/al-Khalil in the 1990’s by Dr. Baruch Goldstein. The music is quiet, sparse, and durations of individual chords and rests may be longer or shorter depending on the performers’ wishes. The piece is also cyclical and could be played continuously, but one repetition likely takes around 50-60 minutes. This recording was realized on a flight en route from Amsterdam to Philadelphia on 5/5/11 using Reason 4.0.1.
I-IV-V-I (2011)
I-IV-V-I is the basic chordal structure of much tonal music. I don’t write tonal music per sé (I prefer the term “freetonal”), but I thought it interesting to see if I could do anything compelling to me with what amounts to a pretty banal series of tones. I came up with a seven-minute improvisation at home and then melded this into a 25-minute composition in a hotel room in Palo Alto, CA over three nights, followed by some minor tweaking over the next few days back home.
dharmachakramudra (2010)
dharmachakramudra refers to the situation of the Buddha immediately after reaching enlightenment. This piece is relatively short, scored for vibraphone, viola and cello, and is very static and quiet. After seeing a series of representations of dharmachakra mudra at the British Museum, I thought the term would work well as the title of a piece. The first six two-note chords form a complete 12-tone series, but the work is not 12-tone in nature.
piece for electronic organ and bongo drums (2010)
I just thought it would be an interesting combination, and originally had some interest in setting part of Che’s 1964 UN speech to bongo drums and electronic organ. But as much as that idea intrigued me, I have yet to find the Spanish original of his speech (the English translation abounds on the Web), and given Che’s dislike of the English language as the language of colonialism in Latin America, it wouldn’t be right to set the words in English. I could also imagine a performer dressing up as Che, in his guerilla outfit and all that, but that would detract from both the words and the music, so I just wrote the music and left it at that.The work is entitled, simply enough, piece for electronic organ and bongo drums. The bongo part is continuous except for a few measures near the middle, and for the most part, the piece is in 7/16. The organ has only five notes to play in the entire piece-that’s the entire range, just five notes. And in some ways it’s a fairly simplistic study in rhythmic augmentation. But I wanted to see how much I could do with only five notes, much like I did in the 10-minute string quartet work five notes for christina fong.The part (in English) from Che’s speech that really interested me was as follows:Thosewhokill
4/4 (2010)
This work had its origin in a spontaneous electronic organ improvisation in wyncote, PA on 6/13/10, and was developed in palo alto over the following six weeks. The entire work is a continuous stream of 16th notes and is similar in some ways to the earlier pieces #1-#3 for electronic organ. The title comes from the fact that the score is notated in 4/4 time, although much of the piece does not fall into strict common time.
four strings (2010)
Written for solo violin, this piece makes particular use of sequences extending over all four strings of the violin, hence the title. Most, if not all, solo violin works have tended to be reasonably brief (the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, while longer than most, are still composed of generally short movements rather than one long stretch of music). four strings goes against that paradigm, although the work is still somewhat brief compared to some of my other compositions.
quartet for piano (2010)
This is a piece for solo piano, but written in four often independent voices. It is quiet throughout and only at the very end does it change tempo. I composed this for the pianists Alessandra Celletti, Stephane Ginsburgh and Louis Goldstein because I admire their amazing performances of new music and felt they would not be put off by the challenges of this work.
piece for rebecca (2009)
I composed this piece for harpsichord, although it could be performed on any keyboard. The work was almost entirely improvised, and started as two separate improvisations that were melded together. I decided to start it off using the last measures from the previous work I composed, torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo).
torture memos (a survivor from guantánamo) (2009)
A piece for two female voices, flute, bass clarinet, marimba, electric bass, violin, cello and piano. The title invokes the torture, carried out during the Bush/Cheney administration, of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and of those who were essentially kidnapped and transported to other nations under the practice known as “rendition.”
two rhythmic spaces (2009)
This is a brief work for two percussionists performing several unpitched instruments of their own choosing. Each performer is, in effect, residing in his or her own rhythmic and temporal space, as the performers are usually in a 5:7 relationship metrically.
two improvisations for synthesizer (for james combs) (2009)
These are two brief improvisations for synthesizer (virtualmusic
zichron (in memory of bisan, maye, aya and nur abu al-aish) (2009)
A work for saxophone quartet (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones; baritone with A extension), this was requested by the saxophonist Brian Kauth. The word zichron in Hebrew means ”in memory of.“ The work was essentially without a title for most of its composition until I heard about the tragic death of Bisan, Maye, Aya and Nur Abu al-Aish, the three daughters and niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who died as a result of IDF fire in Gaza shortly before a ceasefire agreement. Dr. Abu al-Aish is an Israeli-trained Palestinian gynecologist. The tragedy played out over Israeli TV, and in the aftermath, the deaths had an unexpectedly personal impact on me, both as a parent and as a fellow gynecologist. I wanted to do something to reach out and react to this great loss, and soon realized that this work was an appropriate response.In some ways, the work has one or two similarities to my string quartet work for philip glass, although zichron is approximately half the length. Much of the piece is sparse, yet rhythmically complex. The first three-and-a-half minutes consist of a single note that passes through three saxophones. There is a slightly faster section that was improvised on a virtual synthesizer and formed the opening of virtual music 1.
bs piece (double canon for bill solomon) (2008)
This work was requested by the percussionist Bill Solomon, who took part in the premiere of objects. I had very few ideas for some time, but had been playing around with several 12-tone rows as a sort of perverse fun. The two rows had some interesting properties, in that they contain inverted sequences. In a sense, each row was canonical in its own right. But at the same time, I have no interest anymore in composing 12-tone music, having given it up after writing ineffabilities in the early 1980’s. But still, these rows intrigued me, and after toying around with several possibilities for scoring, decided to write a double canon for six marimbas that would make use of these rows but also maintain my current approach to writing music.
For the most part, I compose through improvisation, which is somewhat antithetical to composing canons or any other serial music. Perhaps as a reflection of this conflict, towards the end the canonical aspect of the piece goes by the wayside. Also, because I was in a bit of a sarcastic mood when I neared the end of the piece, I finished with a series of tonal chords (in C) that are interrupted by a 12-note chord. I had a lot of doubts when writing this piece, since it wasn’t an intuitive work and writing using a strict technique isn’t something I have chosen to do for many years. This avoidance of “technique” was intentional, although serial processes have crept into my work from time to time.The work may be performed using six marimbas(any set of identical metallophones would work), but can also be performed using prerecorded tape for marimbas 2-6 (marimba 1 would be live).
I’ve posted two different versions of the score. One is optimized (empty scores are removed), while the other also has the advantage of having repeats indicated rather than being written out. The latter requires fewer pages and also is easier from a performance perspective in that the performer is less likely to get lost. There is also the original score that has six staves throughout, but I have not posted it since it doesn’t really serve much purpose. bs piece was premiered on 8/6/09 at the Hartt School of Music by Mike Lunoe and Bill Solomon playing live along with a prerecording of the other four marimba parts.
< 10′ (2008)
As the title suggests, this is a piece that lasts under 10 minutes. It is intended for open instrumentation, although any instrumentation must include instruments that can sustain long tones. For example, several violins with/without violas along with contrabassi and an electric bass would work, as would electronic organs. The work originated as a short improvisation.
ushabti (2008)
As with darfur pogrommen, this all started with an improvisation. I originally was thinking of this for piano solo, but realized it would work very well for violin and piano, which opened up additional possibilities as I continued to work on the piece. It covers a lot of varied ground in approximately 40 minutes. The term ‘ushabti’ refers to a statue or figure placed in tombs of deceased Egyptians for 2,000 years beginning around 1900 BC. Also known as ‘shabti’ (although a shabti more precisely refers to similar figures in the Egyptian Book of the Dead), an ushabti was believed to act in place of the deceased person, performing acts of labor for that person in the afterlife. There is no programmatic significance to the title in relation to the music, other than like many of my title choices, I thought it sounded interesting.
darfur pogrommen (2007)
A piece for open instrumentation in one section, this work takes its title as a reference to the ongoing genocide in darfur and other past pogroms. The composition, however, is not intended to be programmatic. There are many potential instrumental combinations that would be optimal for a realization of this work. In addition to string orchestra, a small chamber ensemble that includes bass guitar, vibraphone or marimba, a few strings and winds come to mind.
this piece intentionally left blank (2007)
This came about as an improvisation, and is virtually unchanged other than a few minor tweaks. It was composed using an Ensoniq KS-32 synthesizer providing input into Reason 3.0.4. The score is a pretty close approximation of what was improvised, but is not 100% accurate. It can be performed by any keyboard, although it could also be performed for any group of instruments. I felt the bass line would be very interesting if played by a bass guitar, for example. This work is dedicated to my friend Kel Smith. It was premiered on May 9th, 2007 by the Diverse Instrument Ensemble under Lloyd Rogers at Cal State Fullerton in an arrangement by Paul Bailey for oboe, alto sax, french horn, trombone, bass guitar and two vibraphones.
for philip glass (2005-2006)
I wrote this piece at the request of Glenn Freeman, who suggested the title and wanted an extended work for string quartet lasting at least one hour. for philip glass actually lasts about two hours, and is dedicated to my son Isaac. The work has nothing to do with Philip Glass, incidentally. It is generally very quet throughout, with few dynamic changes and minimal markings of any kind. There are two sections in which I wanted to use the strings in a percussive fashion, playing collegno(with
for roger copland (2005)
In late 2004, we moved into an 85-year-old house in Wyncote, PA owned at that time by Carol and Roger Copland. Roger was a distant relative of the composer Aaron Copland, and Carol is an accomplished flautist. Roger was an incredible person, and in the brief time that we knew one another, we became friends. Roger passed away in April, 2005 after a long illness and I wanted to write something in his memory. As Morton Feldman had written a work for violin and piano entitled For Aaron Copland, I thought it only fitting to compose something entitled “for roger copland.” I initially intended it for solo flute, but realized after starting work on the piece that the range I wanted required an alto flute instead. This was fine, as I prefer the alto flute in many ways. It is a long piece (just under 30 minutes) for a solo instrument that is not capable of sounding more than one note at a time (in the absence of extended techniques). That made it a particular challenge to write. Interestingly, while it has many repetitive modular components, it also uses some serial techniques. In particular, certain segments are derived from a 12-tone row, although this is not at all a 12-tone composition.
mf (2004)
mf was developed at the suggestion of the violinist Christina Fong, who wanted a piece for string quartet for an upcoming CD of works relating to Morton Feldman. I actually composed a new work for string quartet for this purpose (five notes for christina fong), but Christina indicated a preference for some of my faster compositions, and thought to adapt something else for her. In this case, I turned to the third movement of Brass Piece for Arielle Victoria, which I wrote for my daughter several years ago and is pretty fast. In arranging it for string quartet, it is nearly identical to the original music, except that some octave changes had to be made to accommodate the cello. I had originally titled it third movement for mf and used a mezzo piano dynamic throughout. Christina suggested I call it simply mf and up the volume to mezzo forte. I liked the idea, especially since it is a triple-entendre (mf being the initials of Morton Feldman, the dynamic level, and a shortened form of an epithet that needs not be repeated here). As much as I like the original version for three trumpets, two bass trombones and tuba, I also think it works pretty well for string quartet.
five notes for christina fong (2004)
I wrote this at the suggestion of the violinist Christina Fong, who wanted a short work for string quartet for what a forthcoming audio DVD. I wrote it literally in one weekend, and it’s a slow, quiet piece for the most part. The first violinist plays only the same five notes, hence the title.
piece #1, piece #2, piece #3 for electronic organ (2000-2004)

These were written over several years, but in the order 2-3-1. piece #1 was begun first, but I wasn’t sure which instrumental combination i wanted for it (I first thought to do voices and organ, but it just didn’t work), and it sat for a long time until I had already written pieces 2 and 3. piece#1is the longer of the three works, and is the only one that has significant sections that are not streams of sixteenth notes.

quadratics (2000)
A work for chorus based on the last paragraph of the mourner’s Kaddish, in Aramaic. When my daughter Arielle was younger, we’d read certain prayers from a children’s book at bedtime, and one of these was a “prayer for peace” that was essentially the last paragraph of the Kaddish. I never knew what these words meant until I was reading Arielle this children’s book, and I really liked the sentiment. The challenge was to use a short, two-line text in a choral piece in a way that was of interest to me.
objects (1999)
A short work for marimba, piano and electronic organ, objects was premiered in 2006 in NYC at the end of the first Sequenza 21 concert, and was commercially recorded on a 96 khz/24 bit Audio DVD from OgreOgress Productions. I wrote objects for my daughter, Arielle, who was almost four at the time.
At the time that I was writing objects, I was teaching a college course in computer science; the work’s title comes from a programming construct in which blocks of computer code are organized into reusable units called objects. This is similar to how most of the piece is made up of repetitive, reusable groups of notes and rhythms, and is a feature of most of my music since the early 80’s.
I wrote objects pretty much over a weekend in 1999, although it took me two months to finalize everything. I was playing with three rhythmic fragments on my synthesizer, all in 7/16 time but with the three possible beat structures (3+2+2 vs 2+3+2 vs 2+2+3). Initially I had the keyboard play the patterns back at superhuman speeds, which was pretty interesting, but it was even more interesting when the tempo was slowed down. The entire work resulted largely from these three fragments, and only in two measures does the meter change from 7/16, namely 11/16.
streams of consciousness (1997-1998)
A play on words. I wrote this for a former patient of mine, who really likes it. It is in three movements, and the title relates to the fact that in many ways, a lot of different musical ideas come and go without any obvious relation to what comes next.
brass piece for arielle victoria (1996-1997)
Written for my daughter, Arielle. It’s a long work for six brass instruments (3 trumpets, 2 bass trombones, 1 tuba), is very difficult for brass players since it really requires circular breathing at some points, and is in three movements. The last movement was arranged for string quartet as mf and the entire score was reworked for string quartet in 2013 as the piece brasstet
cantorials (1994-1995)
This is a work for string orchestra and electronic organ. It’s pretty long, and is built on certain ideas that recur throughout the first and third movements. The second movement is for strings only.
digitals (1992-1993)
A single long movement for string orchestra, in which the performers are often divided into multiple sections.
two sets for string quartet (1990-1991)
I wrote this for my wife, Debbie. two sets is in two movements, the second of which is much longer than the first. It was my first piece for string quartet, so I had a lot of expectations, and it’s one of my favorite works.
vector music for edward hopper (1988-1989)
I like Hopper’s paintings. I also thought the title sounded interesting.
textbook: music of solitary landscapes in hyperspace (piece for IPS) (1984-1987)
IPS is Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, the father of asepsis (along with Joseph Lister). I had gotten interested in his life and read parts of his textbook DieÄtiologie,der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfieberswhile I was living in Chicago. The “textbook” part comes from the fact that each of the seven sections is named for a particular poem or book that I found of interest. While each “text” had something to do with each section, the work is not at all programmatic, and nothing should be read into the music based on what I chose for each section. I should also note that while the piece is indeed titled “textbook: music of solitary landscapes in hyperspace (piece for IPS),” in later years I made the mistake of inadvertently writing the title as “…descending landscapes in hyperspace…” I’m of the opinion that it probably could be either of these.
The texts are:
  • I: Cosmic Heat (from the Rig Veda)
  • II: The Sick Face in the Bowels of the Earth (Sakataro Hagiwara)
  • III: The Nameless Ones [From Brownstone Eclogues] (Conrad Aiken)
  • IV: Thought (Walt Whitman)
  • V: From the Dhammapada
  • VI: Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas)
  • VII: Joyful Wisdom (Nietzsche)
textbook is a really long piece for solo piano (over two hours in length). Each section stands alone, but I’ve also gotten fond of listening to this as a continuous work, in which each section flows uninterrupted into the next one. Either way works. The first section includes two solo contrabass players in addition to the piano. It could be done just with a piano, but the two basses sound really nice in conjunction with the bass line in the piano. I wrote it between 1984 and 1987, and it represents a bit of an evolutionary process relating to what I was writing during those years.
improvisational study no. 1: shingon mándaras (1981-1982)
This was my first postminimalist piece, and is a long (2h) continuous work that covers a lot of ground. While it is a bit different from what I write these days, it has all the elements of my later works, including repetitive structures, combining dissonance with consonance, rocking fifths and repeated streams of eighth notes.
ineffabilities (1980-1981)
This was my last 12-tone work, and is written in one long movement for piano (somewhere around 35-40 minutes in length). While it is very strictly serial, there are sections that are more repetitive in nature and freetonal. The last portion is very quiet, and sounds almost like late Feldman. However, I had heard absolutely nothing of Feldman’s music at that point, so any resemblance is purely coincidental. Technically, Ineffabilities is a very difficult work to play, and many measures require up to six staves to notate.
ariel (three paradigms for violin and piano) (1980)
ariel is a strict 12-tone work for violin and piano that is exceptionally difficult and perhaps even impossible to perform completely. It was written for the violinist Kirk Nikkanen and dedicated to George Beadle. The score is a scan of the original hand-notated manuscript; other than the transparencies the only other copies were given to Dr. Beadle and probably Kirk Nikkanen.
oblivions (1979)
A brief choral work written for Rebecca Scott of the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division.
four landscapes for six instruments (1978-1979)
An older, 12-tone work I wrote while at Juilliard. All but the first movement was performed on 5/26/79 at Juilliard’s Paul Hall by a group of friends (Jody Krosnick, Paul Garment, Alex Shuhan, Ben Mundy, Vince Nobile, Joshua Gordon) with myself conducting. The work is scored for flute, alto sax, French horn, trumpet, trombone and contrabass. It was performed in its entirely at the inaugural concert of North/South Consonance under the direction of Max Lifchitz at Symphony Space (NYC) on 9/17/80. It was on the same program as works by Ives, Varése, Mamlok and other established, well known composers. The first movement is the longer of the four, and is most complex. It’s very different from, yet similar to, my more recent music. The use of tone rows is fairly strict, and the rhythmic complexity is pretty high. I no longer write 12-tone music, and my compositions since 1981 have been more repetitive and sparse. However, I still like a lot of my earlier works, all of which were written either during high school or college.
seven songs after poetry of james joyce (1978)
This was what I would consider my first “real” work, in that I was writing for myself, not for my composition teacher. The second song also represents my first 12-tone composition. I was very much into Joyce’s novels in high school, but wasn’t the biggest fan of his poetry, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt the texts to set them to music. While this music is very different from what I write nowadays, it represents one of my favorite compositions. It was performed once at Juilliard in 1979. Margaret Lee was the soprano and did a great job with the very difficult vocal part.

2 thoughts on “about the music

  1. perkustooth says:

    Love the new 2 piano piece. I was also listening to the unfinished piece for allan cronin, love that one too. Listening to the ‘ for Philip Glass’ transcription. I wanted to hear the entire piece in a piano transcription. I also had forgotten how good the Vector Music was. You are practically on fire these days. Glad to see/hear it.

    • dtoub says:

      Thanks. Way too kind. I think it would be really tough to do all of fpg on one piano. Too many voices and at one points, the viola is playing something like 11 16ths against 8, or whatever it is. That would be really hard to do; I’m not even sure how well it can be done by four soloists!


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