how long 3 minutes of music
I started piano lessons with my father in 1950 on the old upright in my grandmother's dining room. Violin lessons started a few years later, then trumpet, then french horn. So, between my father, who was an organist and chiormaster trained at Northwestern, Eastman and Union Seminary, and the music program in the public schools in Connecticut where I grew up, I got a pretty good start and when I got to high school, I wanted, like Paul McCartney, to grow up and be Richard Rogers and compose for the music theater. In 1964, in a misguided plan to beat the draft, I joined the Army. I continued composing but by the time I got out, I felt that the music theater of Richard Rogers and Gershwin had not only passed, but life in the 1960's was also difficult and distracting. I had started acting in plays in Berlin and after that began to write non-musical plays and spent 15 years in the New York theater writing and acting in mostly what was called back then: "off-off Broadway."
I quit the theater in 1980 to move onto Madison Avenue and did nothing in either activity until 1989 when someone asked me to compose music for a small off-off Broadway play. Turns out the play was never produced, but the lyricist I was put together with on the project was a music producer named Susanne White who owned a KORG M1 -- one of the first easy to use music workstations -- and she let me use hers. Some of the pieces I composed during those years on the early 90's are presented here.
"Eine Kliene Schatterbach" is an organ piece and a take-off on one of my favorite Bach fugues -- the one in G major.
"Country Gardens Mutation" is a take off on the famous piano piece that every student learns from those red John Thompson piano course books for beginner piano students. Country Gardens was the first piano piece I could play from memory.
"Satie Dies at the Piano" grew out of a fantasy I had of being able to have Erik Satie wake up one morning and instead of his own piano, he finds a KORG in his workroom. It approximates the sound of Satie's head hitting the keys in frustration as he tries out the new fangled piano.
"Escape" is an episode from an unproduced ballet called "Astral Probe." It's a ballet piece about what happens when an astral projection goes terribly wrong.
"Bangkok Spring 1966" is about the first time I encountered Asian pop radio music. Where I worked in DC in the Army, they had all this Vietnamese and Thai radio programming and it never occurred to me, in my western chauvinist music background, that Asians would even have such a thing.
"Cavern's Wind" -- also, if there was such a thing, this is what it would sound like.
"Noon Walk on the Asylum Lawn" is from a poem by Anne Sexton. I re-read her early poems after my first child was born and I was struck how clear she was about her life in "bedlam" as she called it -- it occurred to me that being a new parent was difficult enough but to be institutionalized and be 19 years old didn't seem like an easy road.
"Quiet Beast 14:03" was composed for my mother to assist her in relaxing during her chemotherapy. She complained: "It only makes me fall asleep!" I told her that was the purpose and that for a woman who could never sit in one place for more than two minutes, this piece seemed to calm her, and I also felt the medical workers around her appreciated it, as well.