Archive for October, 2005

In reading this today while in Plymouth, MA, it struck me that many wonderful pieces of music were so ill received in their beginnings–which can be traced back ad infinitum. Check out about the 1904 Sibelius Violin Concerto and the 1943 Shostakovich Eighth Symphony. What’s remarkable, is that perhaps our society today, even though people say it’s not true, is just as much (if not more) acceptable of new music than 100 years ago. Nobody shouts these days, or yells out ‘boos’. If they don’t like something, they’ll simply clap less vigorously. I’d be curious to see who has knowledge of music composed from 1960-1990s that was shelved and thrown by the wayside, and revived since then for our more tolerable ears of the 21st century. Have the ears of 1904 transcended to our 2005 acceptability? Or, are we returning to a melodic romanticism to please the war-time aesthetics of our society–or just because these things cycle and go through trends? Do composers write today feeling that we are in a war-time society? What was it about the Sibelius Concerto that made it unsuccessful in 1904 and now considered to be a glorious piece of music? Are new works today considered in a similar fashion, hoping to be considered great music in 100 years too?

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Several months ago, I noticed that the Hal Leonard Corporation was unveiling a new series of G. Schirmer Student Performance Editions. What a marvelous way to get piano music reprinted in a new and innovative way–and with performance audio cds accompanying the printed edition. I immediately contacted the people in charge of the piano department of the Hal Leonard Corporation. It took a few months, but we have a healthy dialogue for new editions and I am extremely honored and proud to be part of their editorial ‘family’. Next week, I begin recording some new editions I’ve created, with great anticipation.

My job involves new performance editions of the beloved ‘Sonatina Album’, Schumann’s ‘Kinderscenen’ and a delightful book of 24 ‘Scenes from Childhood’ by Kullak. I had found the Kullak in a box of music being sold off at a closing music store over twenty years ago. I remember buying the book, and expressed my interest to re-edit it for publication. The ‘Sonatina Album’ is changed a bit, as it will be in two volumes, the first to be released in 2006, and omitting the extra sonatas and selections that exist in the original sonatina book, although we feel it is best to keep the pieces titled ’sonatina’ in both volumes. The purpose of blogging about this venture, is that I appreciate the amount of time and choice-making by editors of years-gone-by. It is amazing how one can go back to the same pieces every other day and find the tempi to be slightly different from the previous time. It is a tremendous responsibility to assume the role of ‘teacher’ in editing these books, with fingerings, pedal indications, phrasing and tempi. There will be a foreward for each book, which is very helpful for the teachers and students who buy the new editions. With it all, I am having a grand ol’ time doing this, realizing that these books will be around longer than my lifetime, and my children’s as well. I hope everyone who reads this will enjoy the new books–as I hope to be doing this for many years to come.

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I was chatting with the wonderful composer, Russell Peck. We were actually very happy to see that commissioning new music has grown amongst the orchestral community. Back in 2000, Russell’s tympani concerto, ‘Harmonic Rhythm’, was commissioned by 39 orchestras. I was totally unaware of this project, and in 1998, I had organized the Ellen Taaffe Zwilich ‘Millennium Fantasy’ project which brought in 25 orchestras. Somehow, we were thinking the same thing: making new music accessible to more consortium members for a lower price, rather than make one or two organizations fund the whole tab. This not only made our projects affordable, but it also provided a chance for new music to be heard much more frequently over time, in more cities, which might have helped to pave the way for other projects to be developed utilizing the same concept of joining many members together to form a whole.

We shared our mutual joy that the ‘Made in America’ has thus become a success–and I am looking forward to hearing Joan Tower’s new piece next week. Curiously enough, in early 2001, I remember that after putting the wraps on the Zwilich project, I wanted to double the effort and go for all 50 states. Charles Strouse had begun his work composing ‘Concerto America’ for me, which became a collage of his musical style from pop, classical, Broadway and television–a unique timepiece that combines many facets of American music. The ‘Concerto America Project’ was designed to attract one orchestra per state, however, 9-11 struck the world in an instant, and all plans changed. Charles witnessed the attack from his apartment window, and wished to complete the piece, however with an added musical memory: he added a central section which immortalized the horrific scene of 9-11–with ‘America the Beautiful’ heard in poignant fragments in the orchestra. How I hope this piece might be recognized at some point as one of the historical glimpses into one of the worst days in our history–although there is indeed 95% joy and jazz in the piece. For its World Premiere with the Boston Pops in June 2002, Keith Lockhart absorbed the score quickly and pulled together the most amazing 2 hour rehearsal–same day as the concert–that I have ever witnessed. Ditto for Sam Wong in Honolulu, when we performed the piece in November 2002.

However, my 50 state project was diluted, understandably so, and I am personally thrilled to see the ‘Made in America’ project born. Russell certainly has hopes that we’ll both be remembered perhaps as the pioneers of large consortiums at the turn of the 21st century, to help foster new music and create new projects. Russell’s web site is

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After reading Joseph Polisi’s eloquent yet true statement, I realized: when a student enters the room for a lesson, I am perhaps always thinking, ‘What will you do with this after you leave? How will you make a difference–and–make a living in your field of choice?’ The term President Polisi uses is ‘missionary’, which is quite appropriate, given that in order to keep the many facets of the arts alive will require perhaps more commitment to its survival than at any time before by our students today.

Even for people like myself, a graduate during the 1980s, the technology is now available for faster communication which did not exist in the 1980s. It has helped in exploring new ways to get new projects off the ground and communicate more cheaply than by regular mail and telephone. Though, sometimes, speaking with people on a telephone can get atleast two to three days of email correspondence done in five minutes in one phone call. There are pluses and minuses for both ways to communicate. However, with speed and easier access to everything, the ideals we hel in high regard of the arts in the 20th century, must be adhered to by our teachers and students for the ultimate survival of these crafts. We are fortunate to have people like Joseph Polisi and many fantastic administrators across the globe that see the trends of society, and the new responsibilities of everyone to uphold these traditions.

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