Play Like a Girl was commissioned for the BASK Collective by the University of Idaho for a multimedia project in which the keyboard player, Kristin Elgersma, asked for the possibility of playing either grand piano or toy piano, or both, depending on performance constraints. My solution was to write a set of eight variations on Kaval Sviri, one of those Bulgarian Women’s Chorus pieces that were a surprise hit in the late 1980’s. If their ferociously joyous singing is girl music, I’m there! Some of my variations are for grand piano, some for toy piano, and some for celeste or harpsichord or other “girly” instruments, I’m open for you to arrange and adapt as you like. The variations can be played in any combination, simultaneously (with pre-recorded tracks) or successively, allowing for a total of eight factorial (40,320) versions of the piece.
After I completed the piece, I learned that the same song had been adapted as the theme music for the late 90s cult classic TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. Now that I’ve checked out the show, I’m definitely enjoying picturing Lucy Lawless in full battle garb playing the toy piano like the girl she is.
Here is a link to the Bulgarian State Women’s Chorus performance of the arrangement that inspired my piece:
Here is a score of the complete piece in pdf format.
Play Like a Girl is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days, where I post a different version of the piece on the 13th of each month. I’ve also made a downloadable streamable playlist of various demos and live performances, check it out!
I normally charge $50 for the performing materials for this piece, but I’ve made it pay-as-you-like for the duration of the pandemic. When you click the Buy Now button below and pay whatever you choose (including nothing), you’ll get a link to download all eight individual scores and recordings, along with various arrangements I’ve made, which will give you the materials you need to make your own version of the piece. If you’d like an Ableton Live session with my MIDI and pre-recorded tracks already set up for karaoke-style playback and re-mixing, I can send you that also.
You can also read a short take on “being a girl” in the second paragraph of this blog post from The River Project.
Lament was originally written for a production of Terry O’Reilly’s play, Animal Magnetism, directed by Lee Breuer. The piece was originally played on an abandoned, very out-of-tune piano. If you have access to one of those, it would be great to use it.
It is possible for an actor to perform a text in conjunction with the music, as it was performed in the original production. If you find a new text that you wish to perform in counterpoint to a performance of this piece, please let me know what you have in mind.
All Ways was commissioned by Frederick and Alexandra Peters for a project called Songbook for a New Century,Â an evening of songs about the millennium. I chose this text from Stephen King’s novel It, because I felt I didn’t know anything about the new century.
The piece was originally written for voice and piano. To purchase a copy of the piece, please click the button below.Â Here is a draft copy of a score which lays out all the conceptual parts. It can be orchestrated to your specifications, so far it’s been done by a chamber chorus with piano, and by a vocal soloist with instrumental ensemble.
And you are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing. I’ve set the price to be pay-as-you-like for the duration of the pandemic:
Do Not Be Concerned is the first piece I wrote specifically for my ongoing project A Book of Days. At the time, I was imagining writing a piece for every preset in the General MIDI spec: this piece uses the Calliope Lead (patch #83) to accompany a recitation of a line from the Gospel of Thomas.
A live performance of the piece on synth requires a MIDI echo effect: I have a version implemented already in MOTU’s Digital Performer. If you need it in some other program, I can give you the specifications for the effect so you can set it up yourself.
You can perform the piece as a solo, reciting the text as you play, or you can do it as a duo: one person plays while the other speaks.
Do Not Be Concerned is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. Please visit February 21st to listen to the piece along with my pre-911 slideshow of images of Soho.
Five Things was written on 23 October 2001. It was the first piece I wrote after the events of early September of that year. The text is Thomas Cleary’s translation of a Song Dynasty (10th to 13th century) letter to a Zen Master Xiang:
• What has been long neglected cannot be restored immediately.
• Ills that have been accumulating for a long time cannot be cleared away immediately.
• One cannot enjoy oneself forever.
• Human emotions cannot be just.
• Calamity cannot be avoided by trying to run away from it.
Anyone who has realized these five things can be in the world without misery.
Five Things is November 14th in my ongoing project A Book of Days. Please go there to hear a recording by Margaret Lancaster and Erin Rogers on flute and bari sax, respectively, with me doing the text, and to see Judson Wright’s very cool video animation for the piece.
There are performing scores in various different transpositions and clefs, please specify what you need. In addition, we can share the animation for real-time projection if you like.
Thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing by clicking on the paypal button below. Normally we charge $25 for the materials, but in pandemic days, the piece is pay-as-you-can.
Lullaby is for solo voice, female chorus, piano and optional vibes. It can also be done by women’s chorus where the solo part is done by the altos and the chant is done by the sopranos.
The text is a poem by Janet Lewis.
I could not love thee more
If thou wast Christ the King.
Now tell me, how did Mary know
That in her womb should sleep and grow
The Lord of everything?
An angel stood with her
Who said, “That which doth stir
Like summer in thy side
Shall save the world from sin.
Then stable, hall and inn
Shall cherish Christmas-tide.”
And so it was that Day.
And did she love Him more
Because an angel came
To prophesy His name?
Ah no, not so,
She could not love him more,
But loved Him just the same,
Lullaby is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can go to December 25th to hear Lucy Dhegrae’s recording. The piece is also one in a series called ReThinking Mary.
For a score of the piece, please click the Paypal button below, and thank you for supportingÂ this very low-key way of publishing:
The title Osculati Fourniture comes from a mysterious query in a journal entry written by my mother, Joyce Heeney Beglarian, on 22 May 1981, while en route to Florence from Pisa. I cannot know why these two words came into her mind while riding along the autostrada, or what connection the phrase might have with shutters or Lucca, but it seems likely that the whole business has some obscure significance.
The music is a response to the gushe Zirkesh-e Salmak in the dastgah of Shur, part of the repertoire of Persian classical music. Its relation to all this is perhaps osculate in some sense.
Osculati Fourniture is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can watch a dance choreographed by Megan Williams to Andy Kozar’s performance on trumpet by going to January 24th. In addition, there is a cool video of a performance featuring Kevork Mourad’s live drawings. The piece is dedicated with love to Yvan Greenberg, who I imagine might enjoy this little cabinet of oddities.
[and by the way, my shutter photo was taken in Pescia, not Lucca — but you get the idea…]
When you click the paypal button below, we will send you the pre-recorded tracks needed to perform the piece. We can also supply you with a performing score in any transposition or clef you’d like. the piece normally sells for $30, but it is currently name-your-price until public performances are again possible.
I am really a very simple person is the first piece I wrote after completing a journey by kayak and bicycle down the Mississippi River. It was inspired by something the visual artist H. C. Porter said to me soon after we met, in Vicksburg in November 2009. This choral version uses solfège syllables as the lyrics for the piece, which perhaps will evoke thoughts of the old shape note singing traditions.
I am really a very simple person is January 6th in A Book of Days. If you go to the day, you can hear a recording where I am singing all the parts.
I am open to performances of the piece by any group of instrumentalists and/or singers. I can supply you with various different arrangements I have made, or with the Finale or XML file so you can make your own arrangement. Please let me know when you perform the piece. And you are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing:
I wrote Did he promise you tomorrow? on 7 February 2011 as a memorial to Steven Dennis Bodner (1975-2011.) The title is something a woman named Carla asked me in a bar in Los Gatos, California precisely one year earlier, on 7 February 2010, while Chris Porter and I were watching the New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl. I had never watched a Super Bowl before, but the fact of two river cities being in contention made it sort of a required event that year. I don’t know what Steve’s attachment to the Super Bowl may or may not have been, but I do know that he loved Louis Andriessen’s music passionately, so I have re-purposed a lick from De Volharding as the basis of the piece.
The piece can be performed by virtually any group of at least six instruments and/or singers. You can arrange your own score from the six conceptual lines. The vocal score is the simplest arrangement. You can look at the Newspeak arrangement to see one approach to arranging the piece for larger forces.
You are warmly invited to support this low-key way of publishing. Once you make your purchase (currently donation-based for as long as the pandemic lasts), we will send you a PDF as well as a Finale/xml file so you can make your very own arrangement of Did he promise you tomorrow?
Brownie FeetÂ is a messed up mashup with several sources:Â Feet Can’t Fail Me Now, a NOLA standard by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and the first movement of the Bach G minorÂ Violin SonataÂ are the two necessary ones. If you like, you can perform the piece alongside my recording of a progressively more and more messed up James BrownÂ Funky DrummerÂ sample and George W. Bush’s 2 September 2005 press conference, but I’d prefer for you to work with a live drummer and/or sampler/laptop/turntable player so you can mess things up your own way.
The original version of this piece is calledÂ Cattle Feet, and it combinesÂ Feet Can’t Fail Me NowÂ with a Phil Collins lick, and is performed on multiple trombones as a half-time number for David Neumann’s dance piece,Â Feed Forward. Bach and George Bush got enveloped into it for Peggy Gould’sÂ From Within and Outside a Bright Room Called Day, where we did it as a vocal piece with live drums. And now here’s the score arranged for string quartet. You can welcome to performÂ The FloodÂ as a companion piece toÂ Brownie FeetÂ or not, as you desire.
Brownie FeetÂ is part of my ongoing project,Â A Book of Days. You can watch Tom Emerson’s video for the piece along with a performance of the vocal quartet version by visitingÂ September 3.
On the Battlefield was inspired by the memory of a visit I made to the Vicksburg National Military Park during my journey down the Mississippi River in 2009.
The November afternoon I was there, I ended up in a miserable long-distance phone argument with my then-lover in Athens. The site of one of the iconic struggles of the war between the states felt entirely personal and intimate to me that afternoon.
Six years later, I spent an afternoon at that same battlefield with my friend and collaborator Matt Petty as he filmed the footage he used to make the video for On the Battlefield.
On the Battlefield is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can watch and listen to Mattâ€™s trombone version by visiting 23 November.
The piece can be performed by any brass or wind player. You can play back my spoken part or mute it to perform with a live actor, male or female. Whatever you play into Ableton Live will be transformed simultaneously into clusters and also a drone. I have not composed your music: you will want to respond to the text, the visuals, and the live processing. Itâ€™s possible you will want to be thinking of â€œtapsâ€ as you play, but you definitely wonâ€™t want to be corny about it.
In order for the Ableton session to work properly, you probably need the full version of Live. You will also need to download and install the free plugins you can find here.
You will want to switch the monitor buttons to IN on the first two tracks, called CLUSTERS and DRONE, and make sure your playing levels do not cover the spoken voice. The video is embedded in the Live session; in order for the video to display, you need to be in Arrangement view, not Session view.
To purchase the Ableton session needed to perform the piece, please click the button below. And thank you for supporting this low-key way of publishing:
What Justice Looks Like was written for Payton MacDonald to perform at South Pass City as part of his Sonic Divide project. Esther Hobart Morris (1814-1902) served as Justice of the Peace there in 1870, during the Gold Rush, right after women were given the vote in Wyoming Territory. After her term was over, she had her husband arrested for assault and battery. She eventually left both him and South Pass City, becoming an activist for women’s rights nationally.
What Justice Looks Like is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can listen to my recording by visiting Valentine’s Day, which is the day when Esther was sworn in as Justice of the Peace.
Here’s the vocal score at the transposition that works best for me. I am happy to supply you with a different transposition, just let me know what you need when you click the donation button below.
I think you want to think of this piece as an intimate invocation to Esther. You’ll want to find the transposition that lets both the lowest and the highest notes of the (rangy) vocal line be vulnerable and loving. You are welcome to do the piece slower (or faster) than the marked tempo if you like, and you don’t need to stick too precisely to the notated rhythms as long as the phrases stay coherent.
You can do it as a solo vocal piece, or you can invent a rhythmic accompaniment that helps you express the piece, adding extra bars of rest between verses for improvisational flourishes as you prefer. If you like a drone, feel free to use one. For the demo, I used Henry Lowengard’s excellent iPhone app, Srutibox, in just intonation mode. And I added a couple of totally optional samples from “Suffragette City”, which I’ll send you if you want them.
Normally, this piece costs $25, but during the pandemic I’m making it pay-as-you-can. And thank you for supporting this low-key way of publishing:
Oh, I’m sad for never knowing courage,
And I’m sad for the stilling of fear.
Close to the sun now and farther from the heart.
I think that my end must be near.
I linger too long at a picnic
’cause a picnic’s gayer than me.
And I hold to the edge of the table
’cause the table’s stronger than me.
And I lean on anyone’s shoulder
Because anyone’s warmer than me. Jane Bowles
I have been mulling over this 1942 poem by Jane Bowles since I first encountered it in 2000. I think the poem is unbearably sad: the embodiment of a specific kind of mid-20th-century female unhappiness. I do not live this life, but I am very conscious of having escaped it.
The song showed up unannounced one day while I was in residence at Ucross in the spring of 2016.
Farther from the Heart is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can listen to Hila Plitmann’s recording with pianist Lara Downes by visiting 3 November.
Here’s the vocal score at the transposition that works best for me (I sing it an octave below where it’s written.) I do think lower is better, but of course I am happy to supply you with a different transposition, just let me know what you need when you order the materials below.
I normally charge $30 for this score, but I have made it pay-as-you-like for the duration of the pandemic. And thank you for supporting this low-key way of publishing.