Not Worth was commissioned by the New York City ensemble Sequitur for an evening of cabaret songs based on the theme of money. I chose and adapted a text from the Analects (Lun Yu 4.5) of Confucius.
Riches and glory,
everyone loves riches and glory.
But if you can’t get them the right way
They’re not worth winning.
Poverty and obscurity,
everyone hates poverty and obscurity.
But if you can’t get rid of them the right way
They’re not worth losing.
Not Worth has been recorded by Sequitur with Kristin Norderval singing; the disk is called To Have and To Hold and you can buy it here.
Not Worth is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear Karol Bennett’s excellent live performance by going to February 3rd.
Here is a score of the piece in pdf format. I’m open to you arranging it for your ensemble; let me know what you have in mind.
For a full set of performing materials, you are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing:
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 new recording by Margaret Lancaster and Erin Rogers on flute and bari sax, respectively, and with me doing the text.
Judson Wright has made an animation that can be projected in performances of the piece. Contact me for more details.
Here is a score of the piece in pdf format. I can supply you with different transpositions and clefs, as needed.
If you are going to perform the piece in public, I would really appreciate you supporting this low-key way of publishing by purchasing the performance materials, by clicking on the paypal button below:
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 supporting 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 hear Manuel Zurria’s beautiful recording on bass flute 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…]
Here is a score of the piece with various transpositions you might want.
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.
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.
Here is a score of the piece in pdf format.
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 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.
Did he promise you tomorrow? is part of my ongoing multimedia project A Book of Days. Please visit February 7th to hear a live performance by Roomful of Teeth.
You are warmly invited to support this low-key way of publishing. Once you make your purchase, we will send you a Finale file so you can make your very own arrangement of Did he promise you tomorrow?
Brownie Feet is a messed up mashup with several sources: Feet Can’t Fail Me Now, a NOLA standard by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and the first movement of the Bach G minor Violin Sonata 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 Brown Funky Drummer 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 called Cattle Feet, and it combines Feet Can’t Fail Me Now with a Phil Collins lick, and is performed on multiple trombones as a half-time number for David Neumann’s dance piece, Feed Forward. Bach and George Bush got enveloped into it for Peggy Gould’s 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 perform The Flood as a companion piece to Brownie Feet or not, as you desire.
Brownie Feet is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can watch Tom Emerson’s video for the piece along with a performance of the vocal quartet version by visiting September 3.
A studio recording of the BRIM + Guidonian Hand octet version of the piece is available on Songs from the River Project, Vol. 2.
Here is a score of the string quartet version of the piece in pdf format. I’m open to you reorchestrating it for your ensemble; let me know what you have in mind.
And you are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing:
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 Matt’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. It’s possible you will want to be thinking of “taps” as you play, but you definitely won’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.
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.
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 my recording 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.
And thank you for supporting this low-key way of publishing.