Wonder Counselor gets its title from the Jerusalem Bible translation of Isaiah 9:6, which is more familiarly translated as “…his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” I am delighted by the idea of a higher power serving as my wonder counselor, maybe dressed as a scout leader, taking me around to point out the marvels of the world. While I was initially thinking about the piece, I did a concordance search for the word “wonderful” in the Bible and found the following proverb:
Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
The piece embeds these four wonderful sounds into an electronically transformed recording of a single organ sonority. The live organist then plays a loose set of variations on the sequence “Res est admirabilis” (“It is a wondrous thing”) from the thirteenth century Gradual of Eleanor of Brittany. The sequence is aptly-named: it has some of the strangest counterpoint I have ever heard. I was introduced to it by Marcel Peres’ excellent recording.
Wonder Counselor was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists to celebrate their 100th Anniversary and premiered at their National Convention by Kyler Brown at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in New York in July 1996. I want to thank Kyler Brown and Reverend Edgar F. Wells for their advice and insight while I was making this piece.
Wonder Counselor is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can listen to a recording by visiting February 4th, or by purchasing a recording of Tell the Birds.
To play the complete piece single-handedly requires a four-manual organ, and is very difficult! Please contact me if you would like that solo version. In the meantime, I have made a duo version which can be performed by two live players, or with KBD2 pre-recorded (or MIDI-controlled) and KBD1 played live by a single player.
Performance materials for the piece normally cost $50, but for the duration of the pandemic, you are welcome to name your own price. Thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing!
I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long is a piece for violin and electronics that starts from a recording I made of leaky pipes in a bathroom at the Beijing Conservatory and incorporates melodic material from a traditional Armenian song called Tsirani Tsar (Apricot Tree.) The title comes from a line in Down the Dirt Road Blues by Charley Patton. The piece was written for Mary Rowell and is dedicated to her with vast affection.
I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long is September 6th in A Book of Days.
• here is the score
• here is the solo violin part
If you are interested in performing the piece, please order the necessary performing materials below. You are welcome to arrange the piece for other instruments, and for additional live performers on the other lines. Let me know what you need, and we can make it work.
And you are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing:
13one was written for the trombonist Will Lang. He asked for a thirteen-note piece that could be played solo or in conjunction with other thirteen-note pieces. I decided to make my piece an homage to John Cage on his 100th birthday.
You are welcome to play the version I cast for Will for the premiere, which is in the downloadable score you will find below. Each of the thirteen notes should be played for the duration of one breath at a generally quiet dynamic. The thirteen notes do not need to be played evenly: let your breath determine the duration of each note. Also, if a particular hexagram speaks to your condition, feel free to milk it.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE YOUR OWN VERSION OF 13one:
Cast the I Ching using whatever method you prefer. (There is of course an app for this.) Use the chart you will find in the score to translate each resulting hexagram into a note. If the hexagram you cast has changing lines, the next note should be the one associated with the hexagram that results when you change the lines. If your cast for the thirteenth note gives you a hexagram with changing lines, you can
- sing the note of the original hexagram while playing the note of the changed version (or vice versa)
- vividly imagine the changed version’s note after you finish playing the thirteen written notes
- sing the note to yourself at some later time
- use it as the first note of your next performance of the piece
- invent your own use for the extra note
If you wish, you can play the piece into a very long delay a la Brian Eno. Set the delay to be longer than the duration of any individual note you are likely to play. Depending on the regen you set, the delay can end up keeping all thirteen notes in play, with a fadeout to nothingness as the delays gradually dissipate. A standard delay pedal is not likely to be long enough for this purpose: you will probably need a computer. I have made a Max for Live patch that implements a long delay (up to 13 seconds), which I am happy to send you when you order the performance materials.
13one is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can listen to Matthew Petty’s live performance with the long delay by visiting September 5th.
For a score of the piece, pay what you like at the link below. You are welcome to adapt the piece to any breath-controlled instrument, including voice. And thank you for your support of this very low-key way of publishing:
Fireside was commissioned in 2001 by pianist Sarah Cahill in celebration of Ruth Crawford Seegerâ€™s centennial. The piece sets a poem Ruth Crawford wrote when she was thirteen years old. The harmony is a response to her fifth prelude. Fireside is dedicated to women composers of the future, who will undoubtedly be making devilâ€™s bargains of their own.
Here is the text of Ruth Crawford’s poem.
When I sit by the side of the blazing fire
On a cold December night,
And gaze at the leaping and rollicking flames
As they cast their flickering light
I see what I would be in future years,
If my wishes and hopes came true,
And the flames form pictures of things that I dream,
Of the deeds that I hope to do.
One tall yellow flame darts above all the rest,
And I see myself famed and renowned,
A poetess I, and a novelist too,
Who is honored the whole world around.
That flame then grows dim, which to me seems to say,
That my first hope must soon die away,
Then another one darts on a great opera stage,
The most exquisite music I play.
And then, after many flames rise, and die down,
The first burns even and slow,
And I see myself singing to children my own,
On the porch of a small bungalow.
Oh, I dream, and I dream, until slowly the fire
Burns lower, grows smaller, less bright,
Till the last tiny spark has completely gone out,
And my dreams are wrapt up in the night.
Ruth Crawford, age 13
Fireside is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can go to December 30th to hear the recording the young pianist and composer Vera Weber made in February of 2018.
For a score of the piece, please click the Paypal button below. For the duration of the pandemic, I have made the price pay as you like. Thank you for supporting this very low-key way of publishing:
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.
And this is Nick Griffiths’ 2014 live performance on piano with no processing. It’s a very different take on the piece, and I’m delighted by it!
Normally the performance materials for this piece are $25, but during the pandemic, I’ve set the price to be pay-as-you-can. You are warmly invited to support this very low-key way of publishing:
All U Got 2 Do was inspired by a sermonette by Reverend Milton Brunson which appears on a 1990 release called Black Gospel Explosion.
all you got to do is
and god’ll give you the power
won’t he do it?
somebody know what I’m talking about?
won’t he give you
power to live right
power to think right
power to speak right
power to do right
god’ll give you
Reverend Milton Brunson
Along with the Brunson text, the piece uses a transformed recording of the introduction to the Benedictus of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The live player tries to follow the Reverend’s advice by playing as few notes with as much attention as possible. The piece was originally written for Hammond organ, but it has been played on violin and on clarinet. Other instruments might work as well, I’m open to you trying it. The score is minimally notated: you will want to shape the expression of the piece in your own way. The best performances will create a fragile balance between immobility and hope.
All U Got 2 Do is part of my ongoing project A Book of Days. You can hear David Steele’s clarinet version at 3 August, along with the video by Matt Petty, which is part of the multimedia show, Lighten Up.
Here is a performing score in pdf format.
After you click the donation button below, you’ll get all the necessary materials to perform the piece.
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…]
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. the piece normally sells for $30, but it is currently name-your-price until public performances are again possible.
Night Psalm was inspired by Psalm 77, particularly verse 20:
Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
The melody of the piece is based on a chant found in a late sixteenth century antiphoner from Augsberg Cathedral in Germany. It is not known why this book would have been made so late, given the liturgical politics involved.
Night Psalm is dedicated to Paul Kahn on the occasion of his becoming a deacon. The piece is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can hear Vicky Chow’s live recording (accompanied by a video I made off the back of a towboat on the Mississippi) by visiting March 10. And you can see an excerpt of me performing the piece on a Launchpad here.
Normally, the score is priced at $25.00, but until public performances are again possible, I have set it to pay-as-you-like. And thanks for your support of this 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 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: