Unfavored House

Unfavored House is a piece I wrote while struggling to give back a house I inherited in Los Angeles in the midst of the economic downturn, a gift that came with more debt than the house itself was worth at the time. The combination of grief and bad advice led me to a dark place where randomized Bach was my only comfort.

I think randomized Bach an excellent comfort for whatever ails you, actually.

And this psalm also does a very good job of capturing my sense of futility at managing legal documents and paperwork.

Unless the Lord builds the house,

   those who build it labour in vain.

Unless the Lord guards the city,

   the guard keeps watch in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early

   and go late to rest,

eating the bread of anxious toil;

   for he gives sleep to his beloved.

Psalm 127

horizontal rule

You can hear a recording of Unfavored House by visiting 24 February in A Book of Days.

horizontal rule

Unfavored House was written to be performed in conjunction with a live Ableton session that gradually doubles the live performers’ pitches with different successively constrained random pitches each time you play the piece. (If Ableton isn’t a possibility, I can supply a pre-recorded track for a duet version of the piece, with the clav part pre-recorded, and the mandolin and guitar players live.)

If the clav part is live, the live clav and the random clav should use the same patch. The clav part doesn’t look much like what you will hear, and it will sound a little different every time you play it. The live players’ mandolin and guitar sounds should match the random doubles as closely as possible. Feel free to use different sounds in Ableton that match the mandolin and guitar more closely, or even better, sample your own instruments so that Ableton is randomizing you!

Normally, I would charge $50 for the performance materials; in these pandemic days, I welcome you to pay what seems right to you, with thanks for support of this low-key method of publishing:

 

DETAILS

No Delight in Sacrifice

No Delight in Sacrifice is a short response to my least favorite masterpiece, The Rite of Spring. I’ve taken materials from Stravinsky’s dazzling work and re-shaped them to stand against the glamorization of killing in the name of higher powers and for the joy of renewal and rebirth that spring embodies. The bassoon begins the piece with a plainchant version of Psalm 51 that was my guide in this re-composition: “For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.”

No Delight in Sacrifice was commissioned by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra in celebration of their 80th Anniversary Season, and was premiered in Burlington on 6 December 2014 on a concert that included The Rite of Spring.

No Delight in Sacrifice is part of my ongoing project, A Book of Days. You can listen to a recording of the premiere by visiting May 29th.
horizontal rule
You can download a score of the piece here. You can purchase performance materials by clicking the link below.

And thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing!

DETAILS

Play Like a Girl

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:

horizontal rule

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.

horizontal rule

You can also read a short take on “being a girl” in the second paragraph of this blog post from The River Project.