music in the garden

Painting: Giverny revisted
Raisy Derzie. Giverny Revisted.

None of us live by gardening alone. Lately I’ve been going back to some of my earlier days, composing music. If you’ll be anywhere near Long Island later in July I invite you to a performance that’ll include one of my new pieces, Afterimages, for clarinet and cello, composed for Thomas Piercy (clarinet) and Suzanne Mueller (cello).

There is a gardening tie to all this: the premiere will take place at the Old Westbury Gardens as part of the Sunday Afternoon Concert Series. The date is July 22, and the concert will commence at 3 p.m.

The New York new music organization Vox Novus invited composers to write something in reaction to this painting, Giverny Revisited, by Raisy Derzie. And, oh yes, the piece had to be sixty seconds long or shorter–talk about a big limitation! They then picked fifteen of the submissions for their ongoing Fifteen Minutes of Fame series of concerts, and my piece will be one of them. In keeping with the idea of the painting, where the artist has taken up the subject matter of Monet’s garden through a modern lens, my piece uses contemporary harmonies and rhythms to riff on the opening of Reflets dan l’eau, the first piece of Claude Debussy’s first set of Images for piano.

Southern view of Phipps estate

Also on the program will be pieces by all sorts of composers from Leopold Mozart, Beethoven, and Bartok to Charlie Chaplin. Cool music, all performed on the very manicured grounds of the old John S. Phipps estate on Long Island in New York.

I had another short short work selected for another of Vox Novus’ concerts, this one featuring the West Point Wind Quintet in a concert designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. I was feeling a little contrary, so not only did they get a piece less than a minute long, the piece was a three-movement suite, all of which clocked in at about 54 seconds. It’s all a little square and academic but it was fun to write.

The piece: Field Notes: Three Volleys for Wind Quintet

The movements (linked to the YouTube performance):

[ Program notes to the whole concert, including videos of the concert, in two parts ]

The entire world premiere performance on April 29, 2012:


6 thoughts on “music in the garden”

  1. Maestro! I didn’t know you composed. Very cool. Reminds me when I was at UCSD, I had a friend studying music who went from writing three minute punk songs to writing even shorter chamber pieces. I went to several of his concerts on campus, really liked the quick short songs. New York is a little far for me, but it sounds like a great event.

  2. James, I had no idea you were a composer. I did enjoy your Field Notes, and of course the second movement focus on Gettysburg resonated for me personally. Did you read the recent post by Thomas Rainer at Grounded Design using theory about texture in music to analyze texture in the garden? You might enjoy it.

  3. Well, I thought earning a living as a composer was about as lucrative as attempting to do so as a poet – I guess I’m wrong! I enjoyed your piece – I don’t listen to much music I confess and have little familiarity with today’s music. I tend to listen to podcasts of interesting interviews – but music – does so open one up. Like poetry… Congratulations on your success!

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