Verily and pointlessly I say unto you: there are lots and lots of kinds of stones — Rolling, Temple Pilots, Nichols and (Harvard-trained musicians or furniture), stepping, sharpening, Blarney, Sword in the, kidney, gall, mile-, kilometer- ...
Okay, there aren't any kilometerstones, or at least not currently. If I remember correctly, just before or during the leisure suit era, America was on the verge of converting to the metric system. I was in high school taking Algebra II, and for some unremembered reason, we moved class one day to the large extra room across (referred to as The Utility Room when referred to at all) from the gymnasium. In Gym, we had had the wrestling unit in that room, and during my brief flirtation with being on the track team, I was also trained in high jump in the same room. Obviously large mats were in large supply in this room. In addition, there was an A/V setup where we could watch the hurdlers in slow motion and comment on their technique, and say other things like, "Wow. That's pretty cool how you can make him go slow like that." Actually, I think it's the only thing we ever said.
A mere three years later we would have effected a double bar to that with "Dude."
And yes, I did spend a week or so working on my high jump. When I say working on, I mean something else. In that corner of Vermont, you had to jump in the high fives (nowadays that's a mortgage interest rate) to compete, and I recall making it as high as 5' 2" before I hit my proverbial wall. Proverbial walls are much softer than actual walls, but they do a lot more psychological damage. Because, you know.
I also trained — when I say trained, I mean something else — in short distance running and the broad jump. Which we called the running broad jump at the time because we had all done the standing broad jump in elementary school gym class, there being no available sand pits for the activity at hand. At the standing broad jump, I had had my Bob Beamon moment — a leap of 8 feet 5-1/2 inches, more than two feet farther than anyone else in the class. I compensated by sucking big ones at pullups. Meanwhile, I failed to come within two feet of a "competitive" distance at the running broad jump.
I competed in exactly one track meet (that would look funnier as track meat), and only in the 100-yard dash. In a heat of 3 runners, I was third, at 12.3 seconds. The .2 seconds I was behind #2 was a longer distance than you would think.
And why was the Algebra II class in The Utility Room? History has not recorded the reason. The academic unit was, obviously, The Metric System, and it was a high educational priority at the time because it was going to become the law of the land soon! There was a proliferation of rulers and tape measures for us to use for our own nefarious purposes, as well as work sheets for us to get all experiential about the metric system. It was not called getting all experiential at the time — it took a bunch of PhDs in education with a whole lot of free time to invent the expression, later. And the worksheets had helpful questions like How long is your arm in feet? Yes, that was a groaner, but you know. Followed by How long is your arm in centimeters?
A very popular joke of the time was Give him 2.54 centimeters and he'll take 1.61 kilometers. (pause for rim shot) Because you know, the metric system was coming. It was imminent. Venga subito! I seem to remember that for a while, Route 89 was nicknaming itself "metric highway", with distance signs expressed both metrically and ... what is the system of inches and yards and feet called? The English system? ... and the English system. I remember a sign for Burlington that informed BURLINGTON 100 KM/62.5 MILES. Now how an inanimate object can nickname itself — that's a subject for another post, and not one by he who is me.
And then, and then, and then ... the metric system thing was abandoned. There didn't seem to be any fanfare about it. I think it just packed a nondescript bag and took an early morning train so that no one would notice it was gone. I seem to remember that disco was big, too.
By abandoning the metric system, we thus never had to celebrate kilometerstones — which when you come right down to it, is rather silly. We still get to have milestones. And thus do I get to invent yet another non sequiturial upbeat to the awkward segue at hand. Bookmark this post in your awkward segues folder. Readers of this blog will have a lot.
Thus do I present one composer's milestones. That composer would be, for all intents and purposes, me. This is a list of things that were important along the way, and by no means do it be a complete list. There are lots and lots of them, and they were all important, at least for me, when they happened — and I guess the point of this otherwise self-indulgent post would be that musicians, and specifically this composer writing in third person, are shaped by many, many, many small things, some of them teeny — not just the ones that make it onto the resume. Although the stuff on the resume counts as milestones, too, because, you know, why else would you put them on the resume?
And now that I think of it, these milestones (and furlingstones, and yardstones, and inchstones, etc.) fall into several types, some overlapping: milestones in the making of a musician (which is cool because of the alliterative thing goin' on there), life choices milestones (no, you haven't stumbled on to the Parade Magazine website), career milestones, and, and ... aw, geez, I'm tired of typing the word. Read on, reader. Life gets in your way.
Learned to read music. I don't remember learning to read music. When the memories kick in, around age four or four and a half, I am playing simple duets at the piano with my sister Jane, and reading from sheet music. She also taught me to read, apparently. Because I could do that, too — except that there is recorded evidence of me at age 6 reading from a book and stumbling on the word limousine.
Learned an instrument. We had an upright piano in the house with a wind-up clock that chimed, in that Big Ben way, every quarter hour. It is a good thing I don't have perfect pitch, because when we finally had it tuned (by one Sterling Weed, who also conducted the Enosburg Band), we learned that it was almost exactly a half-step low. Thus did I figure out the outlines of the bass and tune of Linus and Lucy from the TV specials by playing along in A major instead of A-flat. So, as noted, when the memories kick in, there I am, playing the piano with Jane. I am playing the top parts. As noted in photo to the right, we also had invested in lots of very busily-patterned wallpaper. As to the hat, the only time I ever wore it was when the picture was taken.
Got paid to play an instrument. My parents had paid for music lessons for my older siblings, and they didn't warm to them. Thus, they weren't going to waste their money on music lessons for me. We had sheet music, and the old method book hand-me-downs, and at some point my mother offered me 10 cents for every lesson from the hand-me-downs that I could play for her. Being that I already read music and could sight-read most of the stuff, she came to regret this gambit. As by the end of the first day, she owed me almost three bucks. Immediately the parameters changed to ten cents per piece I played from memory. The same ten cent gambit was also used for me to teach myself to type, using the textbook from her college typing course. I got to hate hal, whoever that was, very much.
Took up a band instrument. Trombone, age 10, as my father's choices of saxophone and French horn were nixed for anyone younger than 12. I was, at the time, in that demographic. So trombone it was. Arthur Bostwick taught the trombone lessons in large groups while chain smoking, and attrition shrunk the lessons from six trombonists to two within the year. Well, attrition and smoke.
Played in a student ensemble. Playing in the band was mandatory if you took up a band instrument, and there was but one choice of band. Thus did I join the Elementary School Band, playing such favorites as The Bear Went Over the Mountain and Inchworm, to squeals of delights from parents of those involved.
Co-soloist in front of a student ensemble. Ah, while still in fifth grade, Jim Farley — an eighth grader — and I were co-soloists in Asleep in the Deep in the spring band concert, to squeals of delights from parents of those involved. Actually, I don't think I ever heard my parents squeal, and if I did I'd be psychologically damaged in strange and slightly lopsided ways. So yeah, it was those other parents who were squealing with delight. As to the tune, it was the kind you could march to, assuming you didn't have to be all the way to the other end of the block until late in the evening.
Played in district high school music festival. The powers-that-were decided to stick me, a sixth grader, into the second trombone section of the band for the district music festival, which meant much tougher rep than Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head. Plus, it got me out of school for two whole days! The tragedy behind this particular gig was that I never turned in my parts, somehow I procured a reel-to-reel tape of the concert, and for months I played the tape while playing along on the second trombone part. What the heck — the parts were way more interesting than the ones in the elementary school band. Washington Post March, baby.
Solo audition on district high school music festival. As a seventh grader, I played the March from Aïda as a solo, in front of an audience of parents squealing with delight, accompanied by my future high school music teacher Verne Colburn. The less said about this the better.
Failed at the ukelele. I think every list of composer milestones should have a ukelele in it, and here in front of you I practice that which I have been about to have preached. Mom occasionally brought a ukelele in front of non-paying old people and sang folk songs that truckers loved because of the width of the vibrato. I learned 3 or 4 chords and accompanied her to one gig. Then I switched to autoharp, because the chords all had labels. Meanwhile, our wallpaper was still all busy and stuff.
First original music written down. Some time when I was 12 or 13, I drew staff lines on a piece of cardboard and made up a few trombone licks for myself to play. I played it once and realized it sucked. Mom saved it anyway.
Followed Dad's advice to give up the music thing. Dad wanted me to take the drafting class first thing when I got to high school because, you know, drafting is an essential skill for so many trades (ironically, the only drafts I do nowadays are from the window or from the refrigerator). I could still like music, of course, but high school was where we got ready for our serious professional lives. And so the first manifestation of this life choice was when making your freshman year schedule was forced on us eighth graders. As preparation for the school-is-no-longer-supposed-to-be-something-you-enjoy part of our educational experiences, we made our college prep schedules up in consultation with our parents, and spent a mock half-day at the high school meeting the actual teachers who would be teaching us.
Obviously this ritual — trying out your classes in advance — was from a whole 'nother era. Because, you see, the teachers actually seemed to know from year to year that they would still have their jobs the next year.
Also, we hadn't done the try-out your classes in advance thing since first grade was introduced to us kindergarteners. Now that was a crowded classroom.
The drafting class met the same period as freshman band. Thus was my schedule full of science and math and English and French and Drafting, and devoid of music. Verne Colburn did see me in the hallway late in our mock day and noted to me that he'd missed me in mock band. I was mock surprised that he remembered me. I mock muttered, "yeah, it's same time as Drafting".
What I didn't mention, since the reference didn't exist yet, was that the mock drafting class was taught by someone who talked a lot like Milton in Office Space.
Played in an ensemble with grownups. Dad worked with a guy named Carl Eller who gave us a shortwave radio that I played with a lot, and who played saxophone in the local community bands. He suggested I join the St. Albans Citizens Band for the summer before high school. It was a group that varied in size weekly, between 25 and 40, and it played weekly concerts in the bandstand in Taylor Park in the center of town. There was plenty of challenging rep. And as I noted in another post, it was one of a few places where people in cars honked their horns as a sign of approval — after each piece. Ages ranged from 13 (me) to 80 (not me). I loved playing in this band so much that I asked for permission to
Drop drafting class and take band. Dad assented, so long as I promised to take it in a future year. I agreed, and never did.
Incidentally. Verne Colburn played in the St. Albans Citizens Band, too, and it seemed to be a different instrument for him every week. He even played mellophone.
First real trombone instruction was from Verne Colburn, now my high school music teacher. He watched my playing and immediately knew that I was doing it wrong. He knew from watching my gullet (how often do I get to type that phrase?) that my embouchure and (lack of) tonguing technique needed a makeover.
First transcription of a tune by ear and from memory. The melody from Red's White and Blue March, a staple of the Citizen's Band.
First arrangement for multiple instruments. Freshman year of high school I did an arrangement of Heaven on Their Minds for the high school jazz band. Oddly, I never made a score. I wrote out all the parts without ever referencing a master score, except maybe one that was in my head. I've never worked this way again, and to this day don't understand why I did it that way then. The band had the parts in their folders, but it was never performed.
First high school music festival. All-New England, in Bennington, my sophomore year. Sam Newton and I had both learned the first movement of the Gordon Jacob trombone concerto for the audition, and we anchored the third trombone section in the all-New England Band, conducted by Tom Elliott. Thus was I exposed to much more challenging music that made my ears stand on end. Thus
First music to make my ears stand on end Paul Whear's Stonehenge Symphony (modal and quartal harmony, plus special instrumental effects), Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man (before it was a car commercial), and Persichetti's Divertimento for Band (stretched modality and bitonality) at the 1974 all-New England festival. Woo hoo, said my ears. Ouch, said my lips.
First money prize as a musician in the district music festival my sophomore year, for the aforementioned Gordon Jacob concerto movement. There I am (with shoulder rope) pretending to get my check from Verne Colburn, while having no idea what my facial expression should be. Yes, I had shoulder ropes. But at least I didn't have plaid pants.
First writing for band I arranged the aforementioned Gordon Jacob concerto movement for trombone and band, based on the piano reduction. I wrote the bassoons down to low G. It never got performed.
First writing for rock band with Chicago instrumentation (it was called The Silver Finger). I transcribed from the Chicago sketch scores sheet music, but I also took I've Been Searchin' So Long off the radio, and wrote one jazz-funk tune that was too hard for the players.
Learned other instruments. I learned flute fingerings (but not embouchure) and euphonium/trumpet/tuba fingerings. Thus I could sit in playing any non-horn brass instrument, so long as tone quality was not an issue.
First public playing of electric bass. In Whole Lot of Love, Stairway to Heaven, and a tune written by the bass player of The Silver Finger, in which he wanted to play acoustic guitar.
Decided to pursue music sophomore year, on the strong suggestion of Beverley Kenyon, the school's piano accompanist (these days she would be its collaborative pianist). Ironically, her job was eliminated that year, meaning students (such as me) had to fill in. And at this point my brother Donald heaped a few piles of derision and scorn on me for making such a choice.
First notion that I could write music When I heard a concert of winners of the Vermont all-state composition competition and a guy just two years older than me won a hunnert 'n' fifty bucks for Soliloquy to a Snowstorm, which his high school band played at that concert. For that much money (a year and a half allowance), I figured I could do something at least as good, because people told me I was smart. For months I worked out in my head some plans for a "picnic" suite for my own high school band, modeled on the Grand Canyon Suite, and I had big plans for the ant music. I never wrote it, but I shonuff talked about it.
First record of classical music purchased with my own money Bernstein plays Hindemith, junior year of high school. I was learning the Hindemith Sonate for auditions, and loved the weird and wacky sound world. If I hadn't recorded it onto cassette to listen to in my bedroom, I would have worn out the grooves.
Rejection from a high school music festival All-New England, junior year. Though it might be said that I came down with Red Measles the evening of the day I auditioned.
First composition Opus 3, "The Ultimate", written during February vacation of my junior year for my high school band. It was a cinch to win me a hunnert 'n' fifty bucks at the all-state composition competition, it being big and all, and seven minutes worth of completely pilfered music. It was also given an advanced opus number so it wouldn't seem like my first piece ever. It led to
First honorable mention in a composition competition. The judges hated the title, and gave first prize to a brass quintet "in the Renaissance style".
First gape-jaw moment in an ensemble The antiphonal trumpet thing in Morton Gould's Jericho Rhapsody, Vermont all-state my junior year. I was easily gape-jawed.
Summer festival UVM Summer Music Session for High School Students. Six weeks between junior and senior years. This was where I first met Beff (I was even in a brass ensemble that read through her piece Call in orchestration class). There I took the advanced theory class taught by William Prante, for which I wrote an interminable whole-tone piece for piano in seven movements (eight would have been too many, and six didn't say everything there was to say) and a final harmony project for orchestra (Prante said it sounded like Verdi). Based on his input, I decided to try and become a composer. Speaking of which,
First public performance of a piece of mine played by a grownup Whole-Tone Suite (in seven movements), by William Prante, UVM Summer Session, July 1975.
First piece written at an older person's request for Dennis Taylor, a college saxophonist. It was in 5/8, and he never played it.
Discovered atonal music and went zowie! Verne Colburn lent me his Time-Life Music of Today records, and I went all apeshit gaga over the Babbitt and Boulez selections. Wore out the grooves on my cassettes on those.
Lead in the Senior Play The Imaginary Invalid. I have no recollection of what my character's name was.
College rejection Oberlin Conservatory.
College acceptance NEC, for which I was excited enough to ride my bike straight into the high school building and into the band room to show Verne Colburn my acceptance letter. He was very good at not showing that he already knew. It's also a good thing that the band room was on the ground floor.
First moneyed composition prize. Vermont all-state composition competition my senior year, for Suite from Erehwon, my second band piece — $150. True to form, since this won a prize, it has never been performed. Besides, Persichetti was alive at the time and he would have called me to get all his licks back.
First YouDaMan prize. Plus, I got the senior scholarship from Vermont all-state, 500 bucks to go towards tuition at NEC — which, given that NEC cost $3300 in 1976, was no small chunk.
Difficult trombone solo in front of the band. Blue Bells of Scotland, Arthur Pryor, which of course we called the blue balls. It was difficult, and played by me with the opposite of aplomb. This was my last concert of high school.
Heard the Rite of Spring I entered college not having heard a lot of real classical music. Thus, I first heard this piece on Tom Laskey's record player, very loud, in a dorm room. Tom also introduced me to Babbitt's second string quartet, Messiaen's Chronochromie, Mahler, and who knows what else. Tom's room was one of the few safe places not playing Chuck Mangione or Sweeney Todd over and over.
First sheet music I purchased with my own money Dello Joio's third piano sonata.
Sang atonal music with the Boston Symphony and others. As a composition major at NEC, the only way to fulfill the performance ensemble requirement was chorus (could match pitch) or repertory chorus (couldn't match pitch). I took the audition and had to sightsing a bunch of wild atonal lines, which, surprisingly, I could do. They were from Seymour Shifrin's Chronicles, a lovely big ol' piece that the chorus was singing with the BSO and Ozawa for the ISCM World Music Days in the last full week of October. My ears acclimated quickly to Shifrin's sound world — and loved I that big octatonic chord that ended it (Am7 in the men, E-flatm7 in the women). The parents came to the performance, stayed at the Midtown Motor Inn, and mom pronounced it "not music".
There were very few squeals of delight.
Wozzeck and Gurrelieder, live, and I got to sing in the chorus of the latter. My freshman year was Gunther Schuller's last year as president of NEC, so he went all out.
Converted to Ozalid. At my teacher's goading, I joined all the cool kids copying our scores in ink onto Ozalid paper and getting scores made that smelled of ammonia. At the time the ammonia smell was a sure sign of serious composer.
Got a menial job to pay the bills, and got an apartment summer after freshman year, security guard at Jordan Marsh for an external contractor. I made free long distance phone calls, and was paid $2.45 an hour. While I had the job, the minimum wage increased to $2.60, and the company's newspaper ads before that announced a "guaranteed 15-cent-an-hour raise within the first two weeks." Occasionally I got to sit idly at a construction area within the store, where I wrote music.
Got paid to write a piece. Fifty bucks, sophomore year, by Bruce Eidem, for a solo trombone piece. What he got for his money was a real bow-wow entitled Rhapsody in Brass, and the title was far superior to the piece.
Lost a parent. Mother, day before Easter, sophomore year.
First in memoriam piece Deconstructionist solo soprano setting of the text "requiem aeternam", for Wendy Shermet. Wendy was a third stream major with a freaky three-octave range (same as a vibraphone) and I used all of it. After she sang my piece, she did a set with Ran Blake, who started with the last few notes of my piece.
Got into the uptown New York thing Martino's Notturno and Triple Concerto and Davidovsky's flute Synchronism were on heavy rotation.
Stopped taking sugar in my coffee junior year of college.
Less crappy job to pay the bills circulation desk at the NEC library. It was even full-time in the summer between junior and senior years. During which time I found out that my take-home pay was the same whether I worked five full days a week or four and a half. Thus my first education about tax brackets.
Spent almost a year on a piece A Dylan Thomas setting for baritone, sextet, and offstage horn. It was my big hit that got me into grad school. Previously, I was churning out a piece a week, which was real fun when I applied to Juilliard, who asked for "everything you've written in the last two years".
Lost the other parent Father, October, senior year.
Chosen to represent Composition on the commencement concert. A Refusal to Mourn ..., a Dylan Thomas setting for baritone, sextet, and offstage horn.
Chadwick Medal from New England Conservatory at graduation, its highest honor. The prize: a medal. What did I want?
Spent a year on a piece. A septet, my most complicated piece ever. It was performed at Princeton, and ended later than it started.
Second in memoriam piece Elegy, for string orchestra.
First real piece Elegy, for string orchestra.
Fifth rejection from Tanglewood. First year of grad school.
The piece that changed everything. Lulu, first year of grad school, which Claudio got us into rehearsals for at the Met. I got to know it quite well. The use of the bass, the voice leading, the way the counterpoint worked ... this was the piece I tried to write for the next ten years, or more.
Got into Tanglewood second year of grad school, 1982. Also life-changing, as I met Ross Bauer and Martler there, lifelong important peoples. And I took some rather silly pictures with Berio.
Joined BMI 1982. Barbara Petersen gave us the pitch at Tanglewood.
Spent two years writing a piece Violin Concerto, which began as a violin and piano piece. I arranged it for a large ensemble for performance at Tanglewood. Then of course I had to add two more movements. Sigh.
BMI Student Composer Awards 1982 and 1983, for the last movement of the violin concerto, and then for the whole concerto. Gravy train time! With the money I fixed my car.
Composers Conference 1983 got a great performance of the outer movements of Violin Concerto, still in progress. Met Mario Davidovsky, later to be my colleague at not one, but two Ivy League institutions. And the recording I got was golden. It lasted me many years.
Wrote a twelve-tone piece Overderive, for the Brandeis Jazz Ensemble, which was directed by Ross Bauer at the time. It remains my only twelve-tone piece, and yes, the opening melody unfolds the set with its combinatorial retrograde inversion in the bass — it's what the cool kids do. It also has a double fugue, because you know.
Four unpointful years spent paying dues, and then some, 1984-88. Menial work at Educational Testing Service, Boston YWCA and Boston YMCA. Much effort spent not writing a dissertation.
First performance royalty check 1984, from BMI. I had no idea how to report it on my tax form. I got a note from the IRS saying shouldn't you report this income somewhere else?
First professional New York performance Slange, written for and performed by Parnassus, October, 1984. Mario Davidovsky gave Anthony Korf a tape of my violin concerto, and he liked it.
First prominent review Slange, by Andrew Porter in the New Yorker, October, 1984. Finely worked, agreeable, but unmemorable music.
First interview for an academic job Columbia, 1987. I didn't get it, and I didn't have a doctorate, but the experience was — actually, I don't remember anything about it except Susie Blaustein telling me that one of the all-interval tetrachords on a chart was mislabeled.
First published piece Slange, CF Peters 67099. Ross had gotten the Hinrichsen Award, which is a publication by Peters, and he had lunch with Stephen Fisher, its president. At lunch, Ross recommended Slange for Peters to publish. And they actually wrote me and said send us your piece! I had to add another movement still, and Ross conducted its first performance with his group at Davis, in 1988.
First piano étude March, 1988 while in Arizona writing a piece for Ross's group at Stanford. Reused a piano lick from that piece as the basis of this one.
First offer of gainful university employment. Stanford, on my 30th birthday, 1988. Ross had taught there two years — and had gotten me to write a piece for their new music group, even. He got a better job at Davis, and recommended me, not yet a doctor, to replace him. The violin concerto recording convinced them I was serious, though nothing else would have.
I didn't see myself on the professor track, but four years of crappola jobs convinced me I should at least try it to see if I could do it. It turns out I did. I haven't looked back, because if I do I'll turn into a pillar of iodized salt. Salary was the princely sum of $24,000.
Because of the job, I
Met Judy Bettina in 1988, who was my colleague at Stanford. She and I were equally unimpressed by faculty meetings.
The cougar letter October 3, 1988.
First dissertation draft 1989. Here's an encapsulation of the reader's reaction: this sucks. No PhD for you, and I won't tell you why.
First major composition award Guggenheim Fellowship, 1989, which I put off until 1990-91. I had only applied because Ross had gotten one, and asked the Foundation to send me an application. The amount was $27,000.
First non-award suitable for CV Finalist for the Rome Prize, 1989.
Met Lee Hyla waiting to interview for the Rome Prize. He was the other finalist not to get it.
Married! August 11, 1989. The one in the picture not knowing where to put his hands is Ross.
First recording on CD Imaginary Dances, Speculum Musicæ, CRI. I of course had to pony up the $3601 cost of the recording session, plus kick in for the production and distribution costs. The glamour was almost too much to bear.
Met Geoff Burleson Beff and I think it was 1989.
Second offer of gainful university employment. Columbia, 1989. Stayed there until 1995 and loved every third minute of it.
Second non-offer of gainful university employment. UC Berkeley, where I interviewed the day after my Rome Prize interview in New York. I had taken the redeye EWR-SFO. The grad composers weren't at my job talk, which was scheduled at the same time as a lecture by George Perle, but they did make it to the reception that followed. Memorable moment: a grad student asks me, "Who are you, and how did you get this interview?" I looked at his drink and noted that he had scotch, not one of the options available to the rest of us.
First offer of academic employment turned down Stanford, 1990. Ross leaving and me leaving, both of us after getting Guggenheims, convinced them they needed to upgrade the job from Lecturer to tenure track. Turning down the offer was a very good decision.
First artist colony residency Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Sep-Oct 1990. After a year of teaching at Columbia, I took the Guggenheim Fellowship, and learned from Ross that there was this place called an artist colony where you could get tons of work done. So I applied to a bunch! I also got to go to the MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Foundation, Yaddo, and Bellagio. Five residencies in one year was a lot, but at least part of it was in Italy. At VCCA I made paste-up parts to my violin concerto, and wrote the first movement of Symphony No. 1.
Made computer fonts 1990-92.
Second major composition award NEA fellowship to write Cerberus, 1990. Seven thousand dollars.
First symphony 1990-91 took eleven months to write, during my Guggenheim year. Riverside Symphony was to premiere it, and they insisted I pay for the trombonists if I were to write for them. I did. Thus I lost much money on this project.
First farmed-out parts For Symphony No. 1. $4300 to Greg and Leslie in Utah.
No vernacular music buttstik first tugged at 1991 when, as a relief from Symphony No. 1, I wrote a jazzy scat piece for Judy Bettina, utilizing pitch-mapping.
First competitive commission Fromm Foundation commission, 1991, to write Hyperblue.
Met Soooozie Narucki. 1992 after the premiere of Cerberus, with Beff as soloist, and conducted by Ross.
First computer-engraved score 1993, Trillage, étude #4, on Finale 3.0. We bought the program because Beff was applying for a job with "experience using Finale software" as a requirement. Finale 3.1 sucked a lot less than Finale 3.0.
Met Marilyn Nonken 1992 or 1993 when she came to Columbia for grad school.
Taught Jefferson Friedman 1993-94 during which, for the second time, I recognized a very big talent in a composer just beginning. (the first was Sean Varah at Stanford)
First academic leave where I got paid. Paid! Junior development leave, Columbia, 1994-5 at half pay. I wrote a cello concerto that sucks, and made it as far as the sixth piano étude.
The dissertation was also rescued from limbo by Paul Lansky and Peter Westergaard that year, so much of the leave year was spent writing that, too. It was not a particularly happy or fun year.
Rome Prize 1995-96. It was a wonderful year, Beff got to visit and get paid hundreds of thousands of lira to play our music, and Sooooozie came, too. Beff brought her check to the local bank to get cash (maybe $700 worth), and was instructed to come back the next day because the bank didn't have that much money. And I wrote some music that didn't suck very much.
Learned Italian in Rome.
First orchestra commission Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, 1996, for Persistent Memory. This one was written in two two-and-a-half week intense bursts, fourteen months apart.
Koussevitzky commission Sesso e Violenza for ensemble 21, 1996, written in Rome. It became the anchor piece for an all-Davy CD.
Defended dissertation in March, 1996, for which I had to travel from Rome. Which is good, because my next job required me to have a PhD in hand.
Third offer of gainful university employment Brandeis, 1995, put off until 1996 after Rome Prize year.
First CD burner August 1996. It cost $700, and burned at 2x. But we were one of the First Adopters, and boy did that make us cool.
Met Daron Hagen at VCCA in December, 1996. Beff and I also went to see Jerry Maguire on Christmas Day, which is unrelated.
Longest commute First year at Brandeis, eight hours Cambridge to Salisbury, Maryland, where Beff had a real job. I did it every other weekend.
First real estate purchase Bangor, Maine, August, 1997, since Beff got a job at the U of Maine, and there was no existent rental market.
Carnegie Hall premiere Persistent Memory, Orpheus, March, 1998.
First all-Davy CD Hyperblue, CRI, released 1999. Total cost: $26,305.25. Portion borne by me: $19,305.25.
Taught Nico Muhly 1998-2000 at Yehudi Wyner's suggestion. Another very big talent with very good ears and an ironic sense of humor. My function was mainly to point, yell "try it this way!", and get out of the way.
Met Gusty Thomas at a reception at Harvard, November 1998. I had met her before, but this was our first real conversation.
Second non-award suitable for CV Pulitzer Prize finalist, for Persistent Memory, 1999.
Tenure Brandeis, 1999.
Mini-commencement speech Brandeis, 1999. Note I haven't been asked to do it again. Whew!
Distinguished Guest composer at the Composers Conference August, 1999. This was a real honor, since the conference had done so much for me.
First band piece Remember Verne Colburn from high school days? You don't? Scroll back up and read on, reader. His son, now the assistant director of the Marine Band, had procured the all-Davy CD and had programmed S&V on a chamber music concert, to which I went. Then the band commissioned me for Ten of a Kind, 2000. If anything, it got me a free trip to Switzerland for the WASBE premiere. And an amazing, amazing performance.
Academy Award 2000, from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Half cash, half recording money, which went to record Cerberus.
First unpaid academic leave spring 2000 to write Ten of a Kind, among other things.
Met Rick Moody Yaddo, May, 2000.
Bought real estate in Massachusetts July 2000. And we are still in the same place.
Met Amy Briggs April, 2001, thanks to Gusty Thomas programming piano études on a Chicago Symphony Music Now concert. At the time, there were thirty études.
Met Mindy Wagner at the MacDowell Colony, June, 2001.
No vernacular music buttstik firmly removed in writing Amy a stride étude at her request.
Started making étude videos December, 2001 with Amy.
Recorded at Skywalker Ranch Cerberus, Beff as the soloist, Ross conducting.
Second non-award suitable for CV Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2002, for Ten of a Kind.
Pianostravaganza Amy Briggs, her inimitable playing, and Bridge Records Davytude CD recordings in 2002, 2003 and 2007. Woo hoo!
Third all-Davy CD Martian Counterpoint, Albany Records. I didn't keep track of how much this one cost, but it was a lot more than twelve dollars.
Second academic leave where I got paid. Paid! Sabbatical 2002-3. Woo hoo! Tons 'n' tons o' music written. And Beff got me a hammock for the summer of 2003. I like it. Made it to fifty-nine études by the end of the sabbatical.
Established a personal web page Fall, 2002.
Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, 2004-6. The $25,000 funded a large part of the BMOP CD. This one was a very big honor, because the panelists are performers and not composers.
Department Chair 2004-5. No comment.
Saved graduate composition from extinction Brandeis University, 2005, with a lot of help from my friends.
Desperately craved other employment, 2004-5.
Endowed Chair Walter W. Naumburg Professor, Brandeis, November 2005. I got my own stationery and everything. Drawback: I had to give a speech.
Koussevitzky commission BMOP, for piano concerto for Marilyn Nonken.
Second unpaid academic leave spring, 2006 to write piano concerto.
Met Mary Fukushima and Mike Kirkendoll after writing Gli Uccelli di Bogliasco for them while they were still graduate students.
Barlow Prize 2006 to write Cantina, my last ever band piece — unless somebody with a really, really big pile of money knocks on my door and actually knows the secret knock.
Davy does jazz on purpose and for a long time Stolen Moments, 2008, commissioned by Merkin Hall for a series of classical composers do jazz.
All-Davy orchestra CD BMOP/Sound Winged Contraption, 2009. Yes, this one cost a lot, too. The piano concerto is the CD's big hit.
Got a teaching award. A teaching award! Brandeis, spring 2009. I had to sit on the stage at graduation.
Commission furthest outside of my comfort zone. Tony de Mare, Liaisons. A piano reinterpretation of Sondheim's The Ladies Who Lunch.
One hundredth piano étude June, 2010. I declared myself done with writing piano music.
Started this blog July, 2010.
First piano prélude September, 2010.
Third academic leave where I got paid. Paid! 2010-11, and I wrote two and a half hours of music, most of it not sucking very much at all. Just ask me!
Dissertations on my piano études three of them in 2011. The only one about all one hundred was written by I-Chen Yeh.
France Camargo Foundation residency, eighty-six days in the south of France, January to April, 2011. Wrote a second piano concerto for Amy there. Made a lot of very good friends.
Learned French. Actually, that never happened.
Met Stephen Sondheim April 2012, rather briefly at the New York Liaisons premiere. He wrote a lovely thank you note.
Started recording second BMOP CD The day after this blog entry was posted. Guess what? Its' expensive.
Learned how to get over myself August 11, 1988 – present. This one is a work in progress.