New recording of Drop by Drop

Wow the First Readings Project experience was fantastic! Founder and conductor J. David Moore was right when he said it’s like having the keys to a Porshe for 40 minutes.


The 16 singers were pros from VocalEssence, The Singers, Cantus, and Rose Ensemble. They were experts in their craft and it showed by their intonation, color, phrasing, diction, and precision.

Such a treat and I thank them many times over! Here’s the recording:

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Drop by Drop performance Jan 17, 2013

First Readings Project, directed by J. David Moore

My piece “Drop by Drop” for SATB choir + marimba will be performed next week by the First Readings Project. My piece is last on the program so be there by 8:30 to catch it!

First Readings Project
Thursday, January 17, 2013
6:30-9:30 p.m.

Studio Z
275 East Fourth St. Suite 200
St Paul, MN 55101

More info at

With any luck, I’ll complete repairs to my hand made glass marimba and it will make a triumphant come back!

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Listening: Cecile Chaminade

Photo of Cecile Chaminade
This morning MPR introduced me to the work of a composer I had never heard of – Cecile Chaminade. She was a French pianist and wrote most of her work in the late 1800s.

I downloaded an album of her piano works this morning and found them absolutely delightful! Highly recommended if you like solo piano music.

I hear romanticism, lyricism, a certain French color, and yet a rhythmic and structural component that is unique – a flowing and free aesthetic.

What do you hear?

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Libby Larsen: “Your ideal piece”

I can’t say how much I enjoyed deep composer-ly discussion with other five other composers and Libby Larsen over dinner last night.

Libby posed perhaps the most provocative (in a good way) question I had heard in a long time:
“What is your ideal piece?”

Meaning what piece is there, latent in your brain, unexpressed and symbolizing the epitome of your artistic achievement?

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At Chorus America / ChoralConnections 2012

Choral Connections logo
I enjoyed attending the Chorus America conference and ACF adjunct conference called ChoralConnections.

Particular highlights:

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Listening: Beethoven piano sonatas

Lately I’ve been listening to the Beethoven piano sonatas. While many of them (the early ones especially) are perfectly pleasant, there are several that are truly transcendent and are powerful these many generations later.

Why is that?  Why do some pieces resonate over time while others are merely nice to listen to? Perhaps these transcendent pieces need to evoke one of:

  • Drama
  • Beauty
  • Fun

Beethoven’s pieces nearly always work between beauty and drama, with an extra side of drama.

Here is Pollini playing the finale of the Appasionata (#23 in F minor).

What do you think? What makes transcendent music?

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Composition advice from Prince

Here’s a nifty nugget from an unexpected place.  From Elle Magazine’s cover story comes a quote by Gwen Stefani recalling some advice that Prince gave her:

Prince, who is one of my idols, gave me some advice when I worked with him: “Have you ever just tried writing a hit? Like, don’t just try writing a song, try and write a hit song.”

A worthy goal for any composition endeavor.

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Love this cover of Sittin on the Dock of the Bay

This is a fantastic cover by Sara Bareilles. The sparse arrangement at the piano is great, but what really makes this cover is her time. Strong R&B pulse and well placed at the back of the beat.

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Covers – I love em!

I’m a sucker for a great cover. I go in search of them. I always learn something about arrangements when someone does a great cover and gives a song a twist.

This one is genius. I love how the 5/4 meter and wonky chords completely reinvent a familiar song.

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Joined ASCAP

I’ve always thought these performance rights organizations were one step removed from the mob.  Tons o’ money sloshing around, some incredibly powerful legislation and court cases at their back, a near monopoly on the services they provide.

But they also provide great resources and the main way for composers to earn income for performances of their works.

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