Musical Compositions

The Spanish Tragedy

I think this is my best piece. Written, in around 1980, for two sopranos, it was inspired by hearing Luciano Berio’s el mar, la mar, also for two sopranos. The piece sets a line from Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy: “for with a cord Horatio was slain” (the line is punning on the word “cord,” previously used in its musical sense but reminiscent of the method of killing of the speaker’s son). One soprano sings only vowels and the other only consonants (both engage in wordless humming). The letters of the line are associated with the pitches at which they are sung at the end of the piece, when the line is heard in its entirety. Previous to that, single letters are sung (at their determined pitches), and gradually words are put together. I grouped the consonants into those I considered hard and those I considered soft. In the first section of the piece, hard consonants are sung with vowels and various words are built up. In the second section, the same thing is done with the soft consonants and vowels. The third section brings them all together and works up the final, complete rendition of the line. (The sections follow without a break.) One of the singers, the one doing the consonants, I think, is Jane Ginsborg. The other is Sarah Dawson.

A Fish Dinner in Memison

A piece, in five short movements, for clarinet, viola and cello, composed and performed around 1980. Certain structures, such as instruments, range and length, were decided in advance. Pitches for the notes were determined randomly (but subject to change at my whim). I can’t remember now how the number of notes per bar was determined. This is one of my pieces I am most pleased with. At the end of the final movement, the tape recorder was running out of tape, which creates a wobble and also cuts off the very last note too short. But it’s a fine performance. I think the clarinet is played by Roger Heaton. I don’t remember who played the strings.

Le Tombeau de Verlaine 

Originally written for recorder and piano in about 1976, it is performed here in about 1980 on a flute.

Fantasie Brasilliene 

A short piece, for violin and guitar, in the spirit of Villa-Lobos. Written about 1979.

il miglior fabbro

A piece for piano, written in 1978 or 1979, and played here by Esther Cavett in about 1980.

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