Path of Death

We may think there is a sure path. But that would be the path of death.

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Invent Your Own Craft

Craft

There is neither a common craft, nor common narrative. The composer must invent their own craft.

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Time

instagram_composer
A composer should transform time, not mirror it.

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Save Music, Download.

DOWNLOADMUSIC

 

Save music, download.

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The Liberty Bell March

“The Liberty Bell” is an 1893 American military march composed by John Philip Sousa. It is one of Sousa’s most famous marches. I made this digital realization using Finale and Pro Tools from the original manuscript in the Sousa Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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RIP Mr. Schuller

Gunther Schuller, Composer Who Synthesized Classical and Jazz, Dies at 89

Mr. Schuller was the first important musical figure I met. I was a 19-year old composition fellow at Tanglewood and knew very well who he was and what he stood for in contemporary music before I arrived there. My first introduction to Mr. Schuller was through Jerry Coker’s book “Improvising Jazz” with a forward by Gunther Schuller which I bought in 1974. When I first arrived at Tanglewood I feared him but his disarming smile turned fear into great respect.

I attended most of his orchestra rehearsals, with score in hand, throughout that summer—absorbing. He presented a broad spectrum of music that summer, including Amerique by Varese (by the way Mr. Schuller’s interview with Varese is a must read), Hymnen by Stockhausen, Symphony #7 by Sibelius and Don Quixote by Strauss.

I fondly remember nearly each morning on my way down from Saranak to the Hawthorn House observing Mr. Schuller, sometimes with his son George arriving through the Tanglewood gates in a large early ’70s beater-of-a-car. He was usually wearing a loudly patterned shirt, sometimes with stains on it. I would think, approvingly, this is how famous musicians live.

That summer brought the premiere of Mr. Schuller’s Deaï using three orchestras with three conductors in different tempi who were coordinated by a CCTV camera. Afterwards I congratulated Mr. Schuller in the green room and I said, “I really enjoyed your piece.”, to that he enigmatically responded, “I knew you would.”

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Treehouse

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Treehouse Song

The sheet music: Treehouse

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This is a rough demo of my new song Treehouse. (For a higher quality track, go to Soundcloud.com). The lyrics are in an earlier post.

This song is based on a real treehouse that I helped rebuild when I was eleven years old. The treehouse was preexisting and dilapidated, about six feet off the ground in a large oak tree situated on the side of a slow moving creek in northern Illinois. A few other kids, whom I didn’t know, and I worked together to fix it up.

In the song I refer to a few things I came across that same summer including the vestiges of an abandoned share cropper’s camp. The “dark green” painted treehouse refers to one currently on the side of a canal in Center Moriches, Long Island.

The song’s initial inspiration came after reading Charles Louv’s book “The Last Child in the Woods.” The book got me thinking about the differences between my childhood and my daughter’s. My childhood, after nine years old, was akin to Hunkleberry Finn’s but in the borderline boonies outside of Chicago and my daughter’s is in the boonies of New York City but with much less adventure and freedom than I had.

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Agon

Agon
I attended a performance of “Agon” last weekend by the New York City Ballet. It was my first time seeing “Agon” as a ballet and it was a memorable performance. I am a fan of Balanchine’s no scenery and leotards: no where to hide—just music, dance, and performance.

So much has been written and said about Igor Stravinsky’s shift to or towards 12-tone composition, some of which is found in “Agon.” Often Stravinsky’s reverence for Webern is noted and is obvious in the klangfarbenmelodie passages. However, when listening to last week’s performance I could not help hear Varèse. Stravinsky’s use of mixed winds, brass, percussion and Morse code like rhythms all brought to mind Varèse (not the music influenced by Stravinsky) and in particular “Octandre.” In a few days I will construct a few clips to demonstrate what I hear(d).

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Wedding Music

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I’ve attended many weddings and performed at a few as well and I have never heard a wedding use Bedrich Smetana’s “Wedding Dance” from his tone poem The Moldau. It is excellent music for a processional because that’s what it is. It is dignified, uplifting music in two—perfect for walking. It can also be easily arranged for piano, string quartet, woodwind quintet, or organ.

Listen to the original for orchestra:

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Lyrics to my Song “Treehouse”

Treehouse
Treehouse

Finding the right tree—
  not too young,
  not so old.
Finding one truly healthy—
  solid base,
  flexing limbs.
Finding the best type of tree—
  perhaps oak,
  beech, maple, ash.
Finding a fresh site to
Now and again escape to
Like in those fantasy books I’d read.

We have dreams of building a place,
In the crown of a broad hearty tree.
High above the digital race,
Peaceful and level our treehouse will be.

Building a stable platform—
  used two-by-fours,
  gathered nails.
Building up four solid walls,
  of weathered wood,
  painted dark green.
Building it with nothing new—
  found doors round an
  ol’ worker’s camp.
Building it sturdily to
Now and again escape to
Like in those fantasy books I’d read.

We have dreams of building a place,
In the crown of a broad hearty tree.
High above the digital race,
Peaceful and level our treehouse will be.

Hanging in our green treehouse—
  ground below,
  what a view.
Hanging round Mother Nature—
  passing deer,
  chirping birds.
Hanging out with my best friends—
  under moonlight,
  until day breaks in.
Hanging beyond time to
Now and again escape to
Like in those fantasy books I’d read.

We have dreams of building a place,
In the crown of a broad hearty tree.
High above the digital race,
Peaceful and level our treehouse will be.
Peaceful and level our treehouse will be.
Peaceful and level our treehouse will be.

Copyright @ 2015 by Mark Gustavson

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