Day: January 30, 2017

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Jonathan Harvey

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Jonathan Harvey

May 3, 1939 – Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom
December 4, 2012 – Lewes, United Kingdom

“Jonathan Harvey was born to Noel and Gerald Harvey on 3 May 1939 in Sutton Coldfield. Gerald, his father, was a keen amateur musician and composer which gave both Jonathan and his brother Brian a taste for music from an early age. At the young age of six he already knew that he wanted to be a composer.

Jonathan was a chorister at St. Michaels Tenbury and from there went to Repton School where he continued his musical education. At Repton he won a scholarship to St. Johns Cambridge to study music, and then subsequently moved to Glasgow with his wife Rosaleen to complete his PHD, where they lived in a caravan through the winter of 1963. Following the advice of Benjamin Britten he was tutored by Erwin Stein and then Hans Keller.

Their daughter Anna was born in 1964 and Jonathan took up the post of lecturer at Southampton University. In 1969, two years after the birth of his son, Dominic, he won a Harkness fellowship to study at Princeton University where he composed his first electronic piece “Timepieces”, subsequently travelling around twenty four states in one year with his young family.

They spent more time abroad in 1972 when Jonathan took a sabbatical in Menorca, staying in a beautiful whitewashed farmhouse belonging to some friends, and it was here that Jonathan wrote “Inner Light”.

In 1975 his son Dominic became a chorister at Winchester Cathedral, and Jonathan composed several choral works encouraged by his friends Martin Neary the Cathedral Organist and the Reverend John Taylor the Bishop. One of these pieces was “I Love The Lord” which was written in memory of his mother, as it was a psalm that she often asked Jonathan to read to her towards the end of her life. Jonathan’s choir music is very much rooted in the Church of England tradition, which is in sharp contrast to most of his instrumental works which have mainly been played in Europe.

In the early eighties Jonathan started working at Ircam in Paris where he could fully explore his passion for electronic music. This fruitful relationship lasted for many years and resulted in some of his best works. By this time he had moved to Lewes in East Sussex, and held the post of Professor of Music at Sussex University. He took up Transcendental Meditation and became more and more interested in Buddhism and eastern religion.

Ten years later he accepted the post of Professor of Music at Stanford University and it was here that he first imagined a composition using the bird song that he heard in the Californian hills which would later become his Bird Concerto.

After Stanford, Jonathan travelled more and more promoting his music and explaining the complex philosophies behind it, which helped to achieve the success that he enjoyed in the latter part of his life.

Jonathan was a member of Academia Europaea and held Honorary Doctorates at Southampton, Sussex, Bristol, Birmingham and Huddersfield Universities, as well as being an Honorary Fellow of St. John’s College Cambridge. He was also a keen sportsman enjoying tennis, skiing and snorkelling until late in life.

Jonathan wrote three books, the first one being “The Music of Stockhausen” published in 1975, and then two more in 1999 which are entitled “Music and Inspiration” and “In Quest of Spirit”” –


Meet 2017 Toy Piano Festival Participant – Jeff Crompton

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Jeff Crompton is an Atlanta native who began playing the saxophone at age 12. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Georgia in 1980 and a Master of Music from Georgia State University in 1992. From 1982 to 2010 he taught band in the Fulton County (Georgia) school system. Since 1980 Jeff has performed as a free-lance musician in the Atlanta area, specializing in avant-garde jazz. Notable past musical associations include a stint with pianist/composer Michael J. Smith and eight years with the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra, for which he wrote much of the repertoire. He currently leads the Edgewood Saxophone Trio and Three Way Mirror, an unusual saxophone/tuba/congas trio. As a performer, he has appeared throughout the Southeast, in venues as varied as the Palm Court Café in New Orleans, the Atlanta and Pensacola Jazz Festivals, and the Word of South Festival in Tallahassee. Jeff has written music for over 30 years, at first mostly in the form of jazz “heads” designed to facilitate improvisation. Over the past ten years, he has become interested in composing more formal and complex pieces. He has written dozens of pieces for the 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra and the Edgewood Saxophone Trio. His Toccata for Brass Quintet was premiered by the Midtown Brass Quintet at the 2014 International Tuba/Euphonium Conference, and was featured in their concerts that season. He composed the music for Billie Holiday on the Radio, a unique show which combines music and the poetry of Laurie Perry Vaughen. Billie Holiday on the radio has been performed several times in Atlanta and at the Word of South Festival in Tallahassee. Jeff also produces a concert series of out-of-the-mainstream music, Creative Music in Hapeville, in a suburb of Atlanta.

What sparked your interest in toy piano?
I had been intrigued with the possibilities of the toy piano as a “serious” instrument for years. Recordings of Cage’s Suite for Toy piano and of Margaret Leng Tan playing both “serious” and lighter music were enlightening to me. But earlier this year I produced a concert in which composer/percussionist Olivia Kieffer presented many of her toy piano compositions. Not only did I enjoy the compositions, but I was struck by the accomplished and sensitive playing of Amy O’Dell, and decided that night to write a piece for the instrument.

What do you hope to achieve artistically or educationally from your participation in the festival?
In a sense, I have already achieved what I set out to do – to write a multi-movement work for the toy piano which is different in character from most of the toy piano music I have previously heard. I wanted to write a more complex, challenging (technically and musically), even perhaps more austere piece than is common for the instrument. I hope that it will be accepted for the festival, and accepted into the repertoires of many toy piano artists. In addition, I have no doubt that hearing a wide range of toy piano performers and compositions will further inspire me as a composer to write for the instrument.

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Discover This! 5 Albums by Moondog

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Louis Thomas Hardin

May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999

“I am an observer of life, a non-participant who takes no sides. I am in the regimented society, but not of it.” – Moondog, 1964

Moondog earned the title as the Viking of 6th Avenue, due the fact that he spent most of his time in New York City from the 1940s through 1972 on 6th Avenue between 52nd and 55th Streets dressed in a cloak and Viking helmet, he had a long whispy beard, steel pointed spear. Blind from age 16, Moondog spend his time on the New York City streets in his iconic dress busking, selling music, but primarily standing still. Though he was seen as just a dirty crazy vagrant to those who passed him on the street, he had an astonishing musical career that not only created a body of musical works, but also the invention of instruments and writing of poems. Moondog is a harrowing example in a modern society obsessed with looks and airs that genius can come from those you least expect. For young composers, Moondog’s lesson is one of humility and not letting success turn one into an egotistical monster… there is an inherent peace and philosophical presence in Moondog’s works and views on life.

Because all of Moondog’s music is so wonderful, we couldn’t settle on just five pieces by him, as such, this week’s playlist features five whole albums by Moondog.

An excerpt from an official biography of Moondog is located below:

Once in a blue Moon(dog) …


September 8th last year saw the passing of one of the 20th C´s most respected musical icons. Louis T. Hardin better known as Moondog was a revered pioneer on the Avant-Garde/Minimalist scene, his revolutionary attitude towards composition and melody was lauded by such eminent notables as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, while his style and attitude drew comparisons to Harry Partch. His influence can be seen in the music of Stereolab and Moonshake among others.

Born 26th May 1916 in Maryville, Kansas, Moondog wrote all his music in braille having lost his sight in an accident involving a dynamite cap at the age of 17. He studied music at the Iowa School for the Blind and later at Memphis. He was mostly self-taught determining chord structures by ear and developing his skills and theory from books. Initially he was drawn to the percussion element of music citing that his first drum kit at the age of five was nothing more than a cardboard box. His father, a minister had once taken the young Louis to the Arapaho Sun Dance whereupon he met Chief Yellow Calf and played the buffalo skin tom-tom, and rhythmical device that would reappear in his later work.

Perhaps to some degree the legend of Moondog supersedes his music, if that is at all possible, for in 1943 he came to New York in order to be closer to the 20thC classical scene. The name Moondog didn´t occur until 1947, reflecting on how he came by the title he remembered fondly a dog he owned way back in Missouri:

“We used to howl at the moon.”

Arriving with no contacts and only one month´s rent, for the next 30 years he became something of a cultural enigma. It was during this period of flirtation with the Big Apple that the Moondog legend began. Positioning himself on 54th Street and Avenue, later to be known as Moondog corner, he would entertain crowds playing his compositions on home made drums and some portable keyboards and reciting his own poetry. His eccentricity was furthered by the fact that sporting a long beard and a spear, he wore home made clothes consisting of a robe, a Vikings helmet and leather patchwork trousers again the influence of the Indians having effect. However this unusual form of dress was to lose him prestigious contracts in die future.

As the legend would have it, musicians from the Carnegie Hall spotted Moondog just across the way from where he entertained. Impressed by what they saw they persuaded the conductor Arthur Rodzinski to let him sit in on rehearsals. It was here that Hardin was to learn about orchestration and also to witness the debut performance as a conductor of Leonard Bernstein. Moondog´s debt to Rodzinski was reciprocated by his dedication of Symphony No 50.

He became something of a celebrity when columnist Walter Winchell wrote about him in the Times. Folkways musicologist Tony Schwartz would often make field recordings of street players, such involvement with Moondog led on to several offers being made the most notable being to do a recording of children´s songs with Julie Andrews.

By all accounts he was a genial man and noted for his humour, when asked by passers by as to where he come from he would reply:

“I would tell people I was born in Sasnak …. and when they would ask where it was, I would reply that it was a mysterious place. I left it for them to work out it was Kansas in reverse.”

Legendary disc jockey Alan Freed was one of the first to pick up on the Moondog sound and found himself losing a lawsuit when he named his spot the Moondog show after the Moondog Symphony. However Freed was later to become the self styled originator of the term Rock´n´Roll.

His jazz influences were cultivated while on the streets, it was there that he met Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker, the latter remarking:

“You and I should make a record.”

Sadly though this never happened for shortly afterwards Parker died unexpectedly. Moondog paid tribute to Parker later on with “Bird´s Lament”.

By the early seventies still on the streets, it would be hard for most to imagine that this imposing street player had released albums on labels such as Mars, CBS and Prestige. The beat generation in the 60´s had welcomed Moondog with open arms seeing him as something of a rebellious icon. By this period he had performed a poetry reading with Allen Ginsberg, appeared on stage with Lenny Bruce, Tiny Tim and in films with William S. Boroughs. He was adept at making music for films and TV commercials, one of his pieces was used for the soundtrack for “Drive. She said” starring Jack Nicholson.

As for his views about music, be would only listen to his own stating that the work of others was full of “unspecified mistakes”. He considered himseIf a classicist stating his aim was to create:

“The art of concealing art, maximum effect but with minimum means”.

It is from this approach to his style of work that Philip Glass and Steve Reich hailed him as the originator of the concept of minimalism. However Moondog had his own opinion on the matter:

“Bach was doing minimal in his fugues. So what´s new?”

In 1974 be was offered a chance to play in Europe for a few months which as it turned out led him to relocating to Recklinghausen to live until his death. The suddenness of his departure led many to believe that be had died, at one even Paul Simon mourned his passing on his tv-show.

Of course Moondog hadn´t died in fact his so-called exile in Germany would lead to his most prolific period of his career. He met Ilona Goebel a music translator who gave up her job to work full time with Hardin putting onto paper what rnusic that was in his head, she eventually became his manager.

Moondog did however return to America in 1989. At the invitation of the New Music American Festival in Brooklyn, he shared the stage with Glass and Reich asked to conduct as part of the celebration of legends from the 40´s and 50´s. His conducting manner was unorthodox to say the least, taking his place at the side to play percussion. He later commented that:

“I see my relationship with them [orchestra] as being first among equals, so that there are forty conductors, each in charge of his own part.”

This return to the Big Apple marked a newly rediscovered interest in his work seeing it performed all over the world in some of the greatest settings, some of his work was even choreographed.

5 Questions for Composer Maria Kallionpää

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Dr. Maria Kallionpää is an internationally active composer, pianist, and toy piano performer. She was a holder of the AHRC and Scatcherd European Scholarships in 2010-2013 at the Oxford University and won the first prize of the OUPHIL composition competition in 2013. Moreover, she has graduated from the Royal Academy of Music and Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien. Her works have been presented, for example, at Musikverein Wien, Philharmonie Luxembourg, and Sibiu Philharmonia. In 2011 Kallionpää was a composer in residence of the Turku European Culture Capital and a finalist of the Tenso European Chamber Choir Composition Competition. Kallionpaa has participated to various mixed-art projects incorporating film, video art, and theatre.

Maria Kallionpää will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
I studied electroacoustic composition in Vienna.  My professor Karlheinz Essl introduced me to toy piano music: he has written many works for it and asked if I wanted to perform his composition “Sequitur V” (for toy piano and electronics). I have since then performed the piece several times in different occasions and also discussed it in my Phd thesis. I started to compose my own toy piano works in Vienna, too.

2) What influenced you to come to the festival?
A few years ago I visited as a composer another toy piano festival at Philharmonie Luxembourg. It was a very positive and inspiring experience. Once I saw the call for scores of this festival I immediately knew that I wanted to participate.   

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
I like John Cage a lot because he was one of the first  composers who discovered the unique sonic possibilities of this very special instrument. Also Karlheinz Essl´s innovative use of toy piano in conjunction with electronics has significantly contributed to the development of toy piano repertoire.  

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
I see more and more pianists and composers getting interested in it. Because a great deal of toy piano compositions are rather new, a certain burden of lengthy performance tradition is missing. The performers can create their very own interpretations, which often cannot be taken for granted.

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival?
I would like to get to know with the local music culture and of course other toy pianists and composers. It´s going to be exciting!


5 Reasons You Should Introduce Your Student To New Music

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At least twice a month, I give my students “listening assignments,” where they are asked to consider a new piece of music. For older students they are asked to write a narrative about what the music represents for them, while younger students are instructed to draw a picture of what they see and feel as they listen. All students are asked to verbalize their thoughts on the work; we discuss the instrumental and textural content of the work. For more advanced students we delve into the land of form and analysis. This is some of the most important work a teacher can do in modern day music lessons and here are some important reasons to consider for both instructors as well as parents:


1) Most parents are not exposing their children to challenging music.
The first reason is of course the most obvious; parents are not exposing their children to challenging music. Parents are busy and don’t have the time to explore the world of new music with the navigation objective of building a playlist of child-appropriate works.



2) The earlier you start a child on new music; the deeper they listen as they grow.
New music requires a strong memory. The ability to hold on to sometimes very abstract musical content for a while with the understanding that often times what develops in subsequent time has a relationship with everything one hears prior. Being able to hone this skill on challenging new music, prepares students to listen to long standard repertoire works because the demand on the ear is not as much as that of a shorter pantonal work.


3) It opens their ears to a richer sonic palette.
Imagine if you lived in a world of only primary color, where while colors were saturated at various levels, secondary colors did not exist. This is the world of music if all you know is the standard repertoire works for orchestra and the commercialized pop music created only to turn a quick buck (and your children probably shouldn’t be listening to music that promotes the over-sexualization and exploitation of women for money, but that is another post for another time). There is quality pop music out there that pushes the boundaries of musical language, but the statistics of it being on the Top-40 chart that is propagated by terrestrial radio stations is extremely low. Introducing children/students to new music, particularly avant-garde works, is mind-blowing. When a piano student discovers the colors of a prepared-piano it can be life-changing.


4) It demonstrates out of the box thinking and promotes critical thinking.
New music sets it’s own rules, but it also breaks it’s own rules. By asking students to consider the music beyond just surface listening, it gets them to think critically. I’m always amazed to see how even young students take time to listen to a majority of the composition before they ever put pen/marker/crayon/pencil to paper to draw/write their interpretation of the work. When I ask them to explain the work in their own words, the imagery and analysis is often much deeper than one would expect a child to intuit. The wonderful part of encouraging this critical thinking is that once this skill is unlocked students start to apply it to other areas of life and education.


5) It promotes future economic support for new music and experimental programming.
Children who grow up with an appreciation for the avante-garde and contemporary concert music are more likely to support it financially as adults. Students often encourage their parents to attend concerts of new music, which introduces the parents to new music making them more likely to donate and pay for tickets to concerts.


There are many places on the Internet to get inspiration or find playlists of new music. New Music Box has their Counterstream radio station, I Care If You Listen has an annual mixtape, and we at The New Music Conflagration, Inc. feature a weekly playlist feature called Discover This: which showcases the music of a different composer complete with a little introduction to the artist.

It’s Okay

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From the prospective of a young composer…

Elizabeth A. Baker

It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything to my website. I have to admit I’ve penned a few drafts in the last few months but nothing seemed right or really profound enough in my humble opinion to share with the world. This summer and start of the fall has been life-changing in many ways. I turned 25, embraced an overhaul on my technique and repertoire as a pianist, and accepted my compositional voice as a valid.

Allow me to start at the end and work backwards…

I accepted my compositional voice as valid.

Coming through music school (though I was never a formal composition major) there was a certain aura about what “good music” was supposed to be and a clear delineation between “music for the people” and  “music for the academics.” When I made the decision this spring to decline my acceptance to CalArts it was a…

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