Saturday, October 31, 2015

Video of the Week: Sonata #1 (Part 2)

Last week I presented Part 1 of my Sonata #1, and now here is the second part, movements 3 and 4. The 4th movement in particular was probably one of difficult things I wrote for the piano up to that point.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Video of the Week: Sonata #1 (Part 1)

This week, and the next, I'll showcase my first piano sonata, which I started around 1987. I told my mother that I was going to write a sonata, and I asked her in which key I should compose, and she answered "g minor." Within a week I had the first part of the first movement complete.

The rest came later, finishing in 1992.

Here are the first two movements. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Video of the Week: How to Play Bolero

This week, I'll present this video I saw on my Facebook page. How do you make one instrument sound like an orchestra? These guys have found one way to do it ... or at least get close to doing it.

Put your Spanish on and enjoy this rendition of Ravel's Bolero as performed by the Wiener Cello Ensemble 5+1. Enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Video of the Week: Prokofiev's Toccata

This week, I'll present a crazy piano piece by Prokofiev.  This is his Toccata, op. 11.

I chose this young female player just to show how this isn't a hard piece just for men.  This girl also appears to be very young.

I had this piece memorized once, but didn't get it up to speed (during a time I was using incorrect practice techniques).  Once I smooth out some techniques, I'll get back to it.

In the meantime, check out this performer who not only figured it out, but also puts on good show.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Getting Published Soon

All this time that I've been doing music, I haven't thought much about actually selling it.  That is, until now.  It just hit me ... what have I been waiting for?  I mean, I've had people ask me where they can buy my music.  Wouldn't it be nice to give an answer other than, "Oh, I don't know ... It's not available yet"?

Now I'm looking at different options.  For the first time ever, I've presented some of my music to publishers, and I'm also looking into the possibilities of printing and selling music, myself.  So, one way or another, I'm going to get my music out there.

Stay tuned for more details ...

Friday, September 25, 2015

Video of the Week: Pieces of Time

Just now released -- my recording of opus 13, Five Pieces of Time.  I composed this back in high school, attempting to capture the passage of time.

#1) Year (which I dedicated to my late trumpet player friend, Brian)
#2) Hour
#3) Millenium
#4) Second
#5) Eternity


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Video of the Week: Believe It or Not

This week, I'd like to go back in time to revisit yet another old (yet cool) TV show opening.

In The Greatest American Hero, which debuted in 1981, Ralph Hinkley receives a super suit from aliens, but they forget to give him the instruction booklet.  He must discovers its powers on his own.  The result is a pretty funny and human TV show that I loved growing up.

The song itself, Believe It or Not, easily gets stuck in your head.  It hit #2 on the charts in August 1981.  The result is a song known by many today, not knowing it came from a quirky and funny sci-fi 80's show.

And as a bonus, here is George Costanza using the song on his answering machine ...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Video of the Week: Storm Etude

Okay ... I'm on my way back.  Let's see if I can get this composing machine going again.  As part of this, I'm bringing back the videos of the week.

This week, I present my first attempt at orchestration (back in the 1990's).  My teacher hated it, but I don't think it's that bad.  He just hated programmatic music.

Anyway, I'll let you decide.  In this piece, you'll get to hear the storm approach from the distance.  The rain comes.  A storm breaks out, and then it goes away.

One day I'll find a real orchestra to play this for me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

List of Music is Complete

I've finally finished it!  After going through all my music and researching dates and finding pieces I had forgotten I had written, I've compiled a complete list of everything I've written.

Next up: I really need to add more music to the list (that is, compose some new pieces).

Take a look and check out my new list.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Video of the Week: Four Seasons by Mel

Move over Vivaldi.  Here comes my own "Four Seasons" ... all for piano.

This all started back in 1986 when it was cold, so I decided to write a piece called "Winter."  I entered it into some statewide competition and got second or third place (can't remember which).  I got beat by some kid composing some kind of chicken scratch (which I would compose myself when I got to college).

The judges critiqued my piece with me in some room.  I remember them asking me why I changed key signatures in the middle of the piece.  My answer: "Beethoven did it."  How else was I supposed to answer?  Heck ... Chopin uses the wrong key signature in one of his etudes.  So, there!

I just wanted to write a "cold" piece.

Anyway, the other three seasons materialized over the next four years.  I put them together in my own "Four Seasons."  Enjoy!

1. Winter
2. Spring
3. Summer
4. Autumn

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Video of the Week: Introduction to Ligeti

This week I'll go with a more modern composer, Gyorgy Ligeti.  His music appears in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Specifically the parts with the apes and the travel scene at the end.

Now, you can hear his "Nonsense Madrigals," an amazing set of short a cappella choral pieces.

My first exposure to this was a live performance of the King Singers at BYU back in 1993.  They performed "The Alphabet" (which starts at 3:46).  That performance blew me away and stuck with me all these years.  I hope you enjoy this recording ...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Video of the Week: Chopin's Revolutionary Jazz

This week, I'll go with something light.  I'm sure you've heard a dozen performances of Chopin's Revolutionary Etude (op. 10 no. 12), but perhaps you haven't heard it like this.  Throw in a little jazz and ...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Video of the Week: Bioshock -- Cohen

This week I'll tell a funny story.  It all starts when my son plopped some sheet music in front of me and said, "Play this."  It was three pages of small print--something from the video game "Bioshock."  Thinking it was just another piano reduction of video game music, I started playing.

At first I thought it was a pretty good reduction of whatever, and then halfway through I told my son, "This isn't a reduction.  This is a real piano piece."  It was full of all these pianistic motifs, and it was actually playable, unlike most video game reductions.

Then my son says, "Yeah.  In the video game, the composer tortures this guy by making him play the piece over and over until he stops making mistakes."

Here's the music ... you can listen for yourself before continuing the story.  The composer is Garry Schyman.

When I finally finished reading through the piece, I said to my son, "It sounds like Scriabin."  In particular, the chord at 0:21 reminded me of Scriabin's Poem op. 31, no. 2.  So, I found a recording of that on YouTube and played it.  My son said, "It does sound like him!"

Then I did a Google search to see if anyone else made the connection.  Someone did better than me.  Someone named nanabush found an actual Scriabin Etude that is basically lifted into the Schyman piece.  Click here to see his comments.

And if you've already listened to the music above, you can hear the Scriabin etude for yourself and judge.

I've examined the chords in question, and they are identical, except Schyman skips one chord.  It is without doubt the inspiration of Schyman's work.  Note, I say "inspiration" rather than "plagiarism."  As Schyman didn't so much lift Scriabin's music as he did to borrow the chords and feel, and provide his own variation of the work.  Modern day composers do this all the time, and it's always fun to catch it when it happens.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Video of the Week: Clair de Lune

This week, I present a video that you can play while pondering the mysteries of Pi (in celebration of the most awesome Pi-Day of the century) or while pondering whether Julius Caesar really had to die.

Yes, Debussy's "Claire de Lune" fits almost any situation.  If it's good enough for Ocean's 11, it's good enough for anything.

If I look young and the quality looks bad, that's because ... yeah ... I recorded this 7 years ago.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Video of the Week: Original Battlestar Galactica Opening

Next in my series of cool TV Show openings, "Battlestar Galactica" from 1978 takes the prize for the most epic orchestral opening.  Enjoy ...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Video of the Week: Families Can Be Together Forever

This week, I'll celebrate Valentine's Day with my rendition of the hymn "Families Can Be Together Forever."  This piano arrangement was a finalist in the annual Church Music contest.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Video of the Week: Serenade

Since it's my wife's birthday this week, I'll present the first piece I ever wrote for her.  This is "Serenade for Kim."  I believe I wrote this over Christmas Break one year shortly before proposing to her.

Heh heh heh!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Video of the Week: Star Blazers

This week, I'll go on the light side.  There are several shows that I watched as a child that had awesome them songs.  Sometimes I wondered if I watched just to listen to the music.

And one of the coolest ones I remember was the theme for Star Blazers, a watershed work of anime from the 1970s.

This is the American version I grew up with.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Video of the Week: Chance's A-ri-rang

This week, I remember back to when I played trumpet in the high school band.  My fondest memory is "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" by John Barnes Chance.  Perhaps this memory is reinforced by my living in Korea for two years, or maybe because it's just cool music.

The tune is very easy to pick out.  The piece starts out simply, and then in the first variation, the tune becomes both accompaniment (played faster and repeated) and melody (played slower).  After exploring different variations, slow and fast, the composer ends with a finale that may well be some of the best band music ever written.  Starting at time 5:53, the drums begin one layer of the melody, and then one by one more layers are added until it builds a wall of awesome sound.


Note: while searching for a good recording of this piece, I came across several other candidates.  The one I chose is boring visually, but the recording is the most professional I could find, and sounds the closest to what I remember in high school (if only I had that recording).

There are a couple of good recordings played by an orchestra instead of band, but Chance had originally written it for band, and that finale I talked about earlier doesn't work so well with string instruments.  It just doesn't sound Korean enough.  So, I didn't choose any of those recordings.

However, I'll include this bonus video, a marching band version with added drums and an impressive color guard.  I would have used it for my main pick, but it cuts out a couple of parts, and it's not the version I played in high school.  Still very impressive.  The extra drums give it a different kind of energy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Video of the Week: Richter's Vivaldi

Last Wednesday, I turned on my SiriusXM radio to the classical station, and heard strains from the opening of "Summer" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons."  I said to my kids, "Are they really playing this again?"  I turned the radio down and we went on talking about whatever.

I mostly ignored the background music until something strange happened.  The music went to a different chord.  What?  I turned the music back up.  This wasn't Vivaldi.  Rather, it was one of those creations of a living composer, Max Richter.  He had taken the "Four Seasons" and added his own touches, with interesting results.  Sometimes, it's as simple as using different chords under the same melody.  Or sometimes changing the rhythms.  And often it was getting stuck in a Hans Zimmer-like movie music loop.  (Sometimes you can hear hints of "Interstellar.")

What you are about to hear isn't really anything new compositionally, but it's a distinct sound that's worth hearing.  This reimagining is very effective in parts, and once you start listening, you may find it very difficult to stop.  It's worth making it all the way to the eeriest and coldest version of "Winter" I've ever heard.

The video is one and half hours long, but the Vivaldi piece (named "Vivaldi Recomposed") is only the first half.  After 45 minutes, you can enjoy more of Richter's music.  This is also a very exciting and well-done video.  Though the description does a terrible job of identifying the musicians.

The composer, Max Richter, is the man sitting at the electric keyboard -- the one who smiles the whole time.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Video of the Week: Short Ride in a Fast Machine

This week, I'll feature another minimalism piece: "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" by the living composer John Adams.

As always, Adams injects intense energy into his music, providing a unique sound that is both minimalistic and very accessible to the popular audience.


As a bonus, after you've watched the above video, you may recognize Adams' influence in Don Davis' scoring of the movie The Matrix.  Listen for the similarities ...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Video of the Week: Ring Out Happy Bells

This week, I present a fun video to get the New Year started.  We Mormons have a New Years related hymn: 215, Ring Out Wild Bells.  It's about ringing out the old and bringing in the new.  The words are from the poem by the same name by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

This hymn is one of 3 or 4 hymns in the current Mormon hymnal that are minor.  But I thought I'd do some differently.  I change this to a major key to turn it into Happy Bells.  It turns out to be annoyingly happy.

So, there you have it.  Happy New Year!