Sunday, April 29, 2007

An Open and Shut Letter to Jeremy Denk via My Readers*

*(also submitted to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Discerning Pianist magazine)

Readers, I am very aware that the blogging pianist Jeremy Denk has taken note of Unknown Master Ariodney Hussington whom I interviewed in my previous blog entry. Unfortunately, Mr. Denk does not feel that Miss Hussington's compositions are as lovely and beautiful as she is.

It should be said that Miss Hussington is not a student of mine, as some have assumed. Rather, she is one of those young people who posts her life and work on MySpace and patiently waits for the fame to come to her. That's how I found her, and I am pleased to have done my part, after spending several hours with her in my Composer Isolation Chamber, to stretch her threshold as a lady composer. Whether Mr. Denk approves of her compositions or not is irrelevant. She will continue to make music and post it on MySpace, receiving royalties every time someone (like Mr. Denk) listens to her compositions.

It should also be said that, since I have not listened to Mr. Denk's piano-playing, he may very well be a quack himself! But I suspect that he, having performed the so-called "Fiddle Concerto" by the bloke Marc O'Connor, can relate to Miss Hussington's composition, "Simpleton Pleasures." There is no simpler instrument than the fiddle.

As he criticizes the work of a beautiful and attractive composer like Miss Hussington, Mr. Denk would do best to remain aware that his mind is limited, just as many of his piano performances are limited to only eighty-eight keys.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Unknown Masters - Ariodney Hussington


Readers, this is the first installment of a series entitled Unknown Masters in which I conduct a short interview with some of the most unrecognized composers of our time and provide samples of their compositions via PayPal. The first composer I’d like to feature is Ariodney Hussington, a young lady whose music I first encountered on the world wide web a few months ago. As you’ll read below in our transcribed interview, Miss Hussington is interested in the fusion of classical music with folk music and African-American jazz rhythms. Here are two excerpts of music from her compositions:

Chamber Symphony No. 6 – “Simpleton Pleasures” (
mp3)

Chamber Symphony No. 13 – “Jazz Improvisations” (mp3)

Prof. McJeebie: Miss Hussington, tell us about the musical structures behind your Chamber Symphony No. 6.
Ariodney Hussington: First, I’d like to thank you for having me.
McJeebie: You’re welcome.
[silence]
Hussington: Well, with Simpleton Pleasures I’m successfully combining the vernacular appeal of melodic simplicity and harmonic redundancy with the complicated tonal modulations of twentieth-century music and the rhythmic abstruseness of the French Overture, an often overlooked isorhythmic technique composers use to make rhythms bouncier and more angular than they are to begin with.
McJeebie: These tonal modulations you refer to, they happen every eight bars or so. It’s a remarkable shift in the music, making the simple tune sound very modern and shocking.
Hussington: Exactly! This is to convey the tragic and dirty lives of many simpleton people.
McJeebie: What composers, besides yourself, do you pay homage to in this symphony?
Hussington: The second tonal modulation happens one measure later than the first modulation, creating a kind of phase shift in the style of composer Steve Reich. Also in the second modulation, the bassoons get into that Rite of Spring range which is an homage to Stravinksy. And the fourth and final modulation returns us to the original tonal center, creating a form of A-B-C-A first utilized by the composer Ferde Grofé.
McJeebie: The clarinet trills remind me of Richard Stoltzman.
Hussington: Absolutely.
McJeebie: Let’s move on to Chamber Symphony No. 13. Were you influenced by the African-American rhythms of jazz?
Hussington: Yes, of course, I love African-American jazz, and the compositions of Stan Kenton and Dave Brubeck in particular.
McJeebie: It seems that you’ve introduced an odd instrument into the chamber ensemble – a trapped set of drums. What made you decide to use such a non-classical instrument?
Hussington: Originally, I wanted to use a saxophone, but I thought a drum set would be more authentic to jazz. But, unlike most jazz composers, I don’t allow the players to improvise. I’ve notated all of their parts, which allows me to fine-tune the overall sound I’m looking for. For example, I’ve found that using accent marks on the offbeats really enhances the swing feel and makes for a decidedly un-classical atmosphere. What I’m going for with the drum set – and with the flutter-tongued trumpet as well – is a sound-world in which all listeners can relate to what I have to say.
McJeebie: Why is the piece called Jazz Improvisations if there's no improvisation?
Hussington: There is improvisation, but it happens in the composer's head, and, actually, it already happened. It was in the past. So what you're hearing is a sort-of simultaneous compilation of all kinds of different improvisations that the composer was able to transcribe quickly.
McJeebie: There is also a French Horn part, hardly a common instrument at, say, the Blue Note Café or Spanish Harlem.
Hussington: I included a French horn part, but I’m not using the French Overture technique. As a matter of fact, in concert performances of Jazz Improvisations, the horn player is asked to tap his feet in a shuffle rhythm. When the audience sees the French horn player dancing, they usually get the hint that they’re not listening to classical music.
McJeebie: These two excerpts have fascinated me for minutes on end. Thank you so much for sharing your musical talents with us. I'm sure I speak for myself when I say that my readers and I wish you the best of luck with your compositions.
Hussington: Thank you, Professor. I’ve been a long-time admirer of yours and am honored to be the first composer featured in this series.
McJeebie: Which of my compositions do you find the most interesting?
Hussington: I think my favorite is Etude for Computer No. 17 Version D. There are so many wonderful etudes, though, it’s hard to choose a favorite.
McJeebie: Well then, why don’t you tell me what several of your favorite compositions are?
Hussington: I really like them all.
McJeebie: I understand. Thank you, Miss Hussington.
Hussington: You’re welcome, Professor.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Upstate Genius Grant

Readers, I am pleased to notify you that I have once again been nominated for the Upstate Genius Grant in Music Composition. Once every so often, on a regular basis, a panel of distinguished colleagues meets to select possible recipients of the award from among their distinguished colleagues. Generally, a few months pass before the final winner is selected through a delicate and rigorous process known as intellectually osmosified matriculationism.

I have received this grant many times and look forward to the possibility of receiving it again. Awards like these make it possible for me to continue earning a Professor’s salary while simultaneously taking a sabbatical during which I commission myself to compose a new magnum opus. I may also use the award to travel to impoversished nations such as Africa where modern composers are seen as gods by the locals. I often make a good deal of money selling CDs of my computer compositions to the African people.

I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate the panel on its continuing reliability and pleasantly predictable recommendations.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Catchy Mantras with Belinda Reynolds

Thank you, readers, for your patience during this very difficult hiatus. I am happy to return to the blogosphere with more regular posts now that my legal battle with SoftBunnies&HardNannies VideoProductions has ended.*

Let me begin by saying that I have been thoroughly inspired by the woman-composer Belinda Reynolds, who blogs about music and education over at New Music Box. Reynolds believes that young people will learn to appreciate modern music by having mantras hurled repeatedly at them preceded by the words “Remember, children.”


Examples of some Reynolds mantras are “Remember, children: Dissonance is just consonance taken out of context,” and “Remember, children: If Popular Music is to be noteworthy, it must first be notated.”


These mantras are not only true, they are catchy! Surely children can appreciate the depth of these statements after they are entertained by their catchiness. Best wishes to Miss Reynolds as she continues the kind of music-education work best handled by women composers like herself.

*The court ruled in my favor, concluding that the company used computer-generated noises that sounded a lot like my music as its theme song. As some of you may know, SoftBunnies&HardNannies VideoProductions distributes snuff films, and I do not wish my music to be associated with the objectification of women! As part of the ruling in my favor, I will receive backroyalties from their sales.