Description of pieces on CD Expressions

Welcome. This album contains some favorite music I have composed. Many pieces are solo piano performances recorded live during a concert January 6, 1996 at the 1st Congregational Church of Berkeley, on a Hamburg C Steinway. This was a wonderfully exciting evening which I shall forever remember. An additional piano performance describing the great Sequoia tree was recorded earlier. Accompanying this piece is a poem and drawing. Lastly is Grand Canyon, a piano-orchestral work which represents an artistic direction I would like to further pursue. The music was recorded by Scott Levitin.


1. Fantasy
This moody piece is characterized by pervasive right hand octave tremolos. This piece began as the 2nd portion of a longer piece of the same name. But I separated the two because the total length was unwieldy and it didn't fit well together-- the mood of the 2nd portion being very different than the first. Composed October 19 89.

2. White Stallion
The name comes from the mental image I held while composing the piece- a vast western range dotted with horses, under a brooding November sky. A characteristic of the piece is the dialog between the noodling ornaments in the left and right hands, with the right hand representing the stallion. Composition began in 1989 and ended in 1993.

3. A Field of Flowers
In this dream-like piece I use arpeggiation notes pointillistically to create a wash of tone, like the dots of color in an impressionistic painting. Each of three movements begins and ends in quiet places, but journeys elsewhere in between. The piece was originally intended as a 30-second ditty for my answering machine, but it sprouted arms and legs and grew.

The beginning of the second movement was inspired by Sue Houfek's account of how conductor Zubin Mehta at an evening outdoor concert in Rome, just before beginning "E lucevan le stelle", glanced up at the glittering night sky. I love the thought of that moment. The second movement begins delicately in the high register in reverence to the stars, but soon descends to warmer tones and evolves into what feels like a journey down a river. The third movement has the feeling of resurrection and resolution.

Composition began May 9, 1991, with a provisional title "Starry Night". By June, Amy Dunn said she saw a field of flowers, and water. The new title "A Field of Flowers" fits both the pointillistic and peaceful portions of the music. My roommate Jeff encouraged me, saying it was his favorite. By Halloween of 1991 it was finished. First public performance was at Barbara Umlauf's brunch December 15, 1991 (see photos).

4. Under Quiet Trees We Join Hands
This is a perky wedding serenade for Carol Ormond and Gene Noland. There are spots where I picture Carol and Gene in the roles of right and left hands. Composed during the summer 1990.

5. Valentine
This is a cheerful valentine I wrote for someone who caught my eye soon after I moved to California, fall of 1984. She loved the gift . . . but only the gift.

6. A Time Apart (Raindrop movement)
This movement is the second half of a piece I wrote in reaction to the breakup of a relationship. It depicts the evolution and transformation of my feelings. The first movement, which we don't hear, is initially contemplative and dazed, with some anger and agitation. This movement then descends toward a sad point, which is where we enter. In the raindrops we hear at the beginning of this second movement a realization takes place, which is followed by discovery and growing exuberance, but still embedded with conflict. The piece ends by evoking a strong renewal of purpose as the dazed/contemplative motif that began the first movement is answered in a firmly developed and resolute form. Composed beginning March 1990.

7. BCBC
This is a short energetic piece composed while I was in college, 1975-79. During this period most of my music was frenetic, like this.

8. Sequoia Cathedral (Movement V of the Sierra Passage suite)
It is among the Sequoia trees that I find my most spiritual peace. Many people are impressed by their size, but for me, it is their age which demands awe. How do you write music to represent 2000 years? In this music, tolling bass notes represent idle passing centuries. Episodes of long waiting are punctuated by calamities such as windstorms, fire and the eventual felling of the tree. Augmented chords create an eerie atmosphere.

This piece is one of seven movements of a suite called Sierra Passage, describing different aspects of an imaginary journey to the mountains, from the foothills to the summits. When I first relocated to California in 1984 I was enthralled by the natural splendor of the area, and this inspired Sierra Passage as a whole. But it was to help explain my awe of the Sequoia trees in particular, to my family in the midwest, that I created poems and drawings to accompany each movement of the music. This was recorded in 1985 on a Yamaha C7 piano at the Community Music Center in San Francisco.

9., 10. Grand Canyon (Overture), (Body & Epilogue)
This is my first orchestral composition, here realized by synthesizer. This piece was inspired by a majestic picture of the Grand Canyon hanging in my studio, although parts of the Body & Epilogue movement remind me of ocean swells. Composed beginning April 1992, finished near December 1992. Original title was "La Mer Grand" or "The Sea".

Composing this orchestral piece, I started with a scaffolding of piano, which then inspired supporting and replacement melodies for other instruments. These were woven throughout the piece, and then the original piano line was removed. On the day I began the piece, I literally threw my hands on the upper registers of the piano and out came the tinkling arpeggiation which is heard throughout the first part of the overture. From the accent notes of this arpeggiation developed the melody of the Body & Epilogue movement. For the orchestral and piano sounds I used Emu Proteus/2 and Roland RD300 synthesizer.

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