Blog
On Musical Theft

Musical theft periodically makes for sensational news. One band accuses the other of blindly stealing its hit melody. But what about art whose meaning primarily derives from reference to other works? This is a common aesthetic of our time, but it was already established around the turn of the 20th century with composers like Gustav Mahler and Charles Ives. In my Mahler series, this question always makes for stimulating discussion. What are the implications, resonances, meanings of musical theft?

Tears then Tango
Developing Variation...but in Beethoven's Eroica Funeral March

The profound 2nd movement Funeral March of Beethoven’s Eroica employs the motivic development that Brahms harnessed in his music, a technique called developing variation.

Entropy and Genesis—The First Movement of Beethoven’s Eroica 

Some of the master compositional brushstrokes in the opening movement of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony.

Beethoven’s Eroica—A Declaration of Liberty

Beethoven’s musical revolution in his Eroica symphony…

Paleface Trailer and Premiere Video

About Paleface

Inspired by the acclaimed paintings of New York “psychological pop” artist Jerry KearnsPaleface explores the persistence of the American hero myth, even as it breaks down on every level in our contemporary society. It begins with the Western cowboy mythos— horses, cowboys, folk songs and church hymns (Jesus plays a lurking role in the piece), even a gun fight. Then it jumps to the varied 20th century heroes who struggle and triumph over dark forces—detectives from pulp comics and film noir, the secret agent, and the muscled action hero. Paleface concludes with all these icons now as phantoms, struggling in the night to cohere and make sense of a world they no longer can possibly describe. They ultimately all go to church and fade away to a ghost gospel choir.

 

There’s Bach and then there’s Bach…Levels of Interpretation

A “desert island” piece, if there ever was one, is the Bach C minor Cello Suite. I use the opening Preludeas a favorite listening exercise to help people both understand the power of interpretation, and their own inherent ability to perceive more than they realize.

15 Minute Mini-Epics—Orchestra Auditions

You would never guess that hearing auditions can be just as emotional as playing them. Each one is like a 15 minute mini epic. I just spent an intense weekend hearing new and returning students from all over the city audition for the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. And I’m filled with awe…

Essay: Immediate Vs. Gradual Revelation—What Makes Us Want To Listen Again?

Why do we understand some music instantly, but other music takes repeated listening to grok? Regardless, I think musical context is critical if we want audiences to keep listening…

I now get why Brahms and Tchaikovsky didn’t mix…

A short essay on my mental struggle going from conducting the Brahms first symphony to the Tchaikovsky fifth symphony. 

Mahler's Piccolo High

Mahler's piccolo notes that pierce the musical fabric to full consciousness!

Valentine's Day—Alma's Theme from Mahler's 6th

Just the voluptuous Alma Theme from Mahler's 6th Symphony

Two Sunbeams in Mahler's 4th Symphony

Every page of the score to Mahler's 4th is chock full of orchestration master brushstrokes. Most people focus on the sublime slow movement and moments in the orchestral song that is the finale. But two of my favorite places are in the scherzo—and they pierce right through the devil and his fiddle!

Fast and Percussive

Violinists Alisa Luera and Clara Ross make two violins sound like an orchestra in my first violin duo—"fast and percussive"