Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"That's All Folks!"


It is now March 2nd and I actually slept in this morning - I got up around 5am! (Late for me!)

Yesterday, as well as this morning, I actually found out that I missed writing this blog and that I missed that deadline looming feeling.

I just couldn't stop myself from posting one more time and saying goodbye properly.

This blog post has been a wonderful experience for me. When I started it, I figured that no more than six people would want to listen to some new music on a daily basis.

Boy was I wrong ... and never more delightedly so.

To date, more than 18,000 of you have logged on and listened. Over 12,000 of you grabbed the free sheet music that accompany each installment.

I am very humbled, flattered, delighted and amazed.

My thanks to all of you for stopping by so often. I have been privileged to know so many cool people throughout my life and have enjoyed making so many new friends.

I've tried to organize this blog for returning listeners and new listeners alike. A list appears below with titles, instrumentation and timings.

The blog pieces and postings are shown from most recent to last as they are on the blog pages. Each title (day) has two entries - original text to each day and a comments/audio page.
As an update for those interested: the theater ceiling no longer leaks icky brown stuff (though I am sure another will present itself soon), Patty still types loudly (but no one cares about it except TC), TC is still the cutest and smartest cat ever to grace my doorstep (and has taken to sleeping in his pink cat bed only after I drew a skull and crossbones on the side of it and labelled it "Killer's Bed"), my father-in-law had a terrific birthday and I have the prettiest wife in the world.
What can I say - I'm one lucky guy!

Thanks again for all of your comments, support and interest. It is much appreciated!

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (March 31, 2010): 27,113 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (March 31, 2010): 15,332

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Titles and Timings for Blog Pieces by Robert Ian Winstin in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog:
(Reverse Order - Newest to oldest)

28. Happy Birthday, Oscar! (piano) 1:17
27. Did Mom Pop, Mom Did (piano) 0:49
26. Lazy Twilight on High Street (piano) 1:49
25. Saturday Night (soprano, clarinet & piano) 7:43
24. Elbows? ... Whatever! (guitar, 'cello & piano) 1:39
23. Blues Etude #3 (piano) 1:19
22. Really, Am I Typing Too Loudly? (piano) 1:10
21. As Darkness Falls (violin & sfx) 3:10
20. A Short Study for a Big Talent (clarinet & sfz) 1:25
19. What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a ... (piano) 1:13
18. Fantasy for Flute, Piano & Chamber Orchestra 3:47
17. Blues Etude #2 (piano) 1:43
16. Men Have Biological Clocks Too (piano) 1:54
15. A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents (piano) 1:22
14. With You There is No End (piano) 1:43
13. Form - My Life (voices & orchestra) 7:20
12. TC - the Theater Cat (piano) 1:12
11. Like Water Flowing Through My Ceiling (piano) 0:50
10. Like Grass Peeking Through The Melting Snow (piano) 1:33
9. Museum in His Mind (voices & orchestra) 4:09
8. Blues Etude #1 (piano) 1:41
7. All Thumbs - Bach Redux (piano) 1:32
6. Family in a Row (piano) 1:01
5. The Thing Stuck in the Corner of My Window (piano) 1:24
4. Noodle, Poodle, Doodle (piano) 0:38
3. Sounds Like Fun! (bassoon & piano) 1:01
2. ... Balances (piano) 1:03
1. SnowSwirls (piano) 0:58

Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Happy Birthday, Oscar!"

The final, twenty-eighth, installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Happy Birthday, Oscar!"


Well, here it is - the 28th day in "28 in Twenty-Eight."

I am both sad and thrilled at the same time. (Those of you who have been faithfully following daily - shut off your computer! "Madge, pull the plug! He's finally done!")

For each day in the blog series I have created, recorded and blogged a new piece. Days before I began, in January, I found myself getting really excited about this whole process. Could I do it? (It is a lot of work!) Would I see it all the way through? (It is a lot of work!) Is there enough coffee in the entire world to make me cogent at 3am? (It is a lot of ...)

Very early in the series, a process developed and stayed with me to the very last day: Up and out of the house by 3:00am, and get to the theater and start writing. Paper, pencil and a big eraser. Grab any idea you can and see it through to completion. By necessity each piece would be a miniature, but I am a miniaturist at heart - so no problem there. The problem with small pieces is to create a satisfying listening experience in a minute or two.

This quick, almost 'al fresco' style of composing would force me to explore new compositional avenues and be a test to my creativity. Working like this, I think, forces one to really examine yourself. It's a test ... (And, frankly, it would be a good avenue to vent my strange sense of humor and inflict it upon you!)

What did I learn? Surprising, for an old dog, I learned a lot. I learned that I need more time in my life to practice the piano! More than half of the pieces in this series are for the piano. I had to learn and record them. (I was getting a bit lazy - Not too unexpected after 45 years of playing the piano.) Had I known that I was going to write pieces this hard, I would have practiced more! I learned that I still love being a composer and a musician. It's a great thing to do with one's life. I feel honored to be one.

I also learned that my neighbors are very, very, very patient people, and that I have some very good friends and colleagues - those who would come to the theater in the early morning hours to work and lend their talents to pieces of music that were so obviously hastily written.
I've made some new 'e-friends' and have had some wonderful conversations about art, music and life as a musician with people all over the world.

Maybe that is the real reason to do a blog like this - the ability to reach out and interact with people from all walks of life all over the world.

I'm really a very lucky guy.

My father-in-law's birthday is today, February 28th. Oscar is 89 years old today. I think it appropriate to end this blog with a variation of "Happy Birthday."

As an aside, what we know as "Happy Birthday" was really written by the Hill sisters, in Kentucky, as "Good Morning To You" - which was used in their one-room school house in days of yore before we had a 'Pledge of Allegiance.'

Unfortunately, through a comedic series of nascent copyright laws, their song was copyrighted as "Happy Birthday."

"Good Morning" to you Oscar, and, THANK YOU to all of you who listened, read and commented on the blog and sent me emails and letters.

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 27, 2010): 18,981 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 27, 2010): 11,650

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Titles and Timings for Blog Pieces by Robert Ian Winstin in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog:

1. SnowSwirls (piano) 0:58
2. ... Balances (piano) 1:03
3. Sounds Like Fun! (bassoon & piano) 1:01
4. Noodle, Poodle, Doodle (piano) 0:38
5. The Thing Stuck in the Corner of My Window (piano) 1:24
6. Family in a Row (piano) 1:01
7. All Thumbs - Bach Redux (piano) 1:32
8. Blues Etude #1 (piano) 1:41
9. Museum in His Mind (voices & orchestra) 4:09
10. Like Grass Peeking Through The Melting Snow (piano) 1:33
11. Like Water Flowing Through My Ceiling (piano) 0:50
12. TC - the Theater Cat (piano) 1:12
13. Form - My Life (voices & orchestra) 7:20
14. With You There is No End (piano) 1:43
15. A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents (piano) 1:22
16. Men Have Biological Clocks Too (piano) 1:54
17. Blues Etude #2 (piano) 1:43
18. Fantasy for Flute, Piano & Chamber Orchestra 3:47
19. What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a ... (piano) 1:13
20. A Short Study for a Big Talent (clarinet & sfz) 1:25
21. As Darkness Falls (violin & sfx) 3:10
22. Really, Am I Typing Too Loudly? (piano) 1:10
23. Blues Etude #3 (piano) 1:19
24. Elbows? ... Whatever! (guitar, 'cello & piano) 1:39
25. Saturday Night (soprano, clarinet & piano) 7:43
26. Lazy Twilight on High Street (piano) 1:49
27. Did Mom Pop, Mom Did (piano) 0:49
28. Happy Birthday, Oscar! (piano) 1:17

Total: 56:22

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Did Mom Pop, Mom Did"

The twenty-seventh installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Did Mom Pop, Mom Did"

"Did Mom Pop, Mom Did"

Yeah, I know what you are thinking, but this is not a piece about an urban nightmare and a soccer mom - it's a palindrome! And, it's a 'perfect' palindrome. Not just 'Otto,' or 'Bob' but a
complete sentence wherein each word is a palindrome and the entire sentence is a palindrome itself.

I am entranced with palindromes. I still think that there is a future for a palindromic opera. Imagine the the duet: "Otto: Go Hang a salami I'm a lasagna hog! Bob: Put Eliot's toilet up!"

Ah, romance is not dead.

Musically, I've been experimenting for years with palindromes in compositions. The trouble with palindromes in music, as opposed to prosal palindromes, is that they are less obvious musically than they are when you look at the word or phrase on a page.

It is really tough to hear a palindrome in a piece of music.

Also, the pitch and phrase construction is quite complicated in even the smallest piece of music.

In "Did Mom Pop, Mom Did" the musical phrase is five measures long. (To see it clearly, look for the brackets that I have placed in the music. You can get the sheet music at
www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html)

When looking at the sheet music you can do a mental "X" cross and follow the right-hand over the bar line where it becomes the left-hand backwards. The same for the left-hand as it goes over the bar line, becoming the right.

The same occurs at the end of measure 12 where, here, the palindrome not only occurs with the subsequent bars, but also serves as a mid-point (palindromically) as the piece now unfolds the same backwards as it is forwards.

These are fun pieces to write and calculate, and I believe that they are more successful for the listener if the piece is shorter and more immediate than if the palindrome is stretched over a longer period of time.

It is simply easier to hear in short batches than to follow and remember longer musical sections.
At one period in my life I wrote whole bunches of these pieces; palindromes for violin, piano, voice, etc. I even wrote an entire orchestral work for double orchestra that was completely palindromic. (It was just too much! Two much?)

Oh - one more thing. You will no doubt hear "My Country Tis Of Thee" at the end of the piece. It seems to wrap it up nicely for me, compositionally. Why is it there? Well, the entire piece before it is really a new harmonization of the famous tune stretched out and done in a poly-metrical organization. (You'll hear it poke through at various other times in the piece as well.)

We're down to the second last day of this blog series and I have had a fabulous time of it! I have met some terrific people through this forum and I have learned a great deal about me as a composer.

Tomorrow, February 28, 2010, is the last day of the blog. In some ways I am thrilled that February only has twenty-eight days, but, in many other ways I am definitely going to miss the time deadlines, the three-am recording sessions and the listener feedback.

One more day to go!

Tomorrow? What I hope is a special way to end this series.

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 26, 2010): 17,422 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 26, 2010): 11,011

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Lazy Twilight on High Street"

The twenty-sixth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Lazy Twilight on High Street"


The new (old!) theater is situated on a remarkable street in Olde Towne, Portsmouth. High Street is a wonderful combination of old, historic buildings, quaint eateries, antique shops, a harbor and two theaters.

You can walk the five or six blocks from the beautiful waterfront, up High Street, through history. It is a remarkable walk which will take you past the Coffee Shoppe, the Children's Museum, Sports Hall of Fame, & Roger Brown's Restaurant - all just in the first block. The next block starts off with a church built in 1761, the Old Courthouse (picture) from the same era and our theater - which was built in 1851. (We seem to be the new kids on the block!)

On any given day, as evening starts to emerge, the street takes on a very different character. Twilight emerges, strollers come out to walk and gaze in windows, coming attractions at the theater - maybe even to stand under the marquee of the Commodore Theater across the street from us, or to sample one of three-hundred beers at the Bier Garden next door.

If the weather is fine, it is a slow, meandering stroll that makes one feel part of a previous time and place.

It is only fitting (and not surprising!) that I wrote "Lazy Twilight on High Street." Susan and I have done this walk countless times and it is one of the highlights of any visit to Portsmouth.

The piano, with a little drums back-beat, meanders lazily through half-step related harmonies - strolling through phrases without really stopping as if window shopping along High Street.

My thanks to Jeff for coming in this morning to help with the drums. There was not enough coffee in the world to make us not be lazy this morning.

Perfect!

Tomorrow? "Did Mom Pop, Mom Did." You figure it out. (It is probably not what you think!)

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 25, 2010): 16,931 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 25, 2010): 10,202

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Saturday Night"

The twenty-fifth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" new music blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Saturday Night"


"Broken Calla Lilies. Cathedral Altars. Magnolia Petals. Ermine Coats. Debris."

So starts "Saturday Night," the fateful journal entry by a teenage schizophrenic.

What appear as seemingly dis-jointed and un-related words all overlap and interconnect in the mind of a schizophrenic - as per the second line of the journal entry: "Weddings. Dances. Drinks. Bottle perfume."

The 1960's and 1970's were barbaric decades in the treatment of schizophrenia. Typical 'cutting-edge' treatment might include, and could be limited to, psycho-tropic and hallucinogenic drug therapy which would be 'monitored' through the patients journal entries. The decision to increase or decrease a particular dosage might depend on the lucidity of one's prose. Un-related textual elements might suggest a need for a heavier medicinal ingestion. The penning of clearer thought structures would decrease a particular dosage.

Besides the obvious, pity the poor creative soul who, perhaps prior to the onset of schizophrenia, crafted prosal images that could be deemed odd or cloudy. I am fairly sure that no 'baseline' of creativity was taken prior to institutionalization. How could it be?

Striking in it's brevity of singular thoughts separated by punctuated periods is the conceptual inter-connectivity of the words and ideas themselves. Taken at face value they are random images of everyday life. Taken together, they form a mental image of a world of sadness unified by a singular concept - 'Saturday Night.'

The text is dark, heavily punctuated and imagistic. "Disgust. Clear eyes. Uniform madness. Sorrow. Bedlam. Starry-dark snow."

The text is also finely crafted and motivic. This is not something we normally associate with the ramblings of a schizophrenic, but "Saturday Night" clearly has a motivic and thematic architecture to it. When the author comes back to the images from the first lines "Broken Calla Lilies ..." he now tempers and changes the line to read: "Broken Calla Lilies. We are like that. We who drown in white. Moss after the light. Saturday Night."

I was immediately drawn to this text. Aside from it's obvious power and imagery, there is an underlying romanticism and lyricism to the text. To me, the entire text is a call for help. There is the obvious please to a higher power: "God. Wherever you are. Cool. Lighted. By the other dreams." But there is an immediate, almost rational plea for help as well. "Disgust. Clear eyes. Uniform madness. Sorrow. Bedlam. Starry-dark snow." Could those words be references to the onset of an episode ("Disgust") and the need for clarity ("Clear eyes"). "Uniform madness" I think speaks for itself - uniformed medical professionals lead to "Sorrow," "Bedlam" and zoning out on medication "Starry-dark snow."

When I was writing the music for this wonderful text I wanted to have the music change moods and feel suddenly as if to suggest the same rapid changes that the schizophrenic text goes through. I also wanted to try and capture the romantic feel of the text, but I didn't want the listener to get swept away in the lyricism of a particular moment and forget the underlying problem - so I have a constant (and out of sync) clock ticking in the background. As the music swells around it - we lose the sound and almost forget this insistent reminder. As the music fades, we are reminded. (Perhaps this is, at least metaphorically, what all diseases feel like; you know it is always there but sometimes a moment or two of happiness blots it out and lets you forget about it - but only for a moment.)

I set the text in the tradition of "art song" and accompany the soprano - who is the journal writer - with clarinet and piano.

This fateful journal entry, "Saturday Night," is by Ross David Burke, a teenage schizophrenic who died shortly after this journal entry in the mid-1960's in an Australian mental ward.

As always, my heart-felt thanks to good friends Mary Ringstad (soprano) and Ralph Delmonico (clarinet). It is far more meaningful to write works for friends and colleagues whom you know and respect - highlighting their particular talents and strengths. Thanks to artist Eszter Gyory for the "Schizophrenia" painting.

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 24, 2010): 16,245 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 24, 2010): 10,022

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Elbows? ... Whatever!"

The twenty-fourth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Elbows? ... Whatever!"


"Elbows? ... Whatever!"

Actually, contrary to the title ... "Elbows? ... Whatever!" is a lullaby.

Yes. Really.

Whatever!

My step-daughter's daughter - my step-grand-daughter? - is as cute as can be. She is a doll. And brilliant. (I may be a bit biased.)

Soon after she started talking, her mother started teaching her the names of body parts. One day I was quizzing her (in devoted step-grand-dad fashion):

"Eye-balls?"

"Yesssss." She said drawing out the "s."

"Nose-boogers?"

"Yesssss." (Didn't I tell you she was smart?)

"Ear-wax?"

"Yesssss."

Not wanting to get into the really cool stuff, I scanned my brain for a safe body part and blurted out "Elbows?"

Shocked, and a bit delighted, she blurted back - "Noooo!"

Really? Hm mm. She's witty as well.

"Elbows?" I asked again encouragingly.

"Noooo!" She answered making the "o" really big.

So, like a good devoted "Pop-Pop" I went through it again:

"Eye-balls?" "Yesssss."

"Nose-boogers?" "Yesssss."

"Ear-wax?" "Yesssss."

"Elbows?" "Noooo!"

Hm mm. No "Elbows."

This, of course, became a ritual for us every time we saw each other - even on the telephone.

"Elbows?" I would say into the receiver.

"Noooo!" She would answer over the static.

This went on for about a year, until ...

"Elbows?" I asked gleefully into the phone.

Silence. Pause. Then a soft - "No."

Really? Was something wrong?

"Elbows?" I tried again with a little more "Pop-Pop" emphasis.

Silence. Pause. Big sigh. "... Whatever."

"Whatever?" I got "Whatever-ed" by a three year old?

Wow. I was crushed!

I had to teach her four new things the next time I saw her - including throwing out your arms as wide as they will go and imitating a loud opera singer "Laaaaaa!"

"Laaaaaa!" She would pipe in her small soprano voice, arms outstretched.

"Laaaaaa!" I would intone as loudly as I could.

"Laaaaaa!"

"Laaaaaa!"

This is now a particular favorite of ours in a packed grocery store in the middle of the produce aisle. Nothing clears out those lines at the register like a little opera.

This little lullaby is for Katie.

My thanks to Mike Durig on guitar and Spencer Swan on 'cello. Thanks to Terry for coming by on such short notice and tuning the piano.

Tomorrow? Some opera stuff. Really. Whatever!

Robert Ian Winstin

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 23, 2010): 15,325 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 23, 2010): 9928

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Blues Etude #3"

The twenty-third installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Blues Etude #3"


"Blues Etude #3"

Yessiree, it's time for another of these little ditties.

Imagine Chopin's "Winterwind" Etude combined with a Tom Waits left-hand. ("The piano's been drinking, not me!"???)

The Chopin has that signature right-hand part that every developing pianist has to try and do - much to everyone's chagrin. I was no exception. I faked my way through that thing for years, finally playing it well post-college years. Now, twenty-five years later, I'm back to murdering the evenness of the right-hand part. My apologies! (Really, it's no defense, but I haven't done the piece in decades!)

I love the "Blues." (What long-suffering artist doesn't?) I love the immediacy of the pattern, the flexibility of the rhythm and the utter fun it is to play. (Rather ironic that the "Blues" is fun to play!)

A few summers ago I was up in upstate New York - to the hippie mecca Woodstock. (My homeland ...) I had a small orchestra that was touring with Professor Louie & The Chrowmatix - a fabulous R & B Old Time Rock-n-Roll band. (Gave me an excuse to wear my tie-dye.) Somewhere towards the last gig I found I could leave the podium, stash the baton and wander over to an open keyboard and sit-in and jam.

!

Great fun and since almost every song was a blues pattern - I knew every piece of music!

My thanks to all who have followed daily - for twenty-three days so far.

Twenty-three days.

Twenty-three.

Days.

A new piece every day.

Write it. Record it. Blog about it.

Thank God February only has twenty-eight days!

In all seriousness - Thank You!

This one is for my friend Sam Bell.
Robert Ian Winstin

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 22, 2010): 14,155 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 22, 2010): 9611

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Really, Am I Typing Too Loudly?"

The twenty-second installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Really, Am I Typing Too Loudly?"


We have a new person in my office. Her name is Patty. (I don't really know what her last name is - she changes it every day. Really.)

Now, people who work in my office are ... brave. Or, they are foolhardy. Or, ... completely insane. (There really is no structure working for a composer - the office is different almost every day.)

We're not sure which one Patty is yet, but, I'm leaning towards the insane.
Her desk is just right outside my office. We are separated by fifteen feet, a pretty thick wall and 900 pounds of insulation.

She types loudly. Actually ... she types LOUDLY. Very LOUDLY.

I don't particularly care how loudly she types, but, it is something for me to comment on and kid her about.

Ever since I have started kidding her about her typing she has made a decided effort to type softer. The fun part comes when she suddenly thinks I am listening to her typing - but she isn't quite sure? So she will get louder, softer, louder, softer ... stop ... type softly, loudly ... stop. I'll then get a text on the office IM (which she so ably set-up): "Really, Am I Typing Too Loudly?"

She's a character - Patty with the no last name. Actually, Susan and I love her; she's great at her job and has a quirky sense of humor. TC likes her, too - and y'all know how I feel about that cat! (Did you notice the "Y'all?" Wouldn't my Immediate Southern family be proud?)

It probably takes an insane person to work here. Too bad she fits right in.

The only problem - she really doesn't like to go to lunch. I love lunch! I've been known to greet people at 9:00am when they come to the office - "Where would you like to go to lunch?"

"Hm mm ... it's only 9:02. I'm still wanting coffee."

"Well, it's never too early to think about a good lunch!"

Truth is, starting at about 10:25am I am already at lunch in my 'good place.' (In my defense, my office is on High Street and there are numerous restaurants within smelling distance that start firing up their grills and ovens about 10:00am. By 10:25 I pretty much can't take it anymore.)

"Anybody busy?" I'll ask as I go into the office where Susan, Patty and TC are hard at work.

"... what?" As if I have caught them not working. (Couldn't care less - this is about that great hamburger I smell cooking!)

"Where we going for lunch?" In my excitement, I'm practically yelling by now.

"It's only ... it's not even 10:30!"

"Well, by the time we walk there it will be time to eat!"

"Every restaurant here is within thirty feet!"

(Sigh) "Okay ... I'll just sit here by the window. Don't let (sniff) me bother (sniff) you. Really, (sniff) I'll be as quiet (sniff) as a cat."

Surprisingly, they rise in resignation.

"Let me get my coat."

Tomorrow? Who knows - I think I'll have to let you know when I write it!

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 21, 2010): 13,620 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 21, 2010): 9320

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"As Darkness Falls"

The twenty-first installment in the Robert Ian Winstin blog series "28 in Twenty-Eight."

"As Darkness Falls"


So, ... yesterday was about pure sound and programmatic sound combined to tell a story. Yesterday it was morning, 'film noir' style.

Today it is evening. Get up, have your morning coffee and pretend it is evening. On a beach. And ... there is a violinist nearby.

Perfectly natural!

OK - you have to stretch a bit, but the setting is pretty cool; waves lapping into the shore and ... "As Darkness Falls" a violin plays on the lonely beach. By the time he finishes - a small crowd has appeared - and threatens to drown out his playing. Eventually he stops, they leave - and the beach remains.

Make what you will of it!

Once again - I have great friends and colleagues. The wonderful violinist Jorge Aguirre met me me for breakfast in the morning and I convinced him to record this little ditty. (Like yesterday's piece with Eddie, Jorge had no idea what I was going to put as sound effects behind him.)

That's a nice guy!

Sound is sound. It really doesn't matter to me if it is made by a trained player on a wonderful instrument or made by nature in the form of the sound of waves lapping against the shore.

And ... these past two pieces have been about sound and, maybe more importantly, the marrying of two separate and different elements; scripted sound created by a person and sound by nature or random sounds.

As a composer I loved putting them together.

My thanks to Eddie and Jorge for lending me their estimable talents.

Tomorrow's music is about a very loud typist. Yep, that's right - and it is for piano.

Until tomorrow!

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 20, 2010): 12,925 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 20, 2010): 9113

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html


Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Morning: Film Noir"

This is the twentieth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Morning: Film Noir"


Today? Perhaps something you are not quite used to calling 'music.'

Well ... (you think) ... that could be a lot of things you write Winstin!

(Laughing) You are probably right!

But - let me set this up for you - Sound sets the scene: a wind chime clacks slowly and languidly in the background. A clock ticks away the seconds. Somewhere a coffee pots starts to life and a forlorn clarinet begins it's plaintive call. A ringing of the phone. No answer. Concern pounds on the door. The phone rings again. It is, again, not answered. The clarinet finishes, the clock insistently ticks away with the slow moving wind chimes in the background. Suddenly, the phone is dis-connected. Time ends.

So ... what is it about?

Another ho-hum usual morning in the big city? A sad preview of death? The loneliness of being?

You decide.

For me, writing programmatic music (as opposed to 'through-composed') is not about trying to create the majesty of swans in flight with that single f sharp - always leaving the listeners shaking their collective heads - but creating an almost cinematic audio experience of sound for the listener.

Part of the compositional process is to record not only music, but to script and record the sounds needed to accompany the audio.

As you can well imagine - this is fun stuff to do. (You also start to stalk some of the best sounding water coolers and desk phones.)

I wrote this piece for my friend and colleague Eddie - a fantastic clarinetist - as you can hear. Originally the piece was titled "A Short Study for a Big Talent." And he is - big in talent! Of course, he was incredibly gracious to get up in the morning and come out and record it. (He was also very trusting knowing that I was going to surround his playing with additional sounds.)

I don't think he quite bargained for the coffee maker sounds, though!

I think I'll call the piece "Morning: Film Noir." (Kind of reminds me of those great black & white detective flicks.)

My thanks to Eddie and all who have written, commented and called me about this blog. It is rather funny, but when I started this thing it really was a way for me to get motivated and excited. Thankfully (and a bit strangely) it has turned into something more with a lot of listeners.

Thanks!

Tomorrow? A piece for solo violin. Monday - a piece about a typist, or a bird ... or cars. Hey! Chickens!

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 19, 2010): 12,115 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 19, 2010): 8991

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Friday, February 19, 2010

"What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a ..."

This is the nineteenth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a Really Cool Title and This is All I Got?"


"What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a Really Cool Title and This is All I Got?"

The title saga continues.

Why is it we "classical" composers are mostly inept when it comes to titles? 'Symphony #1.' Stunning title. Or, 'Sonata in G Major.' Yeah baby - that really says it all! Of course, I realize that our tradition of non-programmatic titles comes from an era where music was 'through-composed' and not programmatic. Pure. Idealistic.

This is a wonderful past and I embrace it and support it with all my soul. It just seems ... so sterile. Is it any wonder we feel a need to attach a descriptive title to a purely musical thought? A good example is the Beethoven "Moonlight Sonata," which Beethoven never thought of calling it. He called it - ready romantics?: "Piano Sonata #14."

So ... just what does this have to do with me and today's piece of music?

Well ... everything!

Most of the time I try to write very descriptive music essentially based on 'classical' forms and ideals. My 'language' as a composer is most decidedly not 'classical' - but my ideals are. And ... I have a tendency to call things with such descriptive titles as "Study #27," or, "Symphony #5."

Ooh! Be still my heart!

So ... today's piece of music?

"Study in Groups of Seven in a Chromatic Fashion," or, "What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a Really Cool Title and This is All I Got?"

Of course, in my defense - it is a study in groups of seven; listen to the right-hand in the beginning of the piece - groups of seven strung together end to end. (This rhythmic idea comes back so often it is almost motivic!) And, ... it is chromatic - related in a scalar fashion by half-steps.

This series of pieces has been terrific for me as a composer. I have been forced to create something new everyday, which, of course, means that I have had to try and make musical sense out of the smallest possible ideas and whims! So far it has been a lot of fun and I have enjoyed the emails and comments from all of you tremendously. (Included in those emails and comments are some of the most interesting people I have had the privilege of 'talking' to - including college music and conservatory students and ... a fifth grade class of elementary school students who discuss the music daily. Now that's a brave teacher!)

So, this is "What the #$%^ - I Tried to Come Up With a Really Cool Title and This is All I Got?" I spent a lot of time recording it this morning - couldn't get it really right until the last possible moment! (I must be getting old ...)

This one is for Mer the pianist and composer. Tomorrow? A piece for clarinet and sounds for my friend Eddie.

Thanks again!

Robert Ian Winstin


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 18, 2010): 10,045 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 18, 2010): 8717

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Fantasy for Flute, Piano & Chamber Orchestra"

The eighteenth installment in Robert Ian Winstin's blog series "28 in Twenty-Eight."

"Fantasy for Flute, Piano & Chamber Orchestra"


I love the flute. It is an expressive instrument that is capable of a tremendously wide variety of nuance and character.

In writing this piece, a French 'bistro-esque' type of feel kept coming to the fore. Really, I tried to write it out of this piece - at one point I even had an accordion in the score. (Got rid of that one right away!)

In this, the "Fantasy for Flute, Piano & Chamber Orchestra," the role of the piano is more of a duo-solo instrument than mere accompaniment. It is a duet between the two solo instruments that starts the piece. (In fact, the piano starts the piece with a motivic series of sixteenth-notes resolving by a minor second. For those of you who don't read music - you may be better off!) The solo flute enters a few bars into this sixteenth-note pattern. The orchestra finally enters a few bars after that.

The feeling is definitely French. Funny how it doesn't starts out that way. (Sometimes a piece of music just ... happens.) Somewhere about the third hour of writing I gave up getting the "French" out and started to embrace it - weaving a more 'classical' feel (with the sixteenth-note figures of the piano), flute entry - then - flute, piano & chamber orchestra ("French").

This feeling now dictated the scoring of the "French" sections. I got rid of the accordion (more for humane reasons!) but shaped the strings and light winds to almost sound like an accordion.

In listening to the recording it comes off as a nice, friendly, light score that has some really lovely moments - at least I hope so!

My many thanks to Leesa Belton for her terrific flute work and the players who so eagerly came in so early! (Now that's friendship!)

This is the eighteenth piece in the series and I'm lovin' it! This one is for Nina at the Real Flute Project.

Tomorrow - a real 'knuckle-buster' of a piano etude. Later - a work for clarinet and sound effects played by my good friend Eddie.

Many thanks to Josephine Wall for the image "The Enchanted Flute."

Robert Ian Winstin

http://www.robertianwinstin.com/
http://www.numusicdirect.com/

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 17, 2010): 8990 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 17, 2010): 8212

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Blues Etude #2"

The seventeenth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Blues Etude #2"


A little more fun today ... not like yesterday!

Today's piece? "Blues Etude #2."

I got so much feedback from the first "Blues Etude," that I knew I had to do another.

Here's the setting: it is a chilly early (early!) morning here in Portsmouth, Virginia. (Yeah, I know - what did I think? February? I'm wondering if Al Gore needs to give his Nobel Prize in Global Warming back?) We've recently moved and re-built the studios in an elegant (but needy!) 1854 former Vaudeville theater. It is a truly glorious place - needs lots of work, attention and care, but - it is glorious.

It is also wonderful for recording. The large theater is about 50 feet wide, 120 feet long and 30 feet high. Everything sounds good on this stage!

This has been just the type of project I have needed to re-ignite my creative juices. My goal? Create 28 pieces in twenty-eight days. Nothing extensive - short, miniaturist works that explore what I want to explore that day. (Pieces are written, recorded and blogged that day.)

So, of course, strange topics sometimes come through, like, "Like Water Flowing From My Ceiling," or "TC - the Theater Cat!"

A 'Blues Etude' is exactly that - a combination form piece that puts the technical ferocity and demands of a Chopin 'Etude' with the immediately accessible elements of a 'Blues' pattern.

Technical demands are the name of the game in this piece - lots of them sound a lot harder than they really are - arpeggiated chords, walking bass lines in octave, off-kilter rhythms, etc. I love this kind of stuff!

So, for pure fun and calisthenics - "Blues Etude #2." This one is for my friend Cathy.

Tomorrow? A little change of pace - "Fantasy for Flute, Piano & Chamber Orchestra"

Robert Ian Winstin

www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 16, 2010): 8721 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 16, 2010): 7911

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numsicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Men Have Biological Clocks, Too"

The sixteenth installment in the "28 in Tweny-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Men Have Biological Clocks, Too"


First - a hearty THANK YOU to those who are following this blog daily. It takes a special kind of person to listen to this much new music on a daily basis. There might be medication for that. Check with your doctor.

"Men Have Biological Clocks, Too."

Although ... when I look at my Grandfather (yes, I know I put a capital "G" there - but he is a kind of Capital guy) who is closing in on 97 - yes, ninety-seven years old, it is hard to maintain an argument about men and their biological clocks.

Especially since he was recently living with his younger girl friend. She's 84.

Actually, I'm just playing with time in this piece. (Aren't we all?) The left-hand drones out a constant beating of time - which is timed-out at sixty on the metronome; one quarter per second. (Coincidence? I think not!)

The right-hand messes with the time-line of the left-hand, much like life interrupts from time to time and throws us a few curves. (You'll also hear, if you've lasted this long, the right-hand 'time flying' figures that alternate between groups of three and four. In most time groupings, figures of three tend to give the impression of time pulling back a bit, and, when it releases back to groups of four you tend to feel a bit of relief that time has now continued it's inevitable march forward.)

Time continues to the end in the same constant tempo that was established in the beginning of the piece - just like in real life.

Hm mmm - I can't believe that I wrote the above paragraphs! I'm usually the happy one! (I must be harkening back to my slavic roots ...)

Nice way for me to reward returning listeners - write something depressing!

Oh well, tomorrow - by popular request - is another "Blues Etude." I going out on a limb here with the title to tomorrow's piece and call it ... "Blues Etude #2."

Pure titular poetry.

Robert Ian Winstin

www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 15, 2010): 8443 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 15, 2010): 7721

You can grab the FREE sheet music to most of the music in this blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Monday, February 15, 2010

"A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents"

The fifteenth installment in Robert Ian Winstin's "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series

"A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents"


"A Trio of Myopic & Near-Sighted Rodents."

OK ... so I still suck at titles, but ... you have to admit - this one's fun!

Of course, I'm talking about using the theme of the children's rhyme "Three Blind Mice" as the basis for this piece.

Like a previous posting, "Noodle, Poodle, Doodle," (which used the military tune "Yankee Doodle" as it's basis) I'm using an old established tune to jump off from in a highly technical manner. (Technical to us piano thumpers means lots of notes!)

As a pianist certain techniques always came easy to me; cascading chords, odd scalar patterns, poly-rhythmic organizations - they all just happen in my hands. Long established techniques (read - more boring!) always required a lot more work than my colleagues to master.

This could, of course, be why I gravitated to modern literature as a young pianist.

One of the other things I love about music is it's ability to be humorous. Music can be fun and acerbic - just like a poem, novel, short story, etc. Why do we composers spend so much of our time being so serious all the time. (Underscore, bold and put "all" in as many different colors as you can!)

Really, it seems to be so inherent in a composers life to be so serious.

"You think Tchaikovsky made jokes!"

(Wow! Who said that?) "Well, ... he must have made some ..."

"Idiot! He was a real composer; serious, angst ridden ... filled with pathos the likes of you will never understand! He was Russian! You need to be more like him!"

"Really? To be really like him I'd have to be a much better drinker than I am and ... dead now. Besides, I'm American ... we have a sense of humor!"

Well, OK - that wasn't a real conversation, just talking to myself - and you know what they say about people who talk to themselves?

(Really? What do they say? Who said that?)

Actually, about a decade ago I lectured at the famed Tchaikovsky Conservatory. It was during one of the first recording sessions that I was doing with the Kiev Philharmonic and they graciously invited me to speak and play for them.

One of the composition students stood to ask me a question during the Q & A part of my lecture.

"Why you have so much humor - so much funny in speech?"

"I'm glad you found the humor in it. I ask you - Why not?"

" ... well ...?" He was clearly not liking this. "Well, composer is serious person. You should be serious person."

"I am serious person." Launching right into his syntactical rhythm. "I'm just not sad all the time. I enjoy life, art ... music. We don't have to be sad to be serious." Why was I the only one laughing in the room? Where was my vodka?

"Sadness is part of artistic process ..."

"No, sadness is part of depression. I don't have to be bi-polar to write sad or happy music."

"Happy music? Happy music is only happy because you heard sad music before. Is answer to angst."

"This," he continued looking at me through his blood-shot eyes - no doubt earned after a night of quelling his sadness with vodka - "This, is our lot as composers in life."

Well, just how do you answer that? Our lot in life as composers, as artists is to be ... sad? Well, that's just ... sad.

I guess I'm just a pretty happy person. (A bit of irony is that one of the most played pieces on classical radio in Kiev is the third movement to my "Taliban Dances" - which features a slide whistle and thirty-seven balloons popping!)

So, in that vein - here's a happy piece that is based on "Three Blind Mice." It is very tactile, technical and ... well, pretty much a lot of fun to play.

I hope that it is fun to listen to. I'll be sad if it isn't!

(If I were into those annoying little emoticons, I would insert a smiley face here!)

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 14, 2010): 7994 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 14, 2010): 7332

Get the FREE sheet music to this and most others in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Many thanks to Randy from Scranton, PA for the great "Three Blind Mice" image!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"With You There Is No End"

The fourteenth (Valentine's Day) installment of Robert Ian Winstin's "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog.

"With You There Is No End"


It's Valentine's Day!

This piece, "With You There Is No End," is, of course, for my wife Susan.

I met Susan when I was performing a concert in Virginia Beach and she was moonlighting as a theater tech at the hall. I was struck by her beauty and charm right from the very start.

Thunderbolt.

Yep, love at first sight.

She, however, was not so enthralled.

"Would you have dinner with me?" I asked expecting her to answer yes.

"No," she answered continuing to push the piano onto the stage - using a lot of concentration to position the piano just so.

"No?" I was really disappointed.

"No." She continued to work the piano into place.

"Drink after the concert?"

"No."

"Can I wave to you from the stage?"

"No."

"Wow, ... that's a bit ... negative. Married?"

"No."

"Engaged?"

"No."

"Spoken for?"

"No."

"Thinking about being in a relationship?"

"No."

"I'm too tall?"

"No."

"Too short?"

"No."

"You don't like classical music?"

"Love it."

" ... then ... why?"

She thought for a moment and then looked at me.

"My Momma warned me about men like you."

It took almost eighteen months to get her to agree to even go out on a date with me.

I proposed that very first night.

Of course, she said "No."

Eventually I just wore her down.

If you have but a small percentage of the happiness I have found with my partner then you would be a very happy person.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 13, 2010): 7693 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 13, 2010): 7126

Get the FREE sheet music to this and most others in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Opera "Dedo" - 'Form-My Life'

This is the thirteenth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

Opera "Dedo" - 'Form-My Life"


Last week I posted an excerpt from my opera "Dedo" about the life (mostly death!) of the painter Modigliani. ("Dedo" was the nickname bestowed upon him by Pablo Picasso.)

Today's installment is another excerpt from that opera.

Again - Emergency Room. Sirens. Heart Monitors ... and a baritone singing. It can only be opera!

The scene: a modern hospital. (Taking a little liberty here!) In fact, in this scene, we hear the arrival of Modigliani to what will be his final residence - a hospital room.

A lone trumpet starts a plaintive call with a theme that is used later in the opera by his lover Jeanne. We hear the siren of the ambulance in the background bringing him to the Emergency Room.

Once again; "Dr White, paging Dr. White" becomes an ex-officio character in the opera. This is his first appearance. (You'll remember that in last week's posting, "Museum in His Mind," we basically had the end of the opera with Modigliani's death.)

A large rhythmic (basically un-'formed') orchestral introduction sets up the song "Form" - a flashback by Modigliani to his student days in Paris where his instructors would criticize his work for having no "Form." (Ironically, in later years he would become well known for his extended neck 'forms.') The song is sung to him by his art teacher, Picasso & the model (who later became his lover) Jeanne:

"Form is what you need, and,
Form is what you get, and,
Form is just the thing, to,
Make it look just like, a,
Painted-Perfect-Picture Art.
Give up what you need for, the,
Form
!"

The flashback of his student days of "Form" gradually leads us to Modigliani's sung expressed regrets on his life in the song/aria "My Life."

"My life isn't all it's meant to be.
I sing it from the heart.
I know I'm not saying anything new
..."

He is joined in the chorus where he laments his wasted life while those around him - the teacher, Picasso & Jeanne - use basically the same words to express the very impact he has had on their lives.

Sometimes we just don't see that, do we?

The scene ends with Modigliani going in and out of consciousness and hallucinating back to his student days in a re-cap of "Form."

A little history of the opera: In going through census books from the early 20th century in Paris, I discovered that Picasso, Brancusi, Rivera & Modigliani all lived for a few years in the same building in Paris.

In imagining their conversations - as they were all completely different stylistically and politically - I came to write this small opera which took place in an imaginary bistro on the ground floor of their building.

Recently I have been re-structuring the whole setting of the opera - re-recording the set-pieces, arias and chorus numbers and then adding external sound to convey extra-musical ideas.

I have literally spent hundreds of hours culling and recording the additional external sounds that can make up the audio scene for the recording. The additional sounds quite literally became a composition in their own right.

In the original opera, the focus is the dying Modigliani, and takes place in a bistro - a perfect excuse for a small musical ensemble which would make the operatic setting feel more natural. (At least it does for me - nothing quite like stepping off a trolley car and launching into a love duet with full orchestra to really ask the listener/viewer to suspend belief!)

The setting is the last few days of Modigliani's life as told through his friends, peers and lovers. (The title character frequently goes back and forth between past, present & future as he moves through the opera towards his death.)

All this is the same in the new setting - except it now takes place in a hospital. Characters in the opera visit him in his ward room, coming and going. (Is there nothing more frightening than hearing hospital sounds? It is that deathly quiet surrounding medical machine noise that makes it so ethereal and real at the same time.)

In re-structuring the opera I have tried to use not only music, text and setting to create an aural portrait, but I am using external sounds to help set the scene.

My many thanks to baritone Brad Mitchell, soprano Mary Ringstad & tenor Mark Waters.


Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 12, 2010): 7123 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 12, 2010): 7066

Tomorrow? Valentine's Day music, of course!

Get the FREE sheet music for all the pieces in this blog (except the opera excerpts) at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Friday, February 12, 2010

"TC - the Theater Cat"

This is installment twelve in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" new music blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"TC - the Theater Cat"


Today's piece is about ... a cat.

(Yes, I've lost all reason - but I love that rat-faced, beady-eyed cat!)

TC is the theater cat who came to the theater by way of our next door neighbor - The Bier Garden. (A fabulous restaurant - real German food - and, more importantly - real German Beer!) A litter was born next door and, being cat lovers, we claimed the girl of the litter. (Boys do bad things to carpeting!)

Took a week to get the cat out of detox. (Just kidding about detox, but it did take us weeks to get him to stop craving ham!)

TC - Theater Cat - took a month or so to come out from the hole he poked through one of the office walls. He is infamous in the area. In fact, the first night we had him he managed to escape through the small tiny slit in the office window where he then hung out in the tree that is in front of the theater - meowing like crazy.

The staff at the Bier Garden got concerned and ... called the Fire Department! Yes, they actually called the Fire Department to come get a cat out of a tree.

And ... they came!

Except, as the nice Fireman was climbing up the tree to rescue TC, TC merely scampered back through the window and meowed at the Fireman from the safety of the office.

I heard all about TC's exploits the next day in a city events committee meeting. And at lunch. At supper. On the street. While parking my car and while throwing out the garbage.

TC and I bonded in November during a ferocious Nor'easter. I was afraid to leave the theater in a bad storm. (Of course, the theater had been there for 150 years and had done very well without my protective services!) So TC and I spent a few days getting used to each other. With no electricity, running water and a powerless flashlight.

In fact, we had great fun.

Since then - it's been a bizarre relationship between us. I seem to have added a cat personality to my people persona. (In fact, TC is slung across my arm as I type this!)

During recording sessions, TC has been known to scamper into the session, and, wanting to be part of any musical process, he will pounce across the piano keys, dash through the legs of strings players, or, suddenly appear with his head peeking out through the ceiling leaving us wondering how he got up there.

Oh, yes - that's right - TC is a 'he.'

My wife Susan took 'her' to the vet to get fixed - complete with pink faux rhinestone collar.

"What's the cat's name?" our vet asked Susan.

"TC - the Theater Cat" she answered.

"Hm mm..." he said looking at the appropriate organ. "Well," he continued, "the good news is that there will be no charge for the sex change operation."

"What?"

"TC is a he."

"Him?"

"He."

So, the very cat we didn't want pounced into my life, chewing holes in walls, getting stuck in ceilings, under the stage, activating emergency services and sending un-intelligent emails while he lays across my arm at my desk - he's piece number 12 in the series.

I couldn't be happier!

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 11, 2010): 6662 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 11, 2010): 6823

Get the FREE sheet music for this blog at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Like Water Flowing Through My Ceiling"

The eleventh installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" music blog by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Like Water Flowing Through My Ceiling"

Yep ... I'm starting to write music about actual events that happened the day before!

Somehow, I wish my title was actually ... "How I Won the Trillion Dollar Lottery," or "I Couldn't Take the Call the Day the President Called."

Instead ... "Like Water Flowing Through My Ceiling."

And, it was.

First - a little history: Last April I purchased an old Vaudeville theater in the historic Olde Towne section of Portsmouth, Virginia. It is a terrific old building that was a theater, a cinema, an army hospital for returning wounded from World War I, a dance club, restaurant, night club, gentleman's club (that explains the poles) and a skate-board park.

My wife and I saw this grand old building and decided that this was where we wanted to be. When we got the building it had been vacant for about twenty years.

Now, you can imagine what kind of work needed to be done for a building to come back to being a theater when it hadn't been one since the 1960's!

Gradually, and with great love, we have attempted to restore this grand old theater for the past nine months.

The theater serves as my office, the home of ERM Media, the home of the Millennium Symphony, the Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra ... and is a state of the art recording studio.

This is where I have been recording the excerpts for this blog.

So, ... just when I think I have life under control ... splash. And not just a little drip, but pretty much cascading water coming through the center of the theater's ceiling thirty feet above the floor.

Patty is a new person in the office. She's very delicate with us 'art-sy types' and handles things in the office with great patience. We were returning from a meeting and had entered the theater from the rear fire doors and immediately heard the flow of water.

"Uh-Oh" I understated having been through this before.

"Uh-Oh?" She asked.

"Water" I replied. Nothing like reducing the information pipeline to a single word in a time of crisis.

"Water?" Apparently she could play the same game.

"Water." "Ceiling" I said pointing up. I was practically garrulous.

"Where?"

"Ceiling ... There."

"#$%^" With that we rushed around gathering buckets - funny how I knew just exactly where they were - and attempted to staunch the flow of water with buckets, leaky garbage cans, lasagna pans and flimsy red table covers.

Can I handle a crisis or what?

"Um mm ... Robert? Is that ... brown water?"

A gave a test-sniff to the gathering water.

"Why, yes, I believe that it is."

"Brown water? As in ..."

"Um mm ... yeah."

And with that, just as mysteriously as it had started ... it stopped. Not with a bang, not dramatically, and not with any sense of reason. What had been a torrent of pouring water just ... trickled to an end.

So, that's what I wrote this morning. "Like Water Flowing Through My Ceiling."

I've got to get out the wet-vac and carpet shampoo machine. See you tomorrow!

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 10, 2010): 6331 Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 10, 2010): 6597

You can download the FREE sheet music of this piece at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Like Grass Peeking Through the Melting Snow"

The tenth installment of Robert Ian Winstin's new music blog "28 in Tweny-Eight."

"Like Grass Peeking Through the Melting Snow"

"Like Grass Peeking Through the Melting Snow." Now, that's a title!

And ... I can't claim credit for it.

A friend of mine, let's call him ... Don, because ... well, ... his name is ... Don. Anyway, Don recently sent me a very witty review of my "Blues Etude #1" that read;

"Sounds like something Chopin wrote after spending an afternoon with Thelonious Monk - and a few Brooklyn Lagers!"

You know, it's comments like that that make me appreciate the guy! So I sent him a request: "Send me between 5 - 8 notes. Something you like to play." (Don plays a mean guitar.)

And he did; "Sure! How about A, E, B, D# and F#. To a guitar player, that's an Emaj9 / A bass. A nice, fresh sound, like grass peeking through today's melting snow."

Gotta love a good title!

When I set out to write Don's piece, I figured that it would end up sounding something like a guitar riff. (It doesn't.) I also figured it might be something a bit 'bluesy.' (It's not.) Then, I figured I would have to use something more than five notes - after all, five notes are just ... five notes. (I didn't. I used just ... five notes.)

So, once again ... I was batting a thousand!

What ended up coming off my pencil was a fun, rhythmic 'Debussy-esque' piece that is almost a cross between the Impressionistic sounding Debussy and the open, American feel of Copland.

Though I submit my obvious and heartfelt apologies to both, I must admit a fondness for this piece. It has a fun, infectious rhythmic feel to it and I love the 'cushioned' French harmonic sounds.

Thanks for the great set of notes Don!

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com


Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 9, 2010): 5991 | Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 9, 2010): 6237

You can get the FREE sheet music of this piece at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Tomorrow's entry - a piece about cascading water falling in the theater!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Museum in His Mind"

The ninth installment in Robert Ian Winstin's blog series "28 in Twenty-Eight." This one features an aria from his opera "Dedo."

"Museum in His Mind"

Emergency Room. Sirens. Heart Monitors ... and a baritone singing.

It can only be opera!

Recently I have been re-structuring and re-recording my third opera "Dedo."

"Dedo" is about the late artist Amadeo Modigliani. In fact, "Dedo" was the nickname bestowed upon him by Pablo Picasso.

In going through census books from the early 20th century in Paris, I discovered that Picasso, Brancusi, Rivera & Modigliani all lived for a few years in the same building in Paris.

In imagining their conversations - as they were all completely different stylistically and politically - I came to write this small opera which took place in an imaginary bistro on the ground floor of their building.

Recently I have been re-structuring the whole setting of the opera - re-recording the set-pieces, arias and chorus numbers and then adding external sound to convey extra-musical ideas.

I have literally spent hundreds of hours culling and recording the additional external sounds that can make up the audio scene for the recording. The additional sounds quite literally became a composition in their own right.

In the original opera, the focus is the dying Modigliani, and takes place in a bistro - a perfect excuse for a small musical ensemble which would make the operatic setting feel more natural. (At least it does for me - nothing quite like stepping off a trolley car and launching into a love duet with full orchestra to really ask the listener/viewer to suspend belief!)

The setting is last few days of Modigliani's life as told through his friends, peers and lovers. (The title character frequently goes back and forth between past, present & future as he moves through the opera towards his death.)

All this is the same in the new setting - except it now takes place in a hospital. Characters in the opera visit him in his ward room, coming and going. (Is there nothing more frightening than hearing hospital sounds? It is that deathly quiet surrounding medical machine noise that makes it so ethereal and real at the same time.)

In re-setting and re-structuring the opera a new character emerged - Dr. White. Of course, he is heard only through the hospital intercom and public address system, but he is talked about so much that his sonic aura became a character!

In this excerpt from "Dedo," we find his lover, Jeanne, his friend and accomplice, Apollinaire, and his art dealer and critic Lipschitz by his bedside. (The evil baritone art dealer and critic!) "A Museum in His Mind" is mainly Lipschitz's aria as he sings about how Modigliani was greater in his own mind than in life, while his lover and friend encourage him to use the same fantasy to be more comfortable in the road to death.

"A Museum in His Mind" is actually a penultimate number in the opera. Modigliani dies at the end of the aria - you'll hear it in the heart monitor sounds.

In re-structuring the opera I have tried to use not only music, text and setting to create an aural portrait, but I am using external sounds to help set the scene.

A note - I have been informed by email and a few calls that there are a handful of music theory and composition classes following and studying the music in this blog. Young musicians hold a special place in my heart. My wife Susan and I are eager supporters of young programs for musicians. I'm delighted that you are following and will attempt to answer all questions that I can.

I hope you enjoy "Museum in His Mind." (The audio file starts very softly with some external sounds. Just wait for it - it gets louder!)

My many thanks to baritone Brad Mitchell, soprano Mary Ringstad & tenor Mark Waters.

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 8, 2010): 5528 | Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 8, 2010): 6110

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Blues Etude #1"

"Blues Etude #1" - the eighth installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series is a fun cross between a blues pattern and a Chopin 'Etude.'

"Blues Etude #1"

A new week ... and this is the second full week of "28 in Twenty-Eight!"

This has been a lot of fun and just what I needed to re-light my creative fires.

Years ago I had decided that I was basically a miniaturist as a composer. Small form pieces - pack a lot into one minute. Some of my earliest 'mature' sets of pieces were essentially a lot of miniatures strung together or separated into movements. "Piano Art" comes first to mind - a nice set of fifteen miniatures that try to musically depict great 20th century paintings in music. (To date that set of pieces and recordings of them have been used around the world from everything from background music in an Off-Broadway play to performances at museums around the world.)

Since then, long-form commissions, the yen to write operas (more on that this week!) and commissions for concerti ("Taliban Dances," "Spirituals for Violin &Orchestra," "'Cello Concerto" etc.) have forced me to become a long-form composer.

In getting ready to launch into "28 in Twenty-Eight" I knew that, basically, I would have to return to my roots as a miniaturist.

What I didn't know was how much I missed it!

Today's offering is a musically hybrid piece - and you'll have no need of electricity or gas to run it!

"Blues Etude #1" is a fun ditty that combines the wonderful open patternistic appeal of a blues pattern (essentially I - IV - V - I) and the technical demands and fireworks of Chopin "Etude."

This makes it really fun ... and hard to play. Right up my alley!

I hope that you enjoy the "Blues Etude #1." As the title implies, I'm rather hopeful that it will become the first piece in a set to come.

Again, many thanks to all who lurk by and listen. (Lurkeners?) I'm pretty humbled by the interest and most appreciative.

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

robert@robertianwinstin.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 7, 2010): 4951 | Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 7, 2010): 5906


Get the sheet music for this piece at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Tomorrow? A bit of opera ...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"All Thumbs - Bach Redux"

"All Thumbs - Bach Redux" is the seventh installment in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" blog series by Robert Ian Winstin.

"All Thumbs - Bach Redux"

Those of you who have studied the fine art of piano (shudders, heart palpitations, nervous jitters) will remember the wonderful "Prelude & Fugue in c minor" by J.S. Bach.

When I was a young piano thumper, I loved playing and learning the Bach "Preludes & Fugues" - they are really a very special group of pieces.

I loved the complexity and simplicity that is so Bach. Two seemingly diametrically opposed conditions were magically apparent in his work.

Physically, I loved the tactile feelings of playing Bach in my hands - it just seemed to fit.

I remember learning the original and thinking - "This is really about a physical balance between the extremes in the hand - pinkie vs thumb." You had to hold your hand just right in order to achieve that balance and also to enable your hands to essentially fly through all those sixteenth notes evenly.

In "All Thumbs - Bach Redux" I have attempted to take the essential movement of the piece - rapid sixteenth notes - and pretty much make it all about the the inside thumbs in both hands. (Aside from the opening notes and general feeling, Mr. Bach and I have parted company in a big way!)

Both hands gradually move closer together and then further apart - but the thumbs collide! It is in this collision that we get the insistent 'pinging' of pitches that almost becomes a de-facto melodic line.

In the old days, when I was learning to keep rhythm and pulse steady at the piano, I would be constantly scolded by teachers for gradually picking up speed towards the end.

Not an uncommon problem for young pianists who just want to have fun!

Here, in "All Thumbs - Bach Redux," I have written that problem into the piece. You have to gradually pick up speed to be able to do it right! (Take that Mrs. Rogers!)

Just a simple technical exercise that uses 'mirror' harmonies, a thumping of thumbs and a faulty ticker.

Enjoy!

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 6, 2010): 4626 | Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 6, 2010): 5521

Get the Sheet Music at: http://www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html

Tomorrow? "Blues Etude #1"

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Family in a Row"

The sixth installment in the blog series "28 in Twenty-Eight" by Robert Ian Winstin.

"Family in a Row"

Families interact in unusual and, sometimes, funny ways.

My family is no different than yours - well, maybe mine is a little better, but that's the only difference! (OK, so I'm a little biased!)

As a composer I am fascinated by the interactions between notes, rhythms, pitch colors, etc. As a family member I am fascinated by verbal interactions between people and the group dynamic that occurs - and changes - depending on which family member is in the room at any given time.

My sister-in-law Lizz recently commented on my admitted lack of talent in stringing together more than two interesting words to create a title - by sending me a list of very funny and pithy suggestions for titles to work off of.

So I was excited this morning to sit down and compose music to her witty title of "Daffodils Don't Have Thermometers," or "If I Wanted This Much Snow I'd Move Back to Chicago!"

And I still might get to those titles! (They are very cool and much appreciated.)

As anyone who has been around a creative artist knows - we're all a bit ADD and obsessive-compulsive.

So, I swear I sat down to write the "Daffodils ..." piece - and ... then I started thinking. (Always a sketchy thing for me.)

"What if Each Person in my 'IS' ('Immediate Southern') family was assigned a note?"

Hmmmm ...

"And ... What if those notes were 'pre-determined' to act and re-act together - as if in a 'serial tone-row'?"

... cool.

" ... and ... if all this were so - would there be one person/note that would control all of the other pitches?"

Way cool.

Another dilemma: There are a lot of people in my 'IS' family and if everyone were represented by a single note there would be far too many notes to string thematically to have any musical impact.

Hmmm...

"Who Controls Families?" I asked my slightly diseased brain. "Women" It answered.

Of course! So I picked the 'IS' women - Susan (wife), Lizz (sister-in-law), Leddie (mother-in-law), Carmen (niece), Casey (niece), Lisi (step-daughter) and Katie (granddaughter).

I then set about structuring a row (series) of notes and assigning a pitch to each person. Susan = "G", Lizz ("C"), Leddie ("C"), Carmen ("F#"), Casey ("F"), Lisi ("B") & Katie ("Bb"). (I play them in row at the beginning of the piece for you to hear - then I start the piece 'proper'.)

Those with a smidgen of music theory will assert: "Aha! The relationships between a lot of those pitches are tri-tones! The 'Devil's Interval'!"

Yes, the 'tri-tone' is historically called the "Devil's Interval" - but to my ears it is one of the most expressive - it can be poignant, sad, brutal, assertive ... anything the composer really wants it to be.

The problem always comes in the listening.

We are trained, as listeners, on a very limited musical language - almost strictly tonal (harmonies based upon established chords that have been built upon a series of major and minor thirds) and have very little experience in listening to and being influenced emotionally by any sounds that defy those tonal boundaries.

In tonal music, a seemingly psycho-acoustic phenomenon occurs melodically and harmonically. In non-tonal music, these relationships are harder to feel and experience due to the fact that we, as listeners, haven't had too much experience with these type of sounds.

I enjoy the inter-personal interactions between family members - it is almost always enjoyable and always fascinating to watch.

So, ... this is "Family in a Row." The "Row" refers to the series of notes, in this case, Susan ("G"), Lizz ("C#"), etc - and how they are related musically to each other.

Historically a "Row" can move forwards or backwards - but always keeping the order of the pitches. You can also move in retrograde and retrograde inversion as well.

"Family is a Row" is my fun, humorous musical description of an 'IS' family conversation. I enjoy my family a lot - I hope that you enjoy them too!

A final note (sorry for the pun!) - those of you with a good sense of pitch and pitch memory will notice the rather insistent "Bb" in the piece. "Bb" is the pitch of my granddaughter Katie.

As in all families, the baby is the controlling factor and the focus of all attention.

That is delightfully the case in my 'IS' family.

Robert Ian Winstin
www.robertianwinstin.com
www.numusicdirect.com

robert@robertianwinstin.com

You can grab the sheet music for this piece (and all others in the "28 in Twenty-Eight" series) at www.numusicdirect.com/28intwentyeight.html.

Stats: Blog Views to Date (February 5, 2010): 4,179 | Sheet Music Downloads to Date (February 5, 2010): 5,229