I am pleased to announce that I have a received a grant from New Music USA’s MetLife Creative Connections Program in support of my participation in the performance of my compositions “Music of the Spheres” (April 10th) and “The Birdsong Project” (May 11th) at the Meadowlands Environmental Center. We composers are very grateful for organizations such as New Music USA for their support of our work. The competition for this award is fierce, thousands of composers apply every deadline, emerging and well known, all styles of music, from all over the country, which gives you an idea on how much this support is needed.
Additional support is provided by: ASCAP, BMI Foundation, Inc., Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Foundation and the Virgil Thomson Foundation, Ltd.
What follows is all of the support that I’ve received over the last 10 years to bring this music to life.
I started working on this concept of composing music that reflected the philosophy of the Music of the Spheres about 10 years ago. It started with a fascination of Pythagoras, the Harmonic Series and reading an article in the New York Times called “The Speculative Case for the Cosmic B Flat”. My earliest support came from the astrophysicist Dr. Charles Liu, who in his work and spare time looks for black holes. Charles has been and continues to be an incredible support of my research, speculations and my music. I highly recommend his book “The Handy Astronomy Answer Book”, very well written with lots of humor as well!
Another early supporter was cosmologist Dr. Mary Lou West. I met Dr. West through my music, a great place to start! I explained to her what I was researching and she in turn told me about the electronic realization of Kepler’s harmonies by Willie Ruff and John Rodgers (you can listen and read about that here). That was the key I was looking for that propelled me to research the concept in depth. I also started going to her public viewing night as much as possible at Montclair State Univeristy. She and her students would bring out the telescopes from the Science building for all of us to gaze through, what a wonderful way to spend the evening.
In 2008 I was accepted as a fellow at the MacDowell Colony. My project was to compose music for a recording with virtuoso bassist Mark Dresser, produced by CIMP Records. I went with 2 suitcases full of books about Music of the Spheres, with 1 book about birdsongs, and 2 books of the music of Amy Beach. I had thought I would begin writing my “spheres music”, until I heard the birds. Then I decided to take a day to transcribe their songs, then it was work on their songs with electronics, and then finally it was record and improvise with the birds every day. Thus, The Birdsong Project was born! Two of my compositions were included in our recording, “Hello” based on my improvisations with the chickadees and “If You’ll Call Me, Then I’ll Call You” a sort of be-bop version of the song of the robins. During my 5 week stay at MacDowell I recorded hours and hours of improvisations, and sketched out 7 compositions.
In June & July 2009 I was accepted as a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. This time my project was two-fold, compositions for Music of the Spheres and The Birdsong Project. I made more progress on the spheres music at this residency, composing the bulk of the project in the first 3 days. The rest of my time there was spent researching, working on the music of both projects, and sharing the “chorale section” of the spheres music through Soundpainting my fellow artists on one of our “salon nights”.
In August 2011 I was accepted as a fellow at the Millay Colony for the Arts, and given the award Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow. I spent a month there, on top of the mountain surrounded by a forest and a blanket of stars at night. I decided that I should work on my bird songs during the day, and my spheres music at night. During the day I spent time walking the trails, recording hermit thrushes, transcribing my field recordings from Millay and MacDowell, and fine tuning my birdsong compositions. At night, I would listen to and transcribe recordings of Voyager I & II, with more fine tuning of spheres music. When it was time to take a break, I would walk out my studio door, star map in hand (plus a flash light) and study the constellations.
The support of these fellowships to these three artist colonies is a life line to creativity. The residencies not only gave me the chance to explore my projects, but also gave birth to one of them that I wasn’t even expecting to do. Each residency furthered my work in a concentrated fashion, something that is very hard to do when I’m at home in the “real world”. I also met some wonderful artists, many of whom are my dearest friends now. We continue to call each other and support each others work, another form of support that is much needed.
Before I went to the Millay Colony, I found out by a chance conversation with a pianist friend, whose wife was friends with the chef at Millay, that the Abode of the Message was only a few miles north of Millay. The Abode of the Message is the central residential community and learning center of the Sufi Order International, founded by Pir Vilayat Khan, son of Hazrat Inayat Khan. The chef was a member of the Abode, and I was told to talk to her about visiting. This was of interest to me because I had read Hazrat Inayat Khan’s writings on music, and his book “The Mysticism of Sound and Music”, which has a lot to do with the music of the spheres concept and music and nature. (You can read his essay here.) On my last day at Millay, I was given the chance to meet for one hour with Pir Zia Inayat Khan, President of Sufi Order International, and the grandson of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
Pir Zia is a kind and generous human being. At times I felt awkward in the conversation because I had only just begun to learn about the work at the Abode, and about Pir Zia’s work. He was extremely patient with me, answering my questions about his grandfather, and his grandfather’s writings. When we talked about the music of the spheres, we talked at length about vibrations. He asked if I would stay for a few days, as they were just getting ready for their Arts Festival, as he said, “there would be a lot of people here that you would really enjoy meeting”. Unfortunately, I could not stay, it was time for me to go home. I gave Pir Zia a cd of my music and thanked him for his generosity and giving of his time to meet with me. Yet another form of support for the journey I was on.
From Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Essay on Music of the Spheres…
Music is behind the working of the whole universe. Music is not only life’s greatest object, but music is life itself.