Song of the Hours

Song of  the Hours is a trio for oboe, cello and piano. The title of the work is in reference to the canonical hours, particularly Matins and Laudes, i.e, the period of time just before and during dawn. These references are not liturgical in nature, but rather referential in terms of the natural world and how it unfolds in the early hours of the day.

The work is in three brief sections. In the first section, there is a lyrical dialogue between the oboe and cello This is followed by a fleeting scherzo-like section where there is an interplay wherein the oboe and cello together are paired in counterpoint to the piano. The final section of the work is, in general, a reprise of the opening section. However, now instead of having an accompanying role, the piano is placed in the foreground. 

Song of the Hours was premiered at an International Double Reed Society conference in Tokyo, Japan in 2014. The recording of the premiere is linked below. A score and set of parts is available on request.

The Golden Mountain

A magical tale about a young Princess, an old soothsayer, and a mountain of gold!

In a faraway kingdom, a King and his Princess daughter  are in the Royal Chambers. Always inquisitive, the Princess ponders questions such as: ‘Why is the sky blue?’and, ‘Why does fall turn into winter?’.

Having learned that there is a wiseman in the Kingdom who can read the stars, the Princess pleads with her father to bring the Wiseman to the palace. Finally, the King relents and orders a courier to find and bring the Wiseman to the palace.

In a cave in the wilderness, the Wiseman a soothsayer, sings of the stars and the wonders of the world. He sees in his crystal ball and a golden coach is approaching his cave.The courier enters the Wiseman’s cave and conveys to him that the King requests his presence at the palace and adds that no harm shall come to him. The Wiseman agrees.

At the palace, the King asks the wiseman to teach the Princess everything he knows including how to ‘read the stars’. The wiseman agrees under the condition that no one else shall be present while he is with heru

A year passes and confident the princess has learned everything he’s taught her, the Wise man departs. The Princess sings of all the wonderful things she has learned.But while reading the stars, she discovers that the army of the Evil King is gathering at the border. She immediately informs the King who sends troops to ambush the enemy.

To reward the Princess for her efforts, the King appoints her his personal advisor.

While reading the stars, the Princess discovers that the army of the Enemy King is gathering on the border. She alerts the King who immediately dispatches his troops to stage an ambush. In recognitions of her actions, the King appoints the princess his personal advisor.

Materials available on request: Piano Score, Full Score, Set of Parts, Libretto

Introduction and Chubasco for Chamber Orchestra

A ‘Chubasco’ is a magical weather event often associated with South and Central America. These summer storms occur as well during the rainy or ‘monsoon’ season in Tucson and Southern Arizona in the United States. The Tucson Valley is situated in the north of the Sonoran Desert. It is also surrounded by mountain ranges that are in the southern most region of the Rockies. It is here that the rainy season or ‘monsoons’ take place from late June until about the end of September.

It is this thrilling natural event that I attempt to capture in my Introduction and Chubasco. the ‘dry heat’ and the intense light of early summer seem to create a shimmering effect across the valley. In time, wisps of clouds sneak above the Catalina and Rincon Mountain ranges. I try to depict this in the ‘Introduction’ section of the work. Here the strings play light, rhythmic figures which accompany the lyrical lines in the winds. In a few days, large billowing clouds skirt the sky and distant thunder softly and ominously sounds in the distance. The skies darken; the wind picks up and the chubasco is upon us.

In the ‘Chubasco’ section of the work, turbulent ostinatos churn in the winds and brass, above which the violins lyrically soar. The orchestral textures intensify and become denser culminating with a boisterous timpani solo.
As the microburst passes and the storm clouds move on, a dazzling array of light appears in the sky. Following the timpani solo, a solitary trumpet sounds accompanied by colorful washes of harmony in the winds brass and strings which aim to depict this natural phenomenon. What remains are a few rolls on the timpani as thunder from the now dista!nt storm softly sounds and fades away.

A perusal score of the work is available on request. There is a link below of the premiere recording of the piece. It is performed here by the Mission Chamber Orchestra conducted by Emily Ray.

Hard Knocks for Trumpet and Piano

Hard Knocks is a bold  and exciting new work for trumpet and piano. Initially, the piece combines percussive chords in the piano with angular melodic figures in the trumpet. As the work progresses, all of this aggressive energy is subdued; the pounding piano chords evolve into light staccato patterns while the angularity in the  trumpet becomes lyrically melodic (although, as you’ll find out, this doesn’t last for long!)
Hard Knocks is around seven minutes in length. A PDF perusal score and and trumpet part is available on request.

Hard Knock (midi version)

Be the First to Tame the Beast!

Taming the Beast is a work in three brief movements for baritone saxophone and piano. It was my intention to cast the baritone saxophone differently from its typical role as a bass instrument in a band or saxophone quartet.

In the first movement, one should imagine a ‘beast’ of sorts trying to resist capture. Here the instrument is in its higher register, and seems to be straining to set itself free. After a while the instrument returns to its lower, forceful nature, as if it had  freed itself for a time.

The second movement is a song in which the saxophone is seeking to replicate a human baritone voice singing an art song or lied. One would think that the saxophone has finally been contained  yet…

In the third movement, the baritone sax breaks free again and is on a rampage. It catches its breath now and again with a couple of cadenzas ,until the beast seems to be tamed, at least for now!

A PDF score and part is available on request. Taming the Beast is awaiting its first performance so you might be the first to Tame the Beast! Listen to the midi version below:

Finding Emily

I never saw a Moor

I never saw the Sea

Yet know I how the Heather looks

Or what a Billow be

Those are opening verses of a poem by Emily Dickinson. I  remember them from Junior High School and remember discussing them in class, line  by line. At that moment in time, there seemed to be  no one in class more detached from the subject matter at hand than I. As a ninth grader, my life consisted mostly in the pursuit of my musical studies. I thought,” What good would analyzing a stupid little poem do for an aspiring musician?”

A handful of years later, I was a composition major at the Eastman. Among the many skills needed to write  original music, one needed to learn the idiosyncrasies of all sorts of musical  instruments; among them, the human voice. I was, and always have been, taken by the quality of the voice.

As a composition major, besides just writing music, I was required to get these pieces performed. This included rounding up the musicians to perform them. 

Since my minor was in  saxophone, I had a number of friends in the woodwind and brass departments. So it was often no big deal to get them to perform a new piece. But, being  that I  was  a shy guy, it was difficult to make friends outside my coterie of wind players. So, when by some stroke of luck, I was able to snag a voice major to perform, it was a major event for me.

When I wrote for the voice, part of my decision process was to choose poems to set. In the early going, the poems I chose were not very impressive unless some knowledgeable person chose them for me.There were occasions where I was passed over for performances and competitions because of my poor choice of poetry. I remember spending hours leafing through several volumes searching for verses that simply ‘flowed’ rather than those with heart, with some depth of meaning or ones speaking to the human condition.

Years later, I finally realized it might be a time for me to learn how to properly analyze poetry.

I read a few chapters in a book or two. My wife suggested we read  a poem a day and talk about it. My slow transformation continued. I was becoming a more discriminating poetry lover.

I would thumb through page after page before arriving at a verse I deemed reasonably suitable.

I went through a phase where I favored lyrical poems; pretty poems, and, looking  back, I realized  these verses really didn’t have much substance.

Finally, there was a period when I avoided poetry altogether. I was at a dead end .

It wasn’t until the last few years I that began to realize that Emily Dickinson’s poetry had something to offer. What struck me about her poems were  how economical they were. With relatively few words Dickinson’s poems could say so much. From the sights, sounds and feelings associated with a summer’s morning to one’s innermost thoughts of death…I was smitten!

 She could, in my view, say more in a hyphen than many of her contemporary’s could say in a couplet. And ,at the same time, the poems had a certain flow to them.

 An so, recently, I have set  a half dozen  of Emily Dickinson’s poems in a work entitled Finding Emily. It was one for the most satisfying composition projects I’ve ever been involved with. Finding Emily is available on request.


Here is a sound Sample:

Ramas de Plata for Piccolo and Piano

Ramas de Plata (Silver Branches) is a gentle, lyrical work for piccolo and piano.

The silver branches refer to the branches of the palo verde trees after a rain.

The quiet, lilting figures in the upper octaves of the piano set the mood for much of the work.

Interspersed throughout the piece are livelier sections and technical displays for the soloist.

Listen to it here:

You may also purchase the piece from

Mrs. Manstey’s View: A New Chamber opera

I am delighted to share with you my recently completed chamber opera, Mrs. Manstey’s View. The work is based on a short story by Edith Wharton. In the opera, we meet a lonely old women who spends much of her time gazing out her third floor window. She soon learns that a nearby property owner plans to build an extension which would block her precious view…The opera’s themes of loneliness and isolation should have some relevance with today’s audiences in this time of COVD!
Attached you will find a portion of a perusal score. A link to a sound file of the opening section of the piece is also attached.The libretto, synopsis and piano score and full score are available on request.

The cast includes*:

Mrs. Manstey: Mezzo Soprano

Mrs. Sampson: Soprano

Mrs. Black: Mezzo Soprano

Forman: Baritone

Nurse: Mezzo Soprano

Chorus of Boarders: Soprano, mezzo soprano, baritone

Chamber Ensemble: clarinet, violin, cello and piano

Total Duration: C. 35 Minutes

*Cast members may appear in multiple roles.

Defined by the Saxophone

I was in third grade and was more than rarin' to go and start playing the saxophone.My parents were well aware of this, and so right around Chanukah of 1956, they alerted my grandparents as to  the perfect gift for me.

That gift was a saxophone, well, not a real saxophone, a toy saxophone. The company that made them was called  Emenee. They made a number of fake wind instruments like trumpets and clarinets.. They all sounded like cheap harmonicas. So I just unwrapped my gift and played away. It had levers for keys and I ‘mastered’ the instrument right away. I just had to use my imagination and I was sort of playing the saxophone.But soon I was bored of the thing.

I had to wait another year, until  fourth grade when kids were allowed to choose their musical instrument for the school band.The day before our first band class my mother and a I went to the music store to get the saxophone. As soon as we got home, my mom and I somehow figured out how to put it together, reed and all. I spent much of the remainder of that day exploring the instrument and discovering a number of pitches.

The next day was our first band class and the Mr. Perrel, the music teacher spent the beginning of class examining each kids instrument. When he got to me, he stared at my instrument and said “You have a C melody sax there. They haven’t played those old things in years.You need to exchange it for an Eb alto sax.” I found that very disturbing. Since the school year had already started, what it they ran out of saxophones at the music store?

The next day we went back to the music store and the clerk was able to dig out an old clunker of an alto saxophone. It was very tarnished and smelly and they keys clanked when I played it.

But it was good enough for me. So, I was on my way…