Monday, September 26, 2016

Midi, Loops, Samples and More:

Composing with midi and sampled sounds has become an art in the 21st century. While some purists are opposed to the idea of using samples to represent an orchestra (or any acoustic setting), the current musical climate doesn’t always allow for other options. The opportunities to hear one’s music performed by a top level (or even moderately good) orchestra are frequently reserved for a select few – those who win highly competitive competitions as well as world-renowned composers and artists with personal ties to an orchestral committee. That said, if a composer really loves to write for the orchestra but doesn’t have the opportunity to do so, sample libraries offer a realistic alternative.
         In some ways, the lack of outlets for orchestral readings has encouraged and inspired composers to become adept at using midi. Personally, I’ve had great success using Quantum Leap’s East West Symphonic orchestra (Gold) along with various string patches from Omnisphere. However, the sources used are not as important as the ability to manipulate and combine sounds to achieve the feeling of a live orchestra. Sometimes it may be necessary to add a few live instruments to make the recording more realistic…especially since most sample libraries have some deficiencies with certain instruments in the way the sound speaks. Although you may need extra funds to do this, it’s certainly more affordable than hiring an orchestra :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

“Marimba When"..............Leigh Howard Stevens

Every serious student of marimba is familiar with the pioneering 4-mallet technique of Leigh Howard Stevens. However, there’s a whole other side to this craft, which has to do with the translation of classical repertoire for the instrument.  Some of the greatest composers of the 19th century (and beyond) have been represented with absolute artistry in a CD entitled “Marimba When” – a collection of piano music by Debussy, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Khachaturian as performed by Mr. Stevens.

The opening track, "Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum” from Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” is a personal favorite of mine. The tempo was carefully chosen (a bit slower than normally performed on piano) to allow the notes to speak fully (considering the natural decay of the instrument). The dynamics on "The Snow is Dancing" (also Debussy) demonstrate extreme sensitivity and control along with the backdrop arpeggio against the chordal melody.

Another beautiful melody comes from Schumann’s "Untitled No.30" (from “Album for the Young”, Op.68). The tempo is much slower than what is commonly heard on piano but (here again) it works perfectly for marimba,  drawing attention to the slowly shifting harmony through extended rolls. The chordal accompaniment on "Remembrance" (also “Album for the Young”, Op.68) resonates for the perfect duration before changing chords. As is evident here, a player must listen to the natural characteristics of the marimba to determine performance choices that may not apply to the original instrument (i.e. piano).

Shifting gears slightly, Khachaturian’s "Ivan Can't Go Out today" (from “The Adventures of Ivan”) is driven by a triplet flow – impeccably executed! A final highlight includes "Ivan Goes to a Party" with a performance that really conveys the quality and depth of the instrument - especially the low notes that introduce the piece.

I highly recommend owning this CD if you’re a serious student of 4-mallet marimba. “Marimba When” demonstrates how a true understanding of classical repertoire can lead to the most musical and idiomatic translation for the instrument.

To purchase “Marimba When”, click below:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Do it Now!

That movie you wanted to see, the road trip you wanted to take, that creative writing course you wanted to take, that composition or poem you wanted to write…..don’t wait until next month or next week…do it now! It’s pretty easy (and common) to postpone small pleasures in life in favor of tasks that “must get done”. However, sometimes the proverbial “to do” list consists of things that actually can wait. I find that I have more energy and focus to take care of the mundane tasks in life as long as I mix it up with what you might call “spiritual food”….the stuff that keeps you happy. Keep a balance…it’s something I remind myself to do regularly and thought it was worth sharing :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snowstorm:a good reason to compose…or just enjoy solitude

Yes, a snowstorm has arrived here in the Northeast. I have to admit, except for the travel difficulties, I love a good snowstorm. There is an introspective quality about the quiet landing of snow on the ground. It seems to calm the soul and pave the way for thoughts that we often don’t have time to consider. I find this to be a perfect opportunity to compose, write poetry or even meditate. It’s as if the weather itself dictates that you must stay inside and become one with your thoughts. That said, I invite you to grab a cup of hot cocoa, watch the snow fall and listen….even if it’s only to the sound of silence ;)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Instant accessibility...Good or bad?

It would seem the ability to get in touch with each other any time, day or night, would be a good thing, right?  Instant accessibility…what could be better? How about the ability to have a conversation with someone for five minutes without constant interruption from a text alert or phone call? It seems that more and more people are quite content sitting next to each other while texting someone else….anything but face-to-face communication it would seem. As a result, it’s becoming increasing more difficult to have meaningful conversations as so many people are anxiously awaiting the next message, tweet or phone call (which, by the way, can almost always wait). Has a friend ever approached your for advice only to interrupt saying “hold on, I have a text” (or perhaps randomly check their phone while speaking with you)? Imagine that! …a  person asks YOU for help and then interrupts only to check a text (granted, sometimes we are waiting for a crucial call / message, but how often does that happen?).

As many are aware, this sort of behavior also carries into the music world. It’s becoming commonplace to attend concerts (and movies) only to see cell phones lighting up during performances (I’ve seen it many times at New York Philharmonic concerts – it’s quite disruptive).  To some, this may be an acceptable minor annoyance that comes with the advancement of technology; however, it’s possible that we may be sacrificing something along the way.  We may be missing out on the therapeutic and elevating experience that comes with all forms of art when we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in the subject at hand…..without interruption! Listening to an entire musical performance without checking for messages is almost unheard of these days. Music has the ability to elevate the soul and enrich one’s life…..but only if you let it! The concert experience is much like entering a temple with the sole intention of prayer – it’s a very sacred act that should not be disturbed. In the concert hall, the only requirement is that you listen. 

As an experiment, the next time you attend a concert, look to see how many people are listening vs. those who are texting or calling to convey what they are doing at that very moment. Regardless of your findings, I’d like to leave you with one parting thought:  Be in the moment! If you are enjoying something, allow yourself to continue enjoying it without interruption. You'll always have the opportunity to tell someone about it afterwards and actually have a more complete story to tell (or text, tweet, blog, etc.). And if you're speaking to a friend to give advice or listen to a story, give your full attention. That act, in and of itself, may be just the medicine they need!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Debut CD - From Here to There

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the release of my debut CD - From Here to There. Works from this album span a variety of mediums including orchestral, film, choral, soloists and chamber ensembles. A whole host of well-known artists are featured including: Dan Willis, Jack Morer, Conrad Harris, Doug Oberhamer, David Nyberg, Laura Keopke, Dave Anthony and many others.

To order your CD or MP3, click here:

Have a great holiday!



Monday, May 28, 2012

Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra Concert 5/26/12

I had the good fortune to attend a recent concert this past Saturday by the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra under the direction of maestro Adam Glaser. It was truly a rewarding experience to see young musicians performing challenging music and conveying such musical maturity and artistry. This is in no small part due to the conducting skills of Adam Glaser. In a world where conductors sometimes get consumed by their own sense of gesture (more for the sake of theatrics than practicality), Mr. Glaser communicated the music to the orchestra in a most clear and artistic manner. One could hear the performers executing the very musical ideas, shapes and phrases emanating from the conductor's baton.  Indeed, the greatest challenge for any conductor is to impart a true sense of how the music is to be performed and expressed (in a way that makes it easy for the performer to both understand and translate for the listener).  Among the wonderful selections for the evening (Wagner's Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde and Schumann's Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op. 129), my favorite was Mussorgsky's renowned "Pictures at an Exhibition" (orchestrated / arranged by Maurice Ravel).

I believe this was the most challenging piece on the program...not only for the orchestra as a whole but for several of the soloists performing repeated themes at extreme dynamics and varying ranges. The principal trumpet received a work-out for the evening and held his own from the lyrical melodies of the "Promenade" to the majestic "Great Gate of Kiev." Horn players were also featured both as a section and as soloists.  Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this piece is to deliver with consistency.  After all, the audience has many opportunities to hear the same theme performed by various sections of the orchestra throughout the course of the piece. Therefore, it becomes clear what the themes are and how they should sound. Indeed, this puts the artist in the position of being "exposed", if you will, in his / her rendering of these beautifully recurring themes (not always in a friendly range or dynamic). That said, the performers held their own from the outstandingly consistent cymbal crashes (not an easy thing to so...ask any percussionist) to the frolicking oboe in the "ballet of the unhatched chickens". The brass section as a whole performed well-balanced chords with great majesty and conviction. Additionally, the strings imparted a sense of dreaminess from the ethereal muted passages to the haunting tremolo figures.

Again, kudos to you Maestro Glaser and to the Juilliard Pre-College Orchestra for a wonderful evening of music-making.

Looking forward to the next one....

- Tom Nazziola