Monthly Archives: September 2016



A few weeks ago a really fun project dropped out of the sky: orchestrating a live-action version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that will tour the nation and play for several weeks at the Chicago Theatre and the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Orchestrating this show is so much fun. It’s like orchestrating Guys & Dolls (complete with four violin parts) or a mid-career Sinatra album. I’m trying as best I can to recreate the original score, but also to enhance it – to make it sound like you remember it sounding rather than what it actually sounded like (Ina talks about this a lot with her recipes.)

Then there’s all the shiny toys I get to use, the glocks and harps and celeste. It’s like I’m a dress-maker and an honest-to-god child princess has walked into the room and commanded me to use every sparkle and glitter in my cabinet.

And boy, did this guy Johnny Marks know how to write a song or what? We’re talking ONE-FIVE-ONE baby. Secondary dominants. Consequent-antecedent phrases. Quarters and halves. Primary colors and basic shapes. Good, strong tunes. The musical language is similar from song to song, two-steps and waltzes all the way through but the construction is so solid you don’t get tired of it.

This baby has to be written and recorded before November though, so it’s long days and lots of notes. I allow myself one episode of The Andy Griffith Show during my lunch break. Has there ever been a better show? There certainly hasn’t been a show with a better score. That studio orchestra – I wonder if it’s the same one that Lucy used, like if all the Desilu shows shared the same musicians. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whoever scored the Andy Griffith show is a genius.

Anyway, I’ve got to score 2 more cues today, but if you’re looking to bathe yourself in pure nostalgia, check out those tour dates and find a performance of RTRNR near you!!

I’m really into weird composers right now

Actually always, but I feel like YouTube has exploded with rare gems of late, so I wanted to share some of my discoveries:

Levo Kolodub, Symphony No. 9 ‘Sensilis moderno’ (2004)

There is very little info available in English on Mr. Kolodub, but there is a Ukrainian Wikipedia page, so knock yourself out! My Ukrainian is pretty rusty, but it looks like his mother was also a composer. He completed his studies at the Kharkiv National Conservatory in 1954 and I guess he’s just been writing music ever since? Several operas, 12 symphonies, and a whole mess of concerti and chamber pieces.

Judging from this piece, I’d say his music has reminiscences of Shostakovich, Schnittke, Shchedrin, and maybe even a little Lenny/John Williams thing going on. I rate it Dope AF!!

Anton Lubchenko, Symphony No. 5 ‘Nine Variations’

Here’s an unexpected turn of events: this composer shares his name with a Simpsons character. (Well, Season 11, so really a Zombie Simpsons character.) There’s much more info on him than on Kolodub, largely because he’s also a conductor and he’s been championed by Gergiev to a certain degree.

I’d also put this composer in the post-Schnittke/Shchedrin category. I’m telling you, the former Soviet Union is the only place that classical music is still being written, and has been for say the past 40 years. I hate how Trumpian that sounds, but it’s true. With very few exceptions, the West has given up on classical music entirely and now all we have is Zombie Classical Music.

Einojuhani Rautavaara, Piano Concerto No. 1

Crazily enough, this is the most mainstream piece (or at least composer) on this list, but my wish is that this concerto will become full-on standard rep in the near futuer. It is SUUUPER Ravelian, but like in a reverent and expansive way.

OK, that’s barely scratching the surface of my recent explorations (also fueled by the r/classicalmusic subreddit), but I’ll leave it there for now. Earlier this summer I got all worked up by a clip of Daniil Trifonov’s piano concerto but when I listened to the whole thing I found the orchestration too naïve to get into. (Burn!!)

Nightfall for strings

7 minutes

Nightfall explores the moods of the string body from dusky noir to incandescent ecstasy. The work relies heavily on harmonics, ricochet, barriolage (rapid back-and-forth between strings) as well as more extended string techniques. There are significant solos for the first violin and cello, but each of the parts contains moments of virtuosity.

The piece opens with the violas pizzicato, playing an increasingly complex rhythmic cell. One by one, the other instruments join in and achieve a diabolical climax that introduces the first theme, a rising figure that slithers among the four violin parts. The central section begins timidly but opens into a full-blown romantic melody. The piece concludes with a recapitulation of the opening music and a bracing coda.

Nightfall may be performed an ensemble of as few as 10 players or by a well-balanced string orchestra.