March 4, 2001

Whew! Who knew that it would take me more than 60 days to get back to this journal? Why is it that when things are MOST interesting, we are least likely to write down our thoughts on what is happening. The last two months have been remarkable for the breadth and depth of activities and emotions. I would almost prefer to write a chronicle that was one long sentence without punctuation or pause and which would include everything.

Most recently I have returned to the regular program known as my life after a short commercial break. I was involved in making an orchestral demo of music that would underscore a television commercial about an e-commerce business. In the short span of a Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh and the following Monday afternoon in Los Angeles I moved up the food chain from genius to village idiot. My music was brilliant one week and horrible the next. Like Rumpelstilskin, I could spin gold from straw on Thursday and didn't know my elbow from a hole in the ground on Monday. The Agency hated my music. The Director hated my music. No one could understand why had been called upon to compose music let alone a sentence.

Ah, sweet mysteries of life. Suffice it to say that my music will not be heard accompanying any commercial in the near future. I really enjoy the compact working time (four days) and the interaction with so many people intent on creating something absolutely compelling. It is some of the most thrilling work one can do -- not unlike the opera composers of one hundred years ago. I just hope that the next step for me is from village idiot back to genius so that I can get another chance to work with these fascinating humans working on commercials. BTW, I think the final demo (version 2.0) was absolutely kick-ass. I just wish I could figure a way to incorporate it into a piece that I need to compose in the future.

Joe Chvala. If you haven't heard this man's name, you will someday soon. He is a brilliant choreographer. His work process incorporates rhythm and music and movement that is rarely -- if ever -- seen these days. I hope to be working with him this summer while I am in Minneapolis. I am just starting to sort out ideas, but Spanish guitars and flamenco are the points of inspiration for the dance and the music.

Heinz Endowments and Meet the Composer. I just returned from Pittsburgh where I made a presentation to 150 community leaders on the design and goals of MTC's New Residencies program that will be implemented in the next few months in Pittsburgh with support from the Heinz Endowments. It was incredible to see the diversity and quality of organizations and people who attended the meeting. For more information about New Residencies you can go to

ACDA-MMEA premiere. Success received its first formal performance at Orchestra Hall on Saturday morning, February 17, 2001. Christopher Cock conducted the Minnesota All State Men's Chorus that had, this past August, given the world premiere of the work at the conclusion of the week-long ACDA-MMEA choral workshop. Dr. Cock directed the premiere but another clinician directing that week, Dr. Peter Bagley from the University of Connecticut, liked the work enough to program it this past December. The work is a movement in the larger composition, Poor Richard Madrigals, which will be premiered by the Ensemble Singers of the Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota. The other movements are called A Stitch in Time (SSAA chorus) and Pursuit of Happiness (SATB chorus).

Symmetry in Mathematics and Music. I gave a lecture-workshop on the Music of Olivier Messiaen at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul on Friday afternoon, February 16, 2001. In the course of 90 minutes, we covered the "charm of impossibility" described in Messiaen's eloquent and brief text, The Technique of My Musical Language. By the end of the class every student and teacher had composed a melody using a non-retrogradable rhythmic cell and a mode of limited transposition. The students are all Aquinas Scholars in the mathematics honors program at UST. Messiaen's modes and rhythmic language is especially suitable when describing how symmetry expresses significance and beauty in music.

Witness. I hosted a pre-concert conversation with Ysaye Barnwell (Sweet Honey in the Rock) and Elena Ruehr (MIT) prior to their world premiere performances on the Plymouth Music Series' Witness concert at Orchestra Hall on Sunday, February 18. Despite their different compositional technique and musical language both composers talked about the distance that exists between notation and sound. Elena approaches the notes to get to the sound and Ysaye approaches the sound to get to her notation. In both cases, they affirmed what I have believed now for nearly 20 years: "music is not notes." Rather than take credit for this little tautology, I should say that my colleague and friend Barry Casselman is the one who coined the idea that "language is not words." I'm not sure my corollary has the weight of his axiom, but those four awkwardly coupled words (music is not notes) has been the touchstone of my compositional approach for quite a while. Before this, Messiaen's modes and rhythms gave my musical platoon enough ammunition to wage battle. And before that, my parent's four-hand piano home concerts fired my musical imagination.

Fires, ammunition, touchstones, and commercials. This is what I have been thinking about for 60 days. Now what?

January 1, 2001

Happy New Year!

Nine requisites for contented living:

1. Health enough to make work a pleasure.

2. Wealth enough to support your needs.

3. Strength enough to battle with difficulties and overcome them.

4. Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them.

5. Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished.

6. Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor.

7. Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others.

8. Faith enough to make real the things of God.

9. Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.

~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe ~

December 3, 2000

I've been on the road working on a project for Meet the Composer for the last week. Got home last night late and spent the day preparing for a pre-concert conversation for Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota for their "Welcome Christmas" concert. The conversation was with Dan Chouinard about David Brubeck's La Fiesta de la Posada which was the featured work on the program.

The biggest news of the week (and maybe the entire year) will be the performance of The Fourth Wise Man at the University of Michigan on Tuesday, December 5. Dr. Jerry Blackstone will conduct the performance.

After the premiere of the work with the Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota in 1995 I drew up a plan to contact 200 potential performers of "4WM" and to get 20 performances of the work in ten years. It is now five years later and the performance in Ann Arbor is the tenth performance of the work. I am thrilled at the prospect of the performance and will be flying out early tomorrow morning to attend rehearsals and to meet with students and faculty at the U of M School of Music. This performance is doubly gratifying because I will have a chance to spend some time with my favorite harpist and faculty member at the U of Michigan, Lynn Aspnes, and the best boss I ever had, Karen Wolff, who is now Dean of the School of Music.

The rest of my week will be spent travelling throughout Louisiana on Meet the Composer business.

November 14, 2000

Moderated a pre-concert conversation Sunday afternoon with two wonderful music therapists (Annie Heiderscheit and Mary Jo Kreitzer). We talked about the therapeutic uses of music, music therapy and the power of music to have a physical, emotional and cognitive impact on the listener. We were in a chapel at Adath Jesherun Temple in Hopkins with about 50 people before the "A Garland for Linda (McCartney)" concert featuring works by contemporary British composers.

As prelude to the conversation, I asked the audience to participate in two quick music performances: a rhythmic, unison clapping that got progressively faster AND an abridged meditational work by composer Pauline Oliveros. After each piece of music I asked for responses. What surprised me most was the participation in the Oliveros-inspired music: listen to the room and to everything in the room and then make a small sustained vocal sound while you continue to listen. The air conditioning blowers were making a huge racket but I could hear a quiet, playful cloud of tones fluttering through the group. It is the sort of thing I like to do in my music: draw people into a place where music can enter your ears, your chest, and your brain. Audiences rock.

November 9, 2000

The last few days have been spent finishing projects: a final revision of the Finale-version of Success, a grant application, a commission proposal, the liner notes for the M Series 2 recording featuring Merilee Klemp (oboe) and Christopher Kachian (guitar). Not a little time has been spent listening to the story of the Presidential Election.

This past Monday night I participated (along with dozens of other performers) in a memorial service for a wonderful, humane patron of the arts: Betty Hulings. I re-cast an arrangement I had made of Pete Seeger's "Ol' Devil Time" for low soprano, oboe, cello, and piano -- it was the very least I could have done for this woman who I counted among my friends. Maria Jette also gave a performance of "Life is a Feast" that I will never forget if I live to be 100. "Life" is from A History of Evil: Bible Families which is a humorous oratorio with texts by Garrison Keillor. The music is inspired by early 20th Century musical theater (Weill, Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, and early Bernstein) and re-counts the history of evil and temptation in the Bible. "Life" is sung by the bimbo from the story of the Prodigal Son. Maria was dressed in a floor-length black two-piece outfit which she proceeded to shed as she sang. By the end of the song she had fished a bright green boa from her cleavage, which was wrapped in a gold lamme tube top. It was an effective performance.

We got out first measurable snow of the season this week. It is dreary and cold and perfect weather for the cottage industry known in these parts as contemporary music. I received the CD of the performance of my work this past August of the MMEA All-State Men's Choir and was reminded of the incredibly hot performance (both quality and temperature) in Christ Chapel at Gustavus Adolphus College. Chris Cock from Valparaiso was conducting and the young men gave a spirited performance despite the heat and humidity. Another effective performance.

October 27, 2000 / First of the Federalist Papers published in 1787 on this date

I posted a comment on Orchestralist today about the recording business. There was a comment that a few composers are "successful" because they have recordings. I think success is defined by each individual in a different way, but I think that measuring success because one has music recorded is an irrelevant yardstick. Here is what I said:

I don't believe there is a commercially successful recording of "contempo-classical" music in the last 25 years. I mean successful in that the income has exceeded the expense. In fact, I don't believe there is a commercial recording of one of our "kind" that has not been subsidized by grants or benefactors in the last 25 years. There is an important article regarding this issue at in issue 2 of the archives section.

This music which we cannot name but which exists in the world outside of the commercial model is a next door neighbor of something we call classical music. Both houses are in the commercial ghetto and that part of town is now without commerical electricity, plumbing or public services. On the other hand, David Bailey is correct in pointing out that excitement about the artform without moniker has never been more vibrant and relevant to millions of Americans. Perhaps not having a name for this music is good news; it means that we might be onto what is important in music-making: participatory invention.

October 26, 2000

I have been moderating noontime concerts for the Schubert Club in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota for nearly nine years. In that time, we have increased the size of the audience from a handful to 75-100 every week on Thursdays between October and April.

I enjoy these concerts almost more than anything else I do. The first reason I fell in love with these concerts was selfish: my son was born in 1991 and I could never get out to concerts. These chamber concerts are sponsored in a beautiful 100-year old courtroom in the Old Federal Courts Building now called the Landmark Center. The best local (and sometimes international) musicians are featured in these informal "salon" concerts. I am the lucky dog who interviews the musicians and trys to give some background to the music and to the chamber music experience.

Chamber music is not for everyone! For some reason, "classical" musicians have been socialized to believe that anything of value has to be valued by many people. In my own experience, this is never been true. Scotch is not for my son (it wasn't for me when I was young). Single malt scotch is one of God's greatest creations. This rare pleasure is not enjoyed by everyone -- nor should it be. I could go on and on about all the things in the world that are valuable and ignored by the vast majority of people. Chamber music is like this; it gives us intense, personal, and intimate pleasures. The Schubert Club in Minnesota has always understood this simple fact and its Executive Director is one of the great benefactors (that means do-gooder in Latin, I think) of music in the United States. Keep this fact to yourself -- it is a secret. If too many people know about him, Bruce won't have time to be the thoughtful, generous, savvy arts administrator who lends his good name to so many good, valuable things.

Today, I performed as well as moderated. I was involved in performances of three of my song settings: Pete Seeger's Ol' Devil Time, Lover's Lament, and Life is a Feast. Maria Jette (super soprano and dear friend), Philip Brunelle (pianist and one of my greatest champions), and my wife Merilee Klemp (oboe) joined me.

I wasn't satisfied with my setting of Peter Seeger's wonderful tune "Ol' Devil Time." It was too cluttered and busy. I'll make revisions of it this weekend and distribute the parts to these performers again because we will be performing it at a Memorial for arts patron and dear friend of artists, Betty Hulings. I have changed the way I work in the past few years. I used to push through projects very quickly and then move on. I prefer to fiddle and tweak and adjust and revise these days. I am much happier with the creations now. It is much more frustrating for patrons and performers because I'm never done when it appears as though I am. I'm turning into a -- gasp -- perfectionist! How did that happen?

October 23, 2000

I learned today that Boosey & Hawkes is moving its print and sales repertoire to Alfred Music in California and that a number of personnel in the production and sales group in the New York City offices have been laid-off and will be gone by Friday this week.

Music publishing is undergoing the same wrenching, gut-checking consolidation that has been experienced in almost every sector of the business world. These changes are a challenge for customers; it is increasingly difficult to find repertoire. It is especially difficult for publishers for three reasons: good and knowledgable staff are being let go (out-sourcing repertoire does not mean you are out-sourcing expertise and experience), customers are disheartened and confused by the changes, and sales suffer.

If you want music by Randall Davidson which is published by Boosey and Hawkes please email us and we WILL make the music available to you!

October 22, 2000

I'm reading some of the unabridged transcripts of interviews conducted by Randy Speer for his DMA in choral conducting at the Cincinnatti Conservatory of Music. The interviews were made with composers active in the Midwest for the past 20 years; they were each asked what role the Minnesota (now the American) Composers Forum plays in promoting choral music by living composers. The answers are all over the map, but there is one point on which there is consensus.

There has been a change in the patronage of new music in this country in the past 20 years. There is more "public" patronage from organizations like the American Music Center, the American Composers Forum, and Meet the Composer. "Public" patronage means to me that money is set aside specifically for new music and composers and that there is a public process of application for that funding. The size of this public funding is miniscule in the bigger frame of things, but it has created a strata of artists who move between one "public" source to the next and private patrons and foundation grants and day jobs (including teaching). From my own experience, all money has strings attached. Foundations have expectations when they award fellowships or commissions as much as private patrons do when they want a birthday commission.

There is never, never, never free money. The only thing that comes close is the money composers receive for performances of their music: performing rights royalties, sales and rental income, and licenses awarded for grand or mechanical or synchronization rights. If enough composers begin to understand this simple fact, I believe real revolutionary change can take place in the patronage of new music. Until this happens, talk of revolutionary changes or paradigm shifts is whistling in the dark.

October 18, 2000

Quickly coming to a close on The Poor Richard Madrigals for Philip Brunelle's Plymouth Music Series of Minnesota. The texts are aphorisms by Ben Franklin, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Abraham Lincoln. I've been stumped on setting these texts for months and finally had a breaktrhough over the summer. The trick for me was to find complimentary aphorisms and to weave them together so that a dramatic scenario or story might emerge. I began to think of the sections of the choir playing roles in an operetta, of sorts. The other key that fit the creative block was to think of the works as madrigals. I sang in madrigals at Jefferson Junior High School (with Mrs. Schlotzauer in Choraleers), Hickman High School (with Kent Toalson), and Cornell College (with Alf Houkom and Rick Bjella). I also sang in a madrigal-size group when I first moved to the Twin Cities; it was called the Forum Chorale and represented a wing of the Minnesota Composers Forum back in the early days. Monte Mason was the director and other members included composers Carol Barnett, Steve Barnett, Libby Larsen, Steve and Patty Paulus, Pat Hurlbutt, Charles Lillienfeld, and Chuck Watt.

What I remember about singing in a chamber choir or madrigal was the social nature of rehearsals. It was wonderful to be part of a group. In some ways, the Poor Richard Madrigals are an homage to my years of experience working with a community of singers. It continues to feed me years later.

October 10, 2000

The day after the launch. Tuesdays are usually set aside for meetings. Today, it was my usual breakfast staff meeting followed with a meeting with a choreographer about a possible collaboration. We'll keep you up to date as conditions allow.

October 9, 2000 Leif Ericson Day (for a second time)

Current projects: I am completing revisions of a Palm Sunday anthem Jesus, Lead the Way which features a baritone solo, SATB choir, and organ. The soloist calls out for Jesus to provide the way for the people (the choir) to follow.

The anthem was commissioned by Plymouth Congregational Choir with support provided by the Marlene Baver Fund. Jim Bohn was the baritone soloist in the premiere; Philip Brunelle was the choir leader and organist.

A number of folks have asked to see the score and I felt that I needed to make revisions before I could send it out. If you would like to see a perusal octavo score, please click on "email questions."

October 9, 2000 Leif Ericson Day

Welcome to a new feature here at It's interesting that the launch of the new look of our website coincides with the day honoring the Nordic exlorer of North America.

I've been wanting to put this feature onto my website for some time, but have only just gotten around to it. This site has been up for more than 2 years! and I have been jogging around the internet for more than five. This makes me the equivalent of a dinosaur on the internet. I just wish I was a little more adept.

The journal entries will come a little at a time. When I'm working on a project, it will be reflected here.

If I read an interesting article, I'll excerpt it here (with copyright permission or atribution) and then include my comments.

If one of our customers write us with something profound, silly, or provocative (or something else), I'll post it here. The point is: this is the place to look if you are interested in what I am writing. It's going to be personal and I won't have any editors looking over my might get interesting. Visit it again.