Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Four Pieces for Violin and Guitar is Published!

I was wondering what I was going to write about today and coming up empty when I checked my email to discover that my Four Pieces for Violin and Guitar are now available from my publisher The Avondale Press, based in Vancouver. The publisher, well-known Canadian flautist Kathryn Cernauskas, was a delight to work with and I'm very happy to see these pieces now available. You can also download a recording of the pieces that I made in September with violinist Claudia Shiuh. Here is the link to the publisher's website where you can place your order (hint, hint!):

Here is a little video I did with photos from the recording session of the last piece, "Surreal Reel" based on an old Irish reel, which I dedicated to my mother, an old-time fiddler:

The four pieces are Strange Romance, Cloudscape, Xitango and Surreal Reel. I hope you enjoy them. You can also download the recording along with the score.

UPDATE: Here is the second of the Four Pieces, Cloudscape:


Rickard said...

Great news! Congratulations! Nice to listen to the pieces (at least the ones you posted here) again.

Anyways, I have a possible topic suggestion (I will comment on the previous post once I have some time): I was thinking about how it seems that in a certain period of time and at a specific location a cluster of geniuses can form, for instance Athens between 440 and 380 BC, Florence between 1440 and 1490 or Vienna (especially during the classical period). I found this article when I searched: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/02/st_essay_genius/. A few interesting things:

1. "This might seem like an impossibly ambitious agenda. It’s not. Bill James, the pioneer of Moneyball-style statistical baseball analysis, points out that modern America is already very good at generating geniuses. The problem is that the geniuses we’ve created are athletes." We basically value athletes & sports more than science, (classical) music, painting (although this one is valued quite much by certain rich people, you can own a painting after all, something that can't be said about music for instance) and so on.

2. As one commentator notes: "It is going to be an uphill battle to encourage geniuses when the current culture regards the word "intellectual" as an insult and scientists to be money grubbing liars who would say anything for a buck. " and "Why would you want to be an engineer/scientist when the athletes/actors/singers get all the attention.", which confirms point one. And besides, if it weren't for intellectuals, we would still be living in the dark ages. I have nothing against athletes and actors at least. Singers on the other hand, well, they don't make good music in most cases (if they make any good music at all), so, yeah, their fame and money isn't really justified imo considering they, unlike athletes and actors (at least good ones), are far from the top of their art. Basically, too big compensation for too little effort put in the aesthetic value of their music.

3. "The last meta-idea involves the development of institutions that encourage risk-taking. Shakespeare was lucky to have royal support for his odd tragedies, while Renaissance Florence benefited from the willingness of the Medicis to support new artistic forms, such as the use of perspective in painting. Many of these ventures failed—Shakespeare wrote several bad plays—but tolerating such failure is the only way to get a Hamlet." In regards to music we have went from rich people supporting composers by giving them resources while not restricting artistic freedom too much (perfect conditions for a composer) to a marketing based approach where what is most marketed and sold is valued most. Nowadays it's almost unimaginable that a rich person would support a composer in that way. People complain about certain types of rich people while embracing other types (Hollywood, pop artists etc.). And I don't think state support is a good solution, but it's better than nothing at least.

Rickard said...

4. Also, a few thoughts: Do we have any genius cluster nowadays? If so, what kind, and why is it so little known, and if not, how come? I guess Silicon Valley could be seen as a genius cluster (although ofc not everyone there is a genius, whatever the definition of genius is). How can we create genius clusters more efficiently? Maybe specifically, musical genius clusters? And assuming that geniusness is something you're either born with or not, are we bad at encouraging geniuses or maybe people in general to pursue their interests? Are we maybe simply bad at discovering geniuses? And if genes play a big role in intelligence (something that seems to be the case in certain studies (at least I've heard that it's the case), does it make the hypothesis of musical and unmusical nations (something you've posted about earlier) more probable? Maybe we are (also) bad at discovering and encouraging musical geniuses in certain countries and better in others? How come we don't see musical geniuses at the level of Mozart, J.S. Bach or Beethoven for instance? We should have many musical geniuses on that level considering the Earth's population. Maybe we don't discover, encourage and support them enough. Maybe there are some geniuses on that level, just have difficulty reaching out in this pop dominated World. Maybe they are sticking to the modernist and postmodernist ideologies instead of writing what sounds great. Or maybe we have lost some of our human intelligence over time (the surprising discovery of IQ getting lower over generations could be true).

Anyways, in general I think people should pursue what interests them, whether they are geniuses or not. That's the way we increase innovativity and move humanity forward. And being a genius isn't always a necessity in creating something great. Sometimes a great idea can simply pop up out of seemingly nowhere. And even small innovations can in the right context lead to more important innovations. Even if a certain scientific discovery for instance may not be useful now, it could become very useful down the road. And in music, J.S. Bach was not very well known in his lifetime but became a great influence to many composers and deemed by many to be the greatest composer.

Anyways, time to pursue my interest and do some composing.

Nathan Shirley said...

Very nice pieces. They remind me a bit of Hovhaness, nothing specific, just a similar harmonic taste.

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks very much, Nathan. Coming from a fellow composer, it is much appreciated! I can't claim Hovhaness as an influence as I don't know his music very much. Perhaps I should have a listen.

Rickard, thanks as well.

I mentioned some of this in connection with a comment Bridge made a while back. The "genius cluster" in Athens was really the most remarkable in history, but the other three of 15th century Florence, 16th century London and 18th century Vienna, from a musician's point of view, were also remarkable. Based on the article, I wonder if the social and historic contexts of those different times and places have not been looked into very thoroughly. For example, "meta ideas" like a patent system, public libraries, and universal education were certainly not present in ancient Athens!

Just taking Vienna for example, things got rolling their because of Haydn. There was a very fertile class of nobility with a taste for music of which Prince Nikolaus of Esterhazy was the foremost example. He employed Haydn and gave him both the freedom to work and the resource of fine musicians to play his music and did so over several decades. Mozart was a remarkable genius, but he was able to flourish by moving to Vienna from Salzburg. Beethoven came to Vienna from Bonn both because of the musical environment and with the hopes of studying with Mozart, who, alas, had just died. He studied with Haydn instead.

I don't have time to go into this more thoroughly, but I suspect that, as is often the case, that the truth lies in the details!

Bridge said...

Congratulations! The music is not really my thing to be honest, but I would have liked to listen to all four pieces with the score. Unfortunately it seems like the YouTube channel you used to upload these is nonexistent (probably private) so I can only listen to the two you linked - also the score obviously costs money. That's not criticism, however I only purchase scores for music I already know and am interested in studying - so I hope you forgive me for not buying it. Any chance to get the links to the other tracks, or are you going to publish them on a CD?

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, Bridge.

Obviously I would like (and my publisher would like) for people to purchase the score. With it you can also download the recordings of all four pieces. I don't have a YouTube channel and I don't post things on YouTube, which is why you can't find it. I am talking right now with my publisher about issuing some other pieces of mine, so sales would definitely help!

Bryan Townsend said...

I was looking back and I seemed to have missed commenting on the second part of your big comment, Rickard. I think that there are often clusters of, if not geniuses exactly, then certainly very talented people. They do seem to come in clusters and I think that could be for two reasons. There might be factors, such as cultural support or reward that cause a number of people to work in a certain area. I think that geniuses also tend to inspire one another as the trio of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and the other trio of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle seem to show.

Here are some recent clusters in my view: the cluster of people working in physics in the first half of the 20th century that included Einstein, Schrödinger, Niels Bohr and others; the cluster of rock musicians in the 60s that included the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and others; the cluster of modernist writers in the early 20th century that included Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and others.