James Joyce's Dirty Letters: subject of my new short Opera for Bloomsday,NOLA 6/14-6/16

“Darling, Please do not be offended (by what I wrote.)”

-is the full title. This will be performed for the Bloomsday celebration in New Orleans. Bloomsday is the annual celebration of James Joyce’s groundbreaking masterpiece, Ulysses. The festival is now being handled by the collaborator in two of my previous operas (‘Bang the Law’, ee me and pollock thee’) , Chris Lane.

I have had the idea for a long time and finally the opportunity came up to stage the piece. Libretto and music by yours truly. All the text however is by Mr. James Joyce. The lyric is totally unexpurgated. Immoral restoration theater type directness for our tightening times…except of course- of and for the common people.

The opera is also to remember the great victory over victorian censorship of the book.

The piece will be at the church at the Hotel Peter and Paul in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans. There will be two performance on the 14th and two on the 16th of June.

Great artists have been assembled to work on it.

Zara Zemmels- Mezzo-Soprano
Nelson Gonzalez- Joyce
Tim Robertson- Guitar
Janna Saslaw- Flutes
David Gamble- projections and design
Joan Long- Lighting/ stage design/ performance consultant

Jonathan Freilich- composer/librettist
Chris Lane- producer and set builder.

Extremely important here is our gofundme campaign to raise the money for the production. We hope that if you support arts in New Orleans, or are a theater fan, or a literature fan, or an independent/ experimental/contemporary opera buff, or prefer that your ribald times aren’t impinged upon, or support diversity in music, or the livelihood and development of the arts in general, that you will contribute. Any amount helps greatly.

The link is here…

Zara Zemmels

Zara Zemmels

Tim Robertson

Tim Robertson

David Gamble

David Gamble

janna saslaw

janna saslaw

Taster of 'Esplanade'- a collaborative film nearing completion

For about 18 months I have been involved in a fascinating film/music collaboration with artist, David Gamble. It is neither a soundtrack to a film, nor a music video…finally!

Anyway it is an exciting work. Here is a taster. I composed all the music.

David Gamble is a great artist and portrait photographer. For more info on him go here…

Toru Takemitsu- Confronting Silence

Just finished this book of writings by Takemitsu.  Really worth the read.  I used to post stuff about interesting readings in music.  Maybe it will start up again.  

     "For several years I have been fascinated by traditional Japanese instruments such as the Biwa and Shakahuchi...
     "The sounds of such instruments are produced spontaneously in performance.  They seem to resonate through the performer, then merge with nature to manifest themselves, more as presence than as existence.  In the process of  their creation, theoretical thinking is destroyed.  A single strum of the strings or even one pluck is too complex, too complete in itself to admit any theory.  Between this complex sound–so strong that it can stand alone–and that point of silence preceding it, called ma, there is a metaphysical continuity that defies analysis.  Like itchō in Noh music, this ma and sound do not exist as a technically definable relationship.  It is here that sound and silence confront each other, balancing each other in a relationship beyond any objective measurement.
     "In its complexity and its integrity a single sound can stand alone.  To the sensitive Japanese listener who appreciates this refined sound, the unique idea of ma–the unsounded part of this experience–has at the same time a deep, powerful, and rich resonance that can stand up to the sound.  In short, this ma, this powerful silence, is that which gives life to the sound and removes it from its position of primacy."

Great stuff.  Check it out.  Libraries are a great thing.  So was a lot of Takemitsu's famous music.

Busoni- From so long ago you'd think we'd be getting it by now.

I looked down and there was just too much promotion afoot.  Must get back to revelations on THE subject...

Some thoughts and stuff then, starting here with Busoni--I'll add more on this later, but for now, since this was more than 100 years ago- could we please stop flogging a dead horse?  You know who you are. The flies are getting unbearable!

"Tradition is a plaster mask taken from life, which, in the course of many years, and after passing through the hands of innumerable artisans, leaves its resemblance to the original largely a matter of imagination."
"The function of the artist consists in making laws, not in following laws ready made.  He who follows such laws, ceases to be a creator."
"So narrow has our tonal range become, so stereotyped its form of expression, that nowadays there is not one formal motive that cannot be fitted with some other familiar motive so that the two may be played simultaneously."
"What we now call our Tonal System is nothing more than a set of "signs"; an ingenious device to grasp somewhat of eternal harmony; a meagre pocket edition of that encyclopedic work; artificial light instead of the sun...
"And so, in music, the signs have assumed greater consequence than that which they ought to stand for, and can only suggest...
"How important, indeed, are "Third," "Fifth," and "Octave"! How strictly we divide "consonances" from "dissonances"--in a sphere where no dissonances can possibly exist!"



Interesting show with James Singleton's Force Majeur Orchestra last week at Zeitgeist

Here is a clip that Reynard Rochon posted to FB.

Ugly Beauty by Thelonious Monk.  Was a pleasure of an evening...

James Singleton-bass
Justin Peake-drums/Electronics
Brad Walker-saxes
Rex Gregory-reeds

Collaboration, dictatorial ideology, Platonic philosophy hangovers, and other thoughts before starting work on an opera

In preparing to write larger, theatrically bound pieces of music, a voracious appetite for webs of information, culled from as many fields as possible seems to take hold.  (I'm speaking as a "newbie" here because I've only written one opera previously, Bang The Law.) Perhaps, it is because things like opera involve so many different features: poetry, acting, producing, directing, music, stage design, costume, psychology, history. Reasearch into everything possible seems to be called for. There is also the perennial fear of accidentally creating something too narrow or trivial. I get into a kind of trawling, sometimes directed, sometimes not, that leads to the right sort of mental and emotional fullness and wonder that overcomes stagnation, procrastination, and distraction.  Opera demands collaboration anyhow so mental flexibility derived from poring over related ideas seems paramount becuse there is a certain openness and general knowledge required in working well with others with specialized talents.

I'm involved in the writing of a semi-operatic work currently so this is the process that seems to be dominant again.  A couple of months back I was handed a libretto by writer, Adam Falik and agreed to collaborate on his libretto about a couple of early twentieth century art behemoths and a fictional encounter that drags them both down.  In perusing some of


"Ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking. Psychological studies of highly creative people have shown that many have a strong interest in apparent disorder, contradiction, and imbalance, which seem to be perceived as challenges. Such individuals may possess an exceptionally deep, broad, and flexible awareness of themselves."- Brittanica Concise Encyclopedia (online)


"All poetry comes into being in respect to its sounds, tormented into perfection or near-perfection by the logical and prosaic resistance of language in response to the disturbance of occasion."- Mary Kinzie from A Poet's Guide to Poetry

It could just as easily be about music with a couple of noun re-arrangements.