Henry Mancini...Reinventing Film Music
John Caps
University of Illinois Press
When I think of Henry Mancini, the theme to The Pink Panther comes to mind.  (A tie for very close second is the enduring theme to the television series, Peter Gunn and the memorable theme and popular song from the 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Moon River.)  It is fitting that John Caps’ biography of his life reflect this in the pink lettering and inside jacket as well as the typeface reminiscent of the movie.
Mancini’s life was dedicated to arranging and composing music.  Early on, he would practice writing out arrangements of music he heard on the radio growing up near Pittsburgh.  He would study the orchestration and even learn the names of the arrangers of charts for big bands such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington.
Born in 1924, Mancini witnessed the rise of big band swing and his pursuits as an arranger nearly landed his a place with Glen Miller’s military incarnation.  (He would eventually work with the Miller band as arranger and pianist with Tex Beneke at the Helm.)  It was his early love of film music, though, that would lead him to become arguably the most recognizable name in film and television music.  In Reinventing Film Music, details of the chance encounters and deliberate actions won and lost that propelled him on this journey abound.
The technical aspects of composing and arranging are given much more than a cursory mention that would be expected of a biography.  Notes on the orchestra membership of some studio recordings and details from his 1962 text on orchestration that appear in this book reveal some of the elements that made up the “Mancini Touch.”  The melodic choices that went into his memorable themes from the scores to Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Days Of Wine And Roses are described in detail that is inspiring for songwriters as well as those with a fondness for the tunes.  John Caps illustrates parallels between the scoring and the plot in Mancini’s approach.  In addition, some cliched elements are given defense, such as the over-dramatic moments in the scoring of Breakfast.  The cultural references help portray the composer as someone who was able to innovate while still taking care to create a successful score.
All of Mancini’s creative output is addressed in the book.  The most notable movies and television shows are discussed in depth including the main characters and the actors that portrayed them as well as plot points and the occasional depiction of scenes.  The film lover will enjoy being reminded of the details of the groundbreaking opening shot from Orson Well’s A Touch Of Evil with it’s dolly shot that encompasses over 3 minutes of uncut action as well as the fact that the Pink Panther theme is absent from the second movie from the series, A Shot In The Dark, due to the fact that it was an unintentional sequel salvaged from another film.
It doesn’t appear to be an accident that this book could serve the student of music and film in addition to serving as a biography of one of Hollywood’s most successful musicians.  The technical details are compelling and the background provided to many of his projects complete the picture for those not familiar with his work.  A must read for anyone interested in the genre of film music and films in general.


Tasteful Nudes...And Other Misguided Attempts At Personal Growth And Validation
Dave Hill
St. Martin’s Press 
Tasteful Nudes is a collection of memoirs and humorous stories from the life and times of the author, Dave Hill.  The subjects are wide ranging: from growing up in Cleveland to being a starving artist in New York City, odd jobs and career aspirations, and adventures (good, bad, and in-between) encountered while pursuing a career as an entertainer.  I think aspiring entertainers and artists will relate to some of the accounts in the book where Mr. Hill tries his hand at performing in a rock band, stand up comedy, and writing for television.  The chapter on the rise and fall of his band from the 1990’s, Sons Of Elvis, rang familiar to so many other experiences I have witnessed in the music biz,  either personally or watching a band I liked almost make it big, and it was refreshing and enjoyable to get a humorist’s account on the matter. 
In one lighthearted recollection from the book, the author answers the phone, “Hi, this is Dave Hill...from show business.”  This moxy-of-the-ages attitude casts many of the stories in an entertaining and endearing light.  The essays on being an entertainer are the most engaging in the book, especially those regarding music, where tales are recounted in a “look what I survived and it was worth all the hard knocks” kind of way.  Other moments reveal the joy found in that even the slightest success as an artist is valuable because it is so fleeting and hard to attain on any level.  For example, at the end of the road for the Sons Of Elvis, Mr. Hill, having found himself working as a painter instead of touring the country with the band whose latest single had been enjoying moderate rotation on radio and MTV notices a sticker for his one-time group while painting a bedroom of a house.  These accounts are balanced by tales of family and friends and ordinary circumstances with some humorous twists along the way.


Book Review:
Elvis In Vegas
Paul Lichter
2012 Overlook Duckworth Peter Mayer Publishing
It seems that Elvis is slipping off the radar of pop culture recently, so, it is fitting that a new book about his life and times is released.
This book chronicles in photographs and anecdotes the milestones in the life of Elvis Presley during arguably the height of his stardom focusing on his association with Sin City.  Though this period primarily encompasses his many appearances at the Hilton International Hotel during the 70’s, the details also include appearances in 1956 at the Frontier Hotel as well as his later tour appearances.  
This book speaks more to the fan of everything Elvis than those only interested in his music and contribution to early rock and roll, but it’s important to remember that that is what he had become...a superstar known for more than his music.  It stands then that in most of the book, music is secondary to Elvis as a superstar or movie star.  All of these elements are essential to understanding the tragic and heroic life of The King.
The fan of the music may find details of the bands in Vegas interesting.  James Burton, featured prominently in the performances was originally asked to play the ’68 Comeback Special, but couldn’t due to his commitment with Frank Sinatra.  Longtime Elvis fan John Wilkinson signed on as rhythm guitarist, Ronnie Tutt (later replaced by Bob Lanning) on drums, Larry Muhoberac (later replaced by Glen Hardin) on piano completed the rhythm section for most of the Vegas engagements.  Recordings of this group reveal a unique sound created by seasoned musicians that was the perfect foil for Elvis’ Vegas period.
A large part of the photos are live shots and behind the scenes from the Vegas shows.  Fans of his costumes will find these detailed with outfit names.  It is interesting to trace the development of the outfits over the years as it is to note the use of the cape on some to compete the ensemble.  Their flamboyance becomes suitable of any mega-star musician from the 1970’s.  It is also interesting to see that they become a little more subdued (if only slightly) towards the end of his career.  The book reveals a little known fact that the jumpsuits were modeled after a karate Gi and initially designed by Priscilla.  
In the text, we find details of a generous and kind person who always put the music and the fans first.  You can easily take from this that that is a key to his success.  You also find an individual who was trapped in the enormous pressures of super-stardom and was capable of reacting unpleasantly when these pressures became to great or things didn’t go his way.  The book is unflinching in reflecting both sides and only strays from it’s focus on Vegas to provide some context to the last period of Elvis life.

CD REVIEW: A Time For Love

CD Review: Arturo Sandoval A Time For Love


When you pick up a CD by Arturo Sandoval, you expect to be captivated by virtuoso performances of fast bebop lines or hot Latin Jazz. A Time For Love captivates, but by lowering the blood pressure twenty points and drawing you into a world of soulful ballads. This is not a sterile “Sounds Of Romance” jazz recording, but another side of a trumpet virtuoso who is as comfortable in his execution of fast bop as he is with the lyrical ballad. So comfortable, the entire album is comprised of the latter.

A collection of instrumental and some vocal performances, Arturo Sandoval’s latest release includes refreshing renditions of well worn standards such as Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, the Kern-Harbach favorite Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and the two Gershwin’s I Loves You Porgy. These are fittingly balanced with arrangements of Gabriel Faure’s After The Dream and Pavane (Op. 50), Maurice Ravel’s Pavane For A Dead Princess and Astor Piazolla’s Oblivion (How To Say Goodbye) which features vocalist Monica Mancini. Pianist Kenny Barron and trumpeter Chris Botti also make guest appearances.

The quartet of Sandoval on trumpet and flugelhorn, Shelly Berg on Piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass, and the album’s producer, Gregg Field on drums and percussion is backed on many of the tracks with string arrangements by Jorge Calandrelli and one Shelly Berg arrangement. Calandrelli’s arrangement of Johnny Mandel’s A Time For Love is especially entertaining as the strings and Sandoval chase each other through the melody.

The title may initially seem misleading as Sandoval explains in the liner notes. Some of the songs are love ballads, but the title also refers to the love of the blessings the trumpeter has to be thankful for such as family, friends, and, after defecting from Cuba in 1990, freedom. The recording is another side of a jazz icon and another side of jazz itself.


In Print: The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue 1957-1965

by Sam Stephenson

Alfred A. Knopf

Sam Stephenson’s book contains photos and accounts of the many jazz musicians who were welcomed to assemble and jam at his New York apartment building. The top three floors of the building on Sixth Avenue in the industrial/retail section of mid-town Manhattan was inhabited by artists and musicians and allowed for late night jamming without complaints from neighbors.

821 Sixth Avenue was home to one of those rare circumstances in the history of musics where like-minded musicians and artists gathered consistently over a long period of time to collaborate, play music, and share ideas and experiences and further their craft without outside pressures or restrictions. Painter David Young, who resided on the 5th floor came to know some of the local jazz musicians in the early 50’s. He opened his loft to them for rehearsal space. Hall Overton, who was influential to notable musicians Steve Reich and Thelonious Monk, occupied the 4th floor where he would conduct music lessons. Musician Dick Cary occupied the 3rd floor.

W. Eugene Smith moved into half of Overton’s level to complete work on an ambitious project to document the city of Pittsburgh. The photojournalist became known for his front-line photography of WWII and was a popular photographer for life magazine. After setting up his apartment to sort through the thousands of photos taken in Pittsburgh, he eventually abandoned the project and turned his attention to life on the street outside his window and the musicians that came to his building.

In addition to taking thousands of candid stills of the musicians in action, Smith also wired the entire building with microphones and recorded just about everything. Details of the the music recordings and photos of the indexed open reel tape boxes abound throughout the book as well as transcripts and accounts Smith’s recordings of conversations, radio and television broadcasts, and musicians simply practicing. There is even a transcript of a recording of Smith talking about his recording equipment. The photos, though, are where interest in Smith as a photographer and the musicians who were there intersect. The list of jazz greats that stopped by is a long one, and the jazz great-but-unknowns is longer. A short list of photos of musicians featured in the book include Thelonious Monk, Jim Hall, Zoot Sims, Buck Clayton, Jay Cameron, Dave McKenna, Roland Kirk, Bud Freeman, Wingy Manone, Gus Johnson, and Bob Brookmeyer.

In addition to the black and white photos of the musicians, Smith also captures life on the street outside his window. These photos paint a vibrant picture of New York in the late 50’s and early 1960’s and provide additional historical context to the events occurring inside 821 Sixth Street: photos of men in suits with handkerchiefs in the breast pocket wearing fedoras and porkpie hats; ladies wearing gloves and trench coats; stenciled lettering on shop windows next to hand painted and neon advertisements; fire trucks with open cabs and police cars with the single bubble emergency light on the roof; whitewall tires on a passing car.

It must have been quite a scene. In one of the transcripts of Smith’s recordings from 1964, Zoot Sims and some other musicians discuss how the loft scene is regrettably coming to its end. They knew what they were a part of was something unique and are sad to see it go. W. Eugene Smith’s work and Sam Stephenson’s compilation of these efforts captures what they were going to miss.

Interview with Linda Dusman PART I

The music of Baltimore based composer Linda Dusman is diverse. Her piece, Solstice, which she discusses further in this interview, is an adventurous exploration for students performing in concert band. O Star Spangled Stripes is a battle of wills between a snare drum and piano. Much of her music is intended for chamber performance, though she has created works for interactive and installation settings and is currently preparing a piece for orchestra.

Dusman takes inspiration from nearly everything around her. Even in pieces she has been commissioned to write, the music is based on ideas she finds compelling in literature, nature, the experiences of others, and other music. The music of other composers is also important to her in the study of music theory, which she teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in addition to music composition and instrumentation.

In this interview, Linda Dusman discusses the inspiration for her music, the concert experience, and offers advice to other composers

You write music for many different genres. How would you describe your music as a whole?

I think I’m pretty eclectic actually. I do not use traditional harmony. I don’t have objections to triads...[but] sometimes I don’t do that at all. It tends to depend on the situation and what it is I’m trying to convey. So I think in some ways I’m multilingual. I choose the language that I’m going to write in based on the situation. For example, I’m finishing up a piece right now that’s going to be premiered in October. Actually I thought it was finished two months ago, but I’m still working on it (laughter), still refining some things. You know how that goes. This was a piece inspired by an artist who I met at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I did a residency there in February of this year. I just love this artist’s drawings...they felt very sonic to me. I wouldn’t say musical, but sonic. Somehow it felt like they evoked sound. I went to her studio and actually recorded her making these drawings. So then I had these sounds of pen strokes that were quite strange. I wanted to combine them with Michael Richards’ [Chair of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Music Department] clarinet playing. He does a lot of noise-based extended techniques on the clarinet.

In that particular situation I was finding a single note that would, I felt, blend with the sounds of these pen scratches and then everything came out of that. Now that’s a very different situation from say, a wind ensemble piece that I did about ten years ago where I was asked to do a piece for a high school wind ensemble. There it was a different kind of audience. I really, as a composer, think of myself as somebody who is collaborating with the performer, the audience, and myself. So there are three entities involved in this, not just me, [and] I’m trying to find a way to teach people the piece, particularly if I’m working with unusual sounds and dissonant harmonies. I try to find a way to write the piece so that people can learn about it as they’re listening. That’s part of the reason I often have very evocative and slow moving openings: to kind of get people’s ears warmed up before I actually get into the meat of the give them a chance to sort of wake up their ears, get a sense of the sound palette that I’m working with, and then take off and move in a certain direction with it.

I’m also very often influenced by extra-musical things. Things outside of sound themselves...literature, for example. I did a piece for flutist Lisa Cella and Jane Rigler’s duo. It was inspired by a passage from a Virginia Wolf novel. The passage says something like, they sat next to each other melting into each other with phrases. They formed an unsubstantial territory. I’m not saying it as well as Virginia Wolfe does, but it’s something to that extent. So when Lisa asked me to do a duo for her ensemble, this passage (I was reading The Waves at the time) struck me, the idea of two people together blending into each other with phrases and forming at the same time an unsubstantial territory. So it took off from there. I used piccolo and alto flute in that particular piece, two very dissimilar members of the flute family, to try to create that separateness, but then I used their overlapping ranges. They have a bit of an overlap in terms of ranges and certainly in terms of noises that the two of them can create. Within that [is] a kind of unsubstantial territory. They go apart, they come together. That’s an example of a concept or a piece of literature that inspired me to work on that piece in that particular way.

The wind ensemble piece, when I wrote for [high school] band, I started reflecting on, “What was it like for me in high school? What was it like to be there?” Because I’m writing now for students that are this particular age. I don’t remember high school with great memories, frankly. It was a very unsettling time for me. Puberty, all that kind of stuff, complications, emotional complications. So, I wrote this piece called Solstice that was actually bi-tonal to create in a bi-tonal framework these kinds of clashes. You feel like you’re OK, you’re in this tonal, particular key, and then suddenly this other key buts up against you creating some tension there. In that sense, it was a little bit, I think for the high school players, quite unusual because They’re used to playing straight tonal music. But, I felt like it communicated with them about my memories of that time.

You said you consider yourself, the performer and the audience when writing music. One of the things I enjoyed about playing music in high school was, playing the horn, I didn’t always have the prominent part, but usually there were fun parts written for the instrument. How much did that cross your mind as you were scoring Solstice?

I’m always trying to write parts that people enjoy playing. To me, that’s what gets communicated to the audience. If the performers are not enjoying the piece, there’s no way the piece is going to succeed. Of course, you can’t always control that. You can’t control if the high school bari sax player is going to be happy with the part, but I do try to think about that. And that’s something I try to encourage my students to do, too. To think not just about the overall ensemble sound, but the sound that each instrumentalist is playing so that they have something rewarding in their part in and of itself.

You mentioned the piece inspired by literature. I noticed a lot of your music is based on some literature or poetry. In addition, some relate to an idea or a situation. How does that differ from writing music with a freer approach like working intuitively?

Well, I think I do work intuitively, it’s just that I draw my inspiration from a variety of things. I certainly enjoy my ears, I enjoy listening to things, all kinds of things. So, not just music, but the sound of the world and the sounds of nature, urban landscapes, you know, I find interesting sounds all over the place. I enjoy my eyes. I enjoy what I see. The light on the water, the lace that trees in winter create against the sky. Literature; the kinds of emotional palette that’s available there, or the ability to kind of get inside someone else’s head, how someone else is seeing the world through what they write, helps me to know more about myself. [In] all these things, life is a process of learning about yourself, learning about other people. I look to the concept for the inspiration, but then once the music starts, I look to the music. I keep thinking about the concept until I begin to hear something. Once I begin to hear something, then I listen to that (laughter). I used to try to stick with the concept. I don’t do that any more. I think that’s been a change in the last ten or fifteen years. Now, I end up loving the sound. As a composer you fall in love with the piece (laughter). Then it’s all about the piece and the sound, not about something you’re trying to impose on it from the outside.

continued....see Part II

Interview with Linda Dusman PART II

continued from Part I....

So you take your inspiration and allow it to grow...


When did you start composing music?

I always fooled around on the piano. I was always making pieces better. I grew up in a very small town. There wasn’t a very sophisticated musical environment where I grew up. I had a piano teacher who taught me from method books and stuff like that where a lot of times the music is pretty boring, so I was always adding stuff to make it better (laughter). The first time I actually just went off and wrote my own piece was for this orchestration class. My professor said, “If you want to write your own piece, you can. You don’t have to arrange someone else’s.” So I did that and it was a revelation to me. I felt so much happier doing that than being an interpreter. I really felt like my creative strengths were much more in terms of making something than interpreting something. Players have to be imaginative interpreters, and I never felt like I had a lot of imagination for interpretation. That was a struggle for me as a pianist, so this was like I [had] opened up a whole new potential for myself. At that point (I was 22 or 23) I decided I would spend ten years doing it and see where I ended up. Ten years down the road, I had a college teaching job as a composer. So I was sort of set: that was what I was going to do.

I’ve sometimes felt that there are two types, composers and performers.

Well, there are composer-performers. There are people who are composers who perform their own music and the music of other people. I think they’re different than people who are just composers or people who are just performers. They’re kind of a hybrid.

Three kinds...

There’s a hybrid, yes.

When I think of piano players that are great interpreters of, say, Beethoven, often these are not people who are known as composers.

No. Very often, I do think, performers do some composing because it’s satisfying to them. Composers do some performing because it’s satisfying to them, or they keep up their playing to be able to stay connected physically with the creation of sound. I think those are very good things to do. But, I think, at a certain point, it’s pretty hard to keep both up equally well, and you notice for yourself what your real strength is.

Have you found that it’s hard to balance composing and performing?

I don’t perform. My secondary area is music theory. So I write. I write articles and give papers at conferences and stuff like that. So, I also do some of that work. I find that that is very interesting, studying the music of other people. And, of course, it helps my teaching...I teach music theory. To keep exploring how does one look at a piece of music and come to understand it more deeply, that’s what music theory is for me.

In almost every genre of music, new releases and performances of new works are sought after. With music of the classical tradition, new works are considered to be a fringe component of the entire genre. Would you say that this perception is perhaps due to the fact that there are so many countless styles that are called “New Music,” or is there some other reason for this?

I think the recording industry is the cause (laughter). The fact that a hundred years ago at the turn of the century, you couldn’t listen to historic music, except if you went to a concert hall. So, for the most part, people were interested in whatever the composer of the day was up to. As a result, they were up on the music of their time. I don’t find that people today are up on the music of their times. They become attached to the music of some other time and its reiteration. So, people love Mozart, and then they go to concerts and they want to hear Mozart. And they’re upset if what they’re hearing doesn’t sound like that in some way. Because of the recording industry, it’s amazing now. Especially the world music area. Some small culture on an island, someplace that has their own kind of music, somebody will go there and record that and, boom, it’s broadcast all over the world. You can buy the CD, you can download it. There’s such a wealth of sounds out there now, and types of music. Contemporary classical music is just this little tiny...though there are many of us...I think the census said that there were twenty thousand people in the United States alone that called themselves composers...there are lots of us around, and doing lots of different styles. They don’t say what kind of composer they are.

To follow your analogy with world music, it might be difficult to find the world music that you enjoy out of all of that. I feel the same way with Contemporary or even American Classical music. There are so many different styles. There are tonal composers, avant-garde composers, and everywhere in between.


It might be difficult to go to a new music concert with one thing in mind and, with four, five, or six works performed, chances are they’re going to be of very different personalities.


I wonder if that’s why this music is on the fringe, or, even considered experimental music.

People need to come to contemporary music concerts with a sense of adventure. You have to come with open ears. When I was a student, I went to concerts practically every night of the week, and I would be really happy if there was one piece on the program that just really attracted me...that I really felt pulled to. Because it’s a polyglot. There are so many languages out there. The thing now is everybody’s trying to find their own voice. So, rather than previous eras where there was kind of an agreement about style and use of harmony and use of instruments, now it’s just wide open and everybody’s trying to figure things out for themselves.

Certain ensembles tend to be drawn to certain types of music. So, certain ensembles will have a stylistic bent that you can kind of predict what kind of music they’re going to play. That is one way to pick and choose. If you find an ensemble that you like, like their taste, that’s one way to do it.

There are some ensembles that are doing things like putting up on their website program notes in advance...putting up little audio samples so people can sample the music in advance, hear a little bit of what it’s about, and hopefully be intrigued to come. Or, make a decision that they don’t want to come. So I think part of it is educating, but...part of it too is...we’re in an era where we can get what we want pretty quickly. If we know we like “X,” we can download “X.” And then, you just listen to “X” (laughter), because “X” is what I like and “X” is what I can get access to right away and I’m an “X” person. As opposed to, “What’s out there?”...having that kind of curiosity. I say I go to a concert and I don’t like a piece, well, there’s always something in there that I listen to. It’s rare that I can’t shift my ears a little bit and find something interesting in whatever I’m listening to, whether it is the particular timbre of a thing, the tone color that somebody is using, or the rhythmic aspects of it. Sometimes I listen to contemporary pieces and I get just furious. I get angry. But I keep listening, and then something happens. Something shifts.

[I read that] when you hear things repeatedly, your brain cells actually change. I think that’s probably happened to me with contemporary music. I think I’ve listened to it so much now that when I hear something, I know which path to go down neurally. For people who haven’t had those neural pathways laid, I can see where it would be very frustrating. But I think the thing to remember is that as you listen, your brain will do that for you if you just don’t get up and storm out, or have the patience to sit with something. It does require patience, I think, and that’s not a bad thing to learn either. I think we’re a very impatient people these days. If my computer doesn’t boot and get me that thing right away, I’m just frustrated. You can’t bring that to a concert hall and be happy (laughter).

Composers are always interested in finding ways to have their works performed. What advice would you offer?

Two things. One, and these are just practical things, one is to join composer’s organizations where they send you what’s called a score call. You’ll get an e-mail announcement saying such and such an ensemble’s looking for pieces that involve tuba, violin, and tape. If you have anything like that, send it. You have to be constantly in the business of running to the post office as a composer, or e-mailing stuff out, or having stuff available on a website for download. The other thing is to find performers who are interested in the music that you write. So, if you have performers [who] are interested in your music, that gives you a steady pipeline of performances. But it only goes so far, right? Only as far as those performers are going to go, so it’s helpful to be able to send your music out to a wider network.

Would you recommend unsolicited contacts with ensembles?

If you feel like they’re into your type of music, yes. If you listen to their concerts and the music they tend to be drawn to is the kind of music that you write, then absolutely. If it’s not, then don’t waste your breath, I would say. [Just] blanket[ly] sending things out, I think, is just a waste of time, because it really doesn’t work that way.

You just signed with Silent Editions.

It’s just getting going. I thought it was an interesting concept for publication because sending out [a] paper score is just a thing of the past. Well, not completely, but, I think, like everybody else, performers are interested in instant access. So, to send an e-mail to a composer and have the composer get around to getting to the post office, unless you have a publisher to send it out to that person, it’s a very slow process. Giving performers immediate access is a great thing, or people who are interested in studying your music, that sort of thing. I haven’t found yet that Silent Editions has been a great source of performances, but as I said they’re just getting going and I’m supportive of the enterprise.

Would you suggest that composers who put scores on the internet also include audio files?

Yes. I think that’s a good idea too.

The Towson New Music Ensemble will be performing your piano Piano trio, Diverging Flints, this fall. Will this be the premier?


In your writings you caution against attempting to summarize a musical phenomenon with a series of definitions. That being said, can you tell me about this piece?

(Laughter) Sure. When I was working on the violin and electronics piece five or six years ago, I came across a series of chords that I really liked in the musical material I was working with, but they weren’t going to work for violin. So, I sat those aside. Bill Kleinsasser, the director of the New Music Ensemble at Towson, asked if I would be interested in doing a piece for them. I had never written a piano trio. It’s an ensemble that I find very compelling. I love the sound of the string instruments. The piano, of course, provides the possibility for big harmonies. Big chordal sections [and] the balance of the string sounds. Composers have written piano trios for many many years and I thought it was something that I would like to give a try.

Diverging Flints is a quote from an Emily Dickenson poem. [It’s] the idea of two stones rubbing together. If those stones didn’t rub together, the sparks would never have occurred. Once the stones rub together and the sparks occur, the stones are actually different even though they may never touch again. One of the things I discovered about these harmonies was I would offset the groups of chords by one, and new harmonies occurred each time. So each time these flints would strike, there’d be a new series of sparks that would occur from offsetting the harmonies by one, by two, by three, and so on. I just became very fascinated with that. Some of the sections are more dissonant, some are more pure, more consonant...fifths, octaves...because of this offset. And the whole idea of something striking and sparks spraying out from it...there are flourishes like that. There are passages where the ensemble is very tightly metric. There’s meter that’s keeping them together, and parts when it’s not metric and it’s more free. Sounds happen more freely, but then they snap back into place again. I’m imagining that one of the more challenging things about playing it is playing free, then tightly metering it again. So, it’s always about the interaction of the performers when you’re writing a small ensemble like that, and in this particular case, them striking up against one another and the sparks that can fly when that happens. [That’s] the image that was in my mind when I was working on it and these chords, these harmonies, that I found that I liked embody that in sound.

This is a very dynamic piece. I think of it as a more dynamic piece than a lot of my music. Some of my music has been involved with slow, evocative things. This one isn’t like that. This one is highly energized, though there are some slow contrasting sections.

What’s next for Linda Dusman?

I have two pieces being premiered in October and another one in March. I’m going to be writing an orchestra piece for the UMBC orchestra that will [premier] next season. I’m starting an on-line publishing archive for music by women composers. Those are the big projects, and then, there’s always something. I have an idea for a piano piece. There’s a pianist in Italy who is interested in that piece when I get around to doing that. A [solo] piano piece may come out of the piano trio that I wrote. I did a piece for the Rivers School New Music Festival in Massachusetts and they asked me if I might be interested in doing another piece for their next new music festival. I’m working a couple years out now knowing what’s on the horizon for the next project. Usually while that one’s cooking, something else comes up. I’m busy.