Marti's Blog

Fall 2017 Performances of Marti Epstein's Music

September 1, 2017 Barge Music Here and Now Series, New York City, pianist Kathleen Supové: American Etude no. 10- Tremolos.

September 13-14, 2017 Trinity Wall Street Time's Arrow Festival, New York City: Abraham Lincoln's Mystic Chords of Memory, Troubled Queen, See Even Night, Flower World.

September 25, 2017 Berklee College of Music Faculty Composers Series, Boston, Rose Hegele and Felicia Chen: Eleven Basho Haiku.

October 15, 2017 Collage New Music, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Oil & Sugar.

October 19, 2017 Shenandoah Conservatory Edge Concert Series, Winchester, Virginia: Nebraska Impromptu.

October TBA, 2017 Berklee College of Music, Kari Juusela and Richard Carrick: The Audacity of Hope (world premiere).

November 26, 2017 Winsor Music, Brookline, Massachusetts: Komorebi (world premiere)

December 1, 2017 Lydian String Quartet, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts: Hidden Flowers, Phosphenes (world premiere).

December 2, 2017 Equillibrium Ensemble, New School of Music, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Different Kinds of Light.

watch this space for venue and ticket info, or contact marti@martiepstein.com

 

 

Marti's Winter/Spring Concerts

 

January 23, 2017 Boston Conservatory Seully Hall 8 p.m.   On Monday, January 23, 2017 the fantastic Boston-based string trio, sound energy (Micah Brightwell, Ashe Gordon, Ben Swartz), will be performing a concert of my chamber works. They will be joined by Elizabeth England, Rane Moore, and Lilit Harutunian. FREE ADMISSION.

January 27, 2017 Harpa Concert Hall Reykjavik, Iceland:   Duo Harpverk will perform Virga, a piece I composed for them in 2015, as part of Iceland's Dark Days Music Festival.

March 31, 2017 Boston Conservatory 8 p.m. (location tba):    The Conservatory's Classical Contemporary Music Program spring concert will feature a performance of my large chamber ensemble piece, Troubled Queen. FREE ADMISSION.

April 7, 2017 Open Sound at Third Life Studio Union Square, Somerville 8 p.m.:   I will be performing my piano piece Haven as well as a piece by local composer Hallie Smith.

June 9, 2017 Equillibrium Ensemble Third Life Studio Union Square, Somerville 8 p.m.:   I will be premiering Paul Fake's Piano Sonata. I am sharing this program with clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich.

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Can't take Our Art Away From Us

Unlike most of my friends and colleagues, I was fairly sure Donald Trump would win the 2016 election (I was also sure the Cubs would win the World Series- stay tuned for a future announcement about my career change to Prognosticator). And yet, as I sat in Boston's Symphony Hall on Tuesday night, hearing about election return updates between pieces, I was still shocked.

It seems clear to me that, if you view the two candidates equally, the one who actually treats human beings as if they were less so, the one who seems to have the World's Shortest Attention Span coupled with the World's Thinnest Skin, the one who has no idea what's in the U.S. Consitution, the one who doesn't have any idea how government works, is NOT the one who should be elected leader of the free world. I am tired of hearing "Yeah, but Hillary's a crook" or "You should see what's in those emails". Frankly, I Don't Care. From what I've seen, all politicians have an interesting grasp on what it means to tell the truth- even my beloved Barack Obama- so a candidate's propensity for veracity is hardly a factor for me. We have elected a man who has normalized vitriol against non-Christians. We have elected a man who doesn't recognize that this country was built on immigrants (Donald, don't forget Melania). We have elected a man who views women as a commodity- and THIS is the spawning ground for sexual harassment and discrimination. This is the man- if he can even keep his mind on the job- we have elected to lead our country.

I could spend the rest of this post explaining that since only approximately half of all registered voters actually voted, and because of the intricacies of the electoral college, he was NOT elected by a majority of Americans. His election is NOT a mandate. BUT, instead, I'd like to go back to Tuesday night in Symphony Hall. My friend Maria and I were there to hear a premiere of a work by Eric Nathan, Brahms' Piano Concerto no. 1, and Brahms' First Symphony. It was during the symphony that the full import of the experience hit me: Andris Nelsons, a cherished immigrant from Latvia, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra were giving us the most treasured gift. It was a gift of the most sublime presentation of some of the most sublime music- music that has existed since it was composed and will always exist. All the art and music that has been created and that WILL be created will always exist. It transcends the immediate sadness and angst. It is there for all time to uplift and comfort. It is our spirituality, it is what makes us uniquely human. It cannot be taken away by anyone. It is what makes our lives worth living.

So, it is time for me to stop crying- if I can- and resume creating and teaching others to do so. It is our most powerful weapon, and we must always wield it with wisdom, imagination, wonder and awe. It cannot be taken away from us.

 

Architecture

I think it's strange that Morton Feldman had such a low opinion of Beethoven. Convinced that Beethoven's music was structured solely according to functional tonal harmony, Feldman missed the most important aspect of Beethoven's work- a deeply organic expression of form, proportion, and scale; an aspect that Feldman's music shares.

While Beethoven's music in many ways exemplifies Common Practice tonality, the paths he takes to move from key area to key area show that, for him, balance and proportion are paramount. My favorite examples of this are in the first movement of the Waldstein sonata. Instead of stating the second theme in the key of the dominant (G major in this case), Beethoven finds his way to E major- not one, but four sharps away. What key, then, should the second theme be in when it's restated in the Recapitulation? It's supposed to be in the home key of C major, but Beethoven understood that the strangeness of the key area for this theme in the Exposition required a corresponding key of balance in the Recap. Since E major is the major version of the mediant, it would be satisfying to balance it with A major, the major version of the submediant- and that is exactly what Beethoven does. 

The end of the Development section has another example of Beethoven's attention to proportion and balance. In order to prepare the listener for the return of the original key and first theme, it was customary for a composer to state thematic material on the dominant chord at the end of the Development section- the Dominant Pedal. In the Waldstein Development section, Beethoven never stays in one key for more than a few measures- usually just one or two. By the time we get to the end of the Development section, we have no idea where we are harmonically; we need a dominant pedal to make the arrival in the home key of C major satisfying and inevitable- Beethoven achieves this with a dominant pedal that lasts an entire page. (I love to point this out to my music theory students in order to show them that harmonic rhythm is often more important than harmonic progression). The longer this passage goes on, the more we crave the resolution.

The Development section itself has a counterpart that shows Beethoven's awareness of the importance of balance. The Development section is so long that it requires another slightly shorter development section at the end of the piece- more typically known as the Coda. There are examples of this- Coda-as-Balancing-2nd-Development- in many of Beethoven's pieces; it is a hallmark of his works in Sonata form. It's a product of his keen architectural awareness.

Morton Feldman was as keenly aware of architectural structures in his own music. He was a composer who was able to conceive of vast musical expanses of time and to create coherence and structural beauty within those expanses of time. Only a composer who had a deep sense of proportion and scale could compose pieces that last 4 hours (or more). Each gesture spins organically to the next in a way that always keeps one engaged; to my ears, not different from the way Beethoven, or Mahler, or Sibelius constructed their large-scale forms. 

One of the most profound expressions of musical proportion and balance is in Hans Abrahamsen's Schnee. Schnee , for large ensemble, is made of 5 pairs of canons with three interludes. Each pair of canons gets shorter and shorter so that the piece seems at once like it's staying completely still while at the same time rushing towards an end point in the horizon. The interludes exist to achieve retunings within the ensemble. Abrahamsen has talked about trying to replicate the Doppler effect in this piece, both with the telescoping form as well as with the retunings in the Interludes. The lengths of the movements create a perfect sense of balance and scale, one that at the same time creates a profound sense of nostalgia and loss. (And, I think the one lone tam-tam strike happens at the Golden Section!)

I believe that the formal shape- the proportional map of the piece- is more important than any other aspect. The most beautiful or interesting sounds mean less without a clear, artistically meaningful container to put them in. In Beethoven, Feldman, Abrahamsen- just to mention a few- the brilliant attention to structure and shape is what makes the music so moving, so meaningful.

Two Upcoming Premieres

Hi Everyone!

I have two premieres coming up in May 2016.

Monday, May 2, the Ludovico Ensemble will premiere Mary Magdalen, my cantata for mezzo-soprano (Jennifer Ashe) and cimbalom (Nick Tolle).  This concert is a CD release concert for Ludovico's new CD of music by Mischa Salkind-Pearl, and features music by both me and Mischa.

May 2, 2016 8 p.m. St. Paul Church at 15 St. Paul Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. Free Admission.

 http://www.ludovicoensemble.org/#!current-season/c21ax

and

Thursday, May 12, The New Gallery Concert Series will premiere weavery, my new piece for soprano (Carrie Cheron), baritone (Brian Church), bass flute (Jessi Rosinski), and cello (Nicole Cariglia). My piece is a collaboration with the amazing video artist, Deb Todd Wheeler. The concert also features works by David Rakowski and David Cucchiara.

May 12, 2016 7 p.m. Community Music Center of Boston at 34 Warren Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Admission $20, $10 students and seniors.

http://www.newgalleryconcertseries.org/

 

 

Marching Band is My Life

With regards to composing, I started relatively late.  I was not a child prodigy; as a matter of fact, when I was a young music student, it never occurred to me to even try to compose. I was always drawn to playing the piano, and somewhat devoted to playing the clarinet, but writing music was not even a glimmer of a thought.

And then, in 10th grade, I entered high school and became immediately immersed in the wonderful and robust music program at Harry A. Burke High School in Omaha, Nebraska. This story is a lesson on how deeply and profoundly a public school music teacher can affect his/her students. 

Dr. Steve Lawrence (aka "Doc") created an instrumental music program that consisted of an orchestra, a concert band, a smaller wind ensemble, a clarinet choir, theory classes, jazz band (which at times turned into a 50's band, Big Daddy and the Ducktails ), chamber music groups, an annual (and hilarious) variety show called Bits and Pieces, and an extremely festive and unconventional marching band (as well as its winter sport counterpart, the pep band). I believe that I played in every ensemble I had room for (and some I didn't- I was consistently late for my Algebra class because I had clarinet choir right before). To say I was bitten by the music bug is an understatement. I was making music of all kinds at all levels and felt as if I had found my spiritual home. I knew, without any doubt, that I was meant to be a musician. Dr. Lawrence had gone to the University of Iowa to get his doctorate in clarinet; consequently, I felt that getting a doctorate in music was the ultimate achievement.

One small problem with that plan: as Dr. Lawrence gently put it, there were thousands of excellent pianists out there in colleges and conservatories competing against each other. And there was never a question of whether I would major in clarinet performance; I loved (and still love) the clarinet, but was never cut out to play it professionally. Doc was NOT discouraging me; on the contrary, he was painting an accurate picture of what my life would be like should I choose to embark on the Piano Major path in college. He did something that changed my life, and pointed me in the direction I have never wavered from. He suggested I do some arranging for the marching band; I believe the first thing he asked me to do was to compose a flute obbligato. I discovered, much to my amazement, that I was good at writing music, and that I enjoyed doing it. I seem to remember other similar kinds of projects. Doc eventually told me that he felt that the combination of my talent at music theory and my creative nature might translate into an ability to compose. He set me up with Dr. Robert Beadell for monthly lessons at the University of Nebraska, and I felt as if I had found my true musical self. I started composing then- this was 1977- and I have never stopped.

Dr. Lawrence had some of us take harp lessons so he could have harpists in the orchestra; I feel that as a result I have a much better affinity for writing for harp than I might have had otherwise. Having too many clarinetists, he suggested that some of us learn string instruments. I played viola and took after school viola lessons- never really getting out of first position, but once again, developing a greater affinity for writing for string instruments than I might otherwise have had.

But, maybe the absolute MOST important thing Dr. Lawrence gave ALL of his students, regardless of talent or ability, was a love and appreciation for the community aspects of making music. Marching Band, potentially an onerous obligation for a public school music teacher, was treated as the ultimate group activity. Our halftime shows were entertaining, and the 7 a.m. practices to prepare for them instilled in us a family-like camaraderie. We were the band geeks, and we were proud. And many of us are still connected to each other, thanks to Facebook. The music itself wasn't always the highest art imaginable, but the act of playing the music together with the other students was deeply fulfilling.

I am the musician I am today in no small part because of my public music teachers- Dr. Lawrence, Jeffrey Sayre, Glenda Kalina, and of course my dad, who was never actually my teacher in school, but whose own Marching Band experiences in the Carson-Macedonia (Iowa) school system gave me my first exposure to the wonders of the Marching Band communal music making.

I am forever grateful to all of these people. I would not be who and where I am today without them

 

My First CD!

Thanks to the incredible support of the Ludovico Ensemble and the Kittredge Fund, I am happy to announce that the first CD of my chamber music is going to be released on November 24th, 2015! To celebrate, there will be a recital the evening of the 24th at Boston Conservatory Seully Hall at 8 p.m. featuring two of the pieces from the CD, hothouse. and Hypnagogia. Admission is free, please come!  

https://www.bostonconservatory.edu/event/faculty-recital-marti-epstein

http://www.ludovicoensemble.org/#!current-season/c21ax

 

 

 

 

Website or Blog?

Welcome to my website! My blog is the homepage- feel free to ignore it and peruse the rest of the site, where you can listen to some of my music if you'd like. If you would like to read the blog posts, you can read about my thoughts on handwriting, on being a composer-hockey mom, on the connection between baseball and Morton Feldman's music, etc.

On November 24, 2015 at 8 p.m. at Boston Conservatory, the Ludovico Ensemble will be presenting a concert of Hypnagogia, an evening-length piece I wrote for them. This concert is to celebrate the release of a CD of my chamber music featuringHypnagogia, amongst other things. Watch this space for other concert announcements, news, and blog posts.