The Long Hello

The Long Hello

Today marks the official release of my first professional recording, a track on a disc of contemporary tangos performed by Amy Briggs, released by Ravello Records. I am thrilled to be included in this collection, sandwiched between pieces by Stravinsky and Shapey.

Of course, all the performances are utterly brilliant. One would expect no less from a pianist who has earned extraordinary accolades for her intelligent and highly musical advocacy for the music of our time. After recording several discs worth of Rakowski Etudes, I imagine that these tangos presented relatively little challenge for Briggs. In addition, she toured with this program for a long time leading up to the recording, honing her interpretation of each piece.

But that tour was a relatively long time ago. And therein lies the story.

The project began in the summer of 2003, when the composition department of UC Davis invited Briggs to be in residence the following spring. They proposed this project and graciously offered to fund the recording session. Briggs approached me and several other composers and invited us to participate alongside the Davis faculty. To complete the program, she selected other pieces taken from the Yvar Mikhashoff project. For me, there were two stipulations: the piece needed to be completed by the end of 2003, and it needed to be no longer than three minutes.

I wrote a piece that was clearly my best composition to date, and Briggs premiered it in May 2004. Unfortunately, she got injured and was forced to cancel the initial recording session and Davis concert. These instead were accomplished in the spring and summer of 2005. I soon had a beautifully edited master copy. And I eagerly began awaiting the imminent release.

As I have realized in the interim, the ensuing delay was not an unusual occurrence. Many recordings take years to come to fruition. The mechanical licensing, packaging design, and other elements can create monumental hurdles, even when all parties are committed to a project.

This does present me with an interesting emotional dilemma. As I mentioned above, my piece absolutely reflects the best effort I possibly could have achieved in 2003. But it’s now 2010 and I’m a very different composer. At the time, the three-minute time limit didn’t present any difficulty for me whatsoever. Everything in my life was more rushed then, including my musical statements—perhaps reflecting the fact that I was teaching six days a week while working to complete my doctorate and training to run marathons. As long as this piece is my only recording, I’ll feel a bit strange, as if an outdated picture were always attached to my biography. Of course, in 2003 I also still had hair, so perhaps a picture from then would function as a welcome change for me.

Fortunately, the ensemble Pictures on Silence recently went into the studio to record a piece I completed last year. Hopefully, that disc will be available in fewer than five years!

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