Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author


Invasive Species Premiere Performance

For your viewing and listening pleasure I offer up the premiere performance of Invasive Species for piano quintet, performed by the incomparable Roger Woodward and the Alexander String Quartet in Berkeley, CA in March of 2014. (For a studio recording of the piece, score and parts, please visit Sheet Music Plus) Here’s the program note for Invasive Species: Three-Part Intention March of the Yellow Crazy Ants One-Part Incursion Pretty Pretty Poison Two-Part Ignition E. globulus (10-20-1991) The title Invasive Species refers to non-native species of plants and animals that, once introduced to a new environment, have an adverse affect on the habitats and bioregions they invade and colonize. Specifically this piece is about three “invasive species” portrayed in alternating movements: yellow crazy ants (“March of the Yellow Crazy Ants”), water hyacinths (“Pretty Pretty Poison), and gum eucalyptus (“E. globulus”). Generally, the piece is about confrontations between like and unlike elements, as most obviously depicted by the confrontation between the piano and the string quartet. The yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) most likely originated in West Africa. Accidentally introduced to northern Australia, it has devastated the local ecology. The ant is called “crazy” because of its unpredictable movements and its long […]

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Compositions Now Available on Sheet Music Plus!

My music is now being digitally published by Sheet Music Plus. By September 1, 18 pieces will be “live” with scores and parts available for digital download. In addition, a recording of each piece can be heard free-of-charge on the website. For those pieces that have also been recorded in video, links are provided to those videos. Works currently “live” (and on sale!): Suite Revelation for cello and piano (2014) 180 Shift for piano trio (2013) Invasive Species for piano quintet (2012) Lemurs are Afraid of Fossas for cello and piano (2011) South Bay Angle for violin and piano (2011) So Let Us Live – Really Live! For baritone and piano (2009) Tempus Fugit for piano (2008) Anything you Can Do . . . for violin and vibraphone (2006) String Quartet No. 4: Snappy Rejoinder (2005) Funny Like a Monkey for piano quartet (2001) Rarefied Air for B-flat clarinet, violin and piano (1999) Behavioral Science for trombone solo (1998) Pluck for guitar solo (1996) String Quartet No. 3: Among Friends (1995) Iron Balconies and Lilies for soprano, piano and chamber ensemble (1992) String Quartet No. 2: Child’s Play (1988) Quasi un Madrigale for soprano and piano (1985) Prayer for the […]

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Invasive Species Update!

Color me thrilled and grateful. Our Kickstarter campaign has raised its required 3k minimum, and will thus pay out on March 11, the day of the premiere for which the campaign was created. However, my dearest, darling, beneficent, generous-to-a-fault friends (was that treacly enough?), the cause of new American music is a good one, and while we’re raising money for such, we might as well go whole hog and keep the dollars coming in for the remaining five days. All additional funds raised via the Kickstarter will go into the coffers of the estimable Composers, Inc., the mission of which is the performance of new American music by living American composers. The essential beneficiary of the Kickstarter is the premiere of my piano quintet “Invasive Species” by its dedicatees, the brilliant pianist Roger Woodward and the magnificent Alexander String Quartet. We’ve been in rehearsal all week. As a teaser, I offer up a brief video below, which features the conclusion of the final movement of the piece, entitled “E. globulus (10-20-1991)” “E. globulus” is the species name of the Blue Gum Eucalyptus tree, an incredibly fast-growing weed of a tree that was planted across the San Francisco Bay Area in […]

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“Invasive Species” Kickstarter

Today’s post offers an invitation, a request, and a screed. Invitation Come one; come all; please: I have a premiere coming up on March 11 at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley, California; 8 PM. The concert will take place under the auspices of Composers, Inc., an organization dedicated to the performance of new American music currently celebrating its thirtieth anniversary. My piece – scored for piano and string quartet – is entitled “Invasive Species”. It will be performed by the spectacular Alexander String Quartet and the brilliant Roger Woodward. A program note for the piece appears in the link below. A request Composers, Inc. is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds that will be used to pay the performers and defray the costs of the concert. This link will take you to the Kickstarter page, and I humbly beg, beseech, and implore you to contribute towards this event. Any amount would be wonderful, though I would point out that $75 or more is going to cadge you an invitation to a party at my house in the hills of Oakland, CA, at which I will mix you a martini, feed you, and, once sodden enough myself, play piano […]

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The Premiere of “180 Shift”

I had a premiere in Stockton, California on November 2 and now, with video in hand, I would take the opportunity of sharing it with you. The name of the piece is “180 Shift”; it is scored for violin, ‘cello, and piano. The piece was composed for and dedicated to a wonderful group called Trio 180 on a commission from the Pacific Arts and Lectures Committee of the University of the Pacific. The premiere performance was outstanding. The rehearsals were excellent as well, though I have learned over the decades that great rehearsals do not guarantee a great first performance. It is, I think, one of life’s truisms that we never really “know” anything (which includes playing a piece of music) until we have done it in front of other people (or, on the same lines, until we have taught it to other people). There was a time when premieres made me downright nauseous. I was worried that the players were going to botch the piece; I was worried that the audience was going to hate the piece (and me and my entire genome by extension); I was worried that I was going to vomit, etc. As it turns out, […]

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Robert Greenberg Premieres — “180 Shift”

I will have two works premiered this season. In the spirit of self-promotion I am posting the particulars and would then discuss the first of the premieres, coming up in November. Premiere One: “180 Shift” (2013) Place: Recital Hall, Conservatory of Music at University of the Pacific, 3515 Pacific Circle, Stockton, California Date: November 2, 2013 Time: 7:30 PM Series: Resident Artist Series Performers: Trio 180 Ann Miller, violin Nina Flyer, ‘cello Sonia Leong, piano Commissioned by and dedicated to Trio 180 and supported by a Pacific Arts and Lectures Committee Award/Grant More information Premiere Two: “Invasive Species” (2012) Place: First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley, California Time: 8 PM Date: March 11, 2014 Time: 8 PM Series: Composers, Inc. Performers: Roger Woodward, piano and the Alexander String Quartet Zakarias Grafilo, first violin Fred Lifsitz, second violin Paul Yarborough, viola Sandy Wilson, ‘cello: Composed for and dedicated to Roger Woodward and the Alexander String Quartet in honor of the Alexander String Quartet’s thirtieth anniversary More information 180 Shift Trio 180 received their parts and scores for “180 Shift” about 6 weeks ago. They’ve been practicing, rehearsing, and asking me all the right questions since. They are, individually […]

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Robert Greenberg Composition — Lemurs are Afraid of Fossas

With all my recent “talk” about composers and such, I thought it would be appropriate to “walk the walk” and post some more of my music, if only to verify that I am not completely full of cow chips when I presume to assert what composers “are” and “aren’t”. So I am taking the opportunity to repost a premiere performance of a work for ‘cello and piano entitled “Lemurs are Afraid of Fossas” that took place in San Francisco on April 24, 2012. I originally posted the performance in early May of 2012 when I had about 4 (maybe 5) people following this blog. Thus, I feel okay about doing a repost given my rather larger current readership. It was a dream premiere, featuring musicians – ‘cellist Monica Scott and pianist Hadley McCarroll – who were talented enough to play everything I wrote and smart enough to figure out what I was trying to say. Enjoy. (Try to hang on ‘til end. I was very happy with the third movement.) Movements 1 and 2: Movement 3: For your reading pleasure, here is a program note: I. Predating Game II. Things That Go Bump in the Night III. The Shadow Knows […]

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Behind a Composition – Technology Conversation Continues

I was pleased as punch by the discussion generated by my last post regarding digital technology, digital-shortcuts, the piano and composers. A number of correspondents argued that digital notational programs like Finale and Sibelius are simply “the next thing”, and that the limits placed on one’s creativity by actually composing on one of these programs is little different from the limits imposed by composing at a piano. I would pick up the ball right there, because these assertions are incorrect for a number of reasons. Reason one. Keyboard instruments began consistently employing a full chromatic keyboard (using the same layout as the modern piano) by the late fifteenth century. This was in response to growing pitch resources of the evolving tonal system, a system based on the primacy of the triad and the concept of harmonic consonance and dissonance. The invention of the harpsichord in the late fourteenth century was due in no small part to the growing demand for a portable yet more resonant keyboard instrument capable of clearly articulating and “broadcasting” the new harmonic vocabulary. The point: the emergence and development of keyboard instruments was not merely a technological event but an ORGANIC EVENT, one tied inextricably to […]

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Behind a Composition – Technology

I am fond of saying (overly fond, frankly) that “technology is our friend, except when it isn’t.” We all know that this is true although it is tiresome to repeat. Nevertheless I have repeated this truism as a reminder that our techno-toys often actually hinder progress and creativity. Technology. We were led to believe that computers would reduce the amount of paper we waste. Hah. We were told that cell phones, email and texting would bring us “closer together”. Please; the absurd ease with which we can now communicate has in fact lowered the standard and meaning of our interaction. Meanwhile, an entire generation spends its waking hours “cyber multi-tasking”, which is a euphemism for “not doing any one thing particularly well.” Dang, I do sound old. I bring all of this up because modern technology has impacted mightily on how composers actually compose. For what it’s worth, here’s how I do it. My compositional methodology is decidedly old school: my basic tools are pencils and paper. Specifically, Music Writer pencils made by Pacific Music Papers and Passantino No. 85 spiral music notebooks. (When I started seriously writing music around the age of 14, I discovered music manuscript notebooks made […]

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