Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author


Celebrating With Eighth Blackbird

The amazing Chicago-based new music group eighth blackbird played a concert in Berkeley’s Hertz Hall yesterday evening (Sunday, February 14th). At the invitation of the group’s Managing Director Peter McDowell, I sat in on their rehearsal yesterday afternoon. The group is phenomenal, and the rehearsal had, in fact, the character of a high-end performance. I was privileged – along with Peter – to be one of the two people in the house to hear the rehearsal. Following the concert, two of the six members of Eighth Blackbird headed home to Chicago, while the other four headed down to Los Angeles. They were up for a Grammy award today, and figured to be in LA today for the awards ceremony. Well DANG: they did indeed win that Grammy, and it couldn’t have happened to a better organization. Let us raise a glass to this wonderful bunch of musicians – and indeed, to the entire new music performing community – that keep new music and composers like myself alive and well. I will be forgiven a brief but heartfelt call out. There is a special place in heaven reserved for such new music specialists as well as for those many, MANY extraordinary […]

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An Evening of Art and Music

The Alexander String Quartet and I are doing a benefit fundraiser for the Montclair Elementary School in Oakland on October 10. The Montclair Elementary School is a public K-5 school in the Oakland Hills. Founded in 1925, it numbers among its present students my daughter Lillian (a third grader) and my son Daniel (a first grader). Public education. Pardon me for getting a bit vehement and more than a bit teary-eyed here, but there is nothing more important and yet financially undervalued than our public schools and the magnificent people who teach in and administer them. Yes, yes; it’s cliché to ask, but still: when was the last time the prison system, the military, and our state and national bureaucracies had to hold bake sales, car washes, and silent auctions in order to raise operating funds? When did our national priorities become so profoundly skewed? So raise funds we will, with a program to be held between 6 PM and 9 PM on October 10, 2015 at the David Brower Arts Center at 2150 Allston Way in Berkeley, California. Here’s a description of the program the Alexander String Quartet and I will perform: “Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791), […]

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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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“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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Rarefied Air

On November 13, 2012, a piece of mine entitled Rarefied Air was performed at Old First Church in San Francisco under the auspices of Composers, Inc. That performance – which featured Rob Bailis on clarinet, Michael Nicholas on violin, and Hadley McCarroll on piano – is now up on YouTube and thus available for your listening/viewing pleasure. Rarefied Air For B-flat Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1999) I. Liftoff II. Creatures of the Night III. Fresh Aria IV. Crystal Set Rarefied Air was originally written for the ensemble Strata. “Strata”, according to my Webster’s Collegiate, means “layers lain atop one another. . . regions of the atmosphere that are analogous to the strata of the earth.” “Rarefied” air is that thin, clear, high layer of air lying at the top of the lower atmosphere, also known as the “stratosphere”. This bit of atmospheric esoterica is meant to explain the inspiration for “Rarefied Air”. Movement I, “Liftoff” displays immediately the three basic registral strata of the piece: an explosive and densely chromatic low level (the “ground”), an intervening and rather more lyric middle level (up in the “air”), and a brittle and brilliant upper level (the “Strata-sphere”, as it were). The music […]

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South Bay Angle (A Twisted Tango)

On Sunday, March 17 a piece of mine for violin and piano will receive its rather long-awaited premiere under the auspices of “Sounds New” at 3 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley at 1 Lawson Road, Kensington. It should be a blast. My program reads as follows: South Bay Angle (A Twisted Tango) 1991/2011 Titles can, like mold-scum atop month-old cottage cheese, take on a life of their own. South Bay Angle was originally composed in 1991 during an Astor Piazzolla-inspired fit of tango-madness. While a more appropriate title for the piece would have been something on the lines of “I Can Do That!” or “This Gringo’s Token Tango”, circumstances conspired in another titular direction. The piece was originally intended for performance on a program produced by Composers, Inc., a new-music collective in which I was (and remain) an artistic director. Composers Inc. was then in its seventh season. In those days when newspapers still mattered, Composers, Inc. sought to receive as many print reviews as possible. To that end, the organization invited Paul Hertelendy, who was then the music critic for the San Jose Mercury News, to cover its concerts. He said he would do so provided […]

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