Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Composers Inc

Dr. Bob Prescribes Modest Mussorgsky: Complete Songs

You Know It When You Hear It For 35 years – from 1984 until 2019 – I was part of a composers’ collective called “Composers, Inc.” As originally construed, we were six San Francisco Bay Area composers that banded together to produce concerts of new American music, concert that would – obviously – include our own, under-performed and under-appreciated works as well. Over the years, we staged hundreds of world and West Coast premieres and contributed mightily, or so we all continue to believe, to the American new music scene. Self-congratulations can be unseemly but, in this case, they are deserved. Fairly early in the organization’s life, Composers, Inc. instituted a composition contest, which came to be known as the “Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Composition Competition.” Composers from across the United States were invited to submit chamber works to Composers, Inc. An administrator logged the entries and removed any names and identifying marks from the scores and recordings. Those scores and recordings (usually between 300 and 400) were then divided into six groups/batches. Each of the six composers that made up the “Artistic Board” of Composers, Inc. (the photo above) then listened to two batches of music. (This way, every […]

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Unique Contest for Piano Composers and Arrangers

Sheet Music Plus, home to the world’s largest online sheet music selection, and San Francisco non-profit, Composers Inc., today announced a piano composition contest. Professional Steinway pianists at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Walnut Creek and San Francisco will showcase winning pieces and winners will each receive a $300 award, along with a $200 travel stipend should they choose to attend the concerts. Starting today, composers and arrangers can submit original piano compositions among four different categories to the SMP Press platform. SMP Press allows users to upload and sell their original sheet music and MP3s on the Sheet Music Plus website, earning 45% in royalties. Contest submissions are welcome through November 6, 2015. “We are very excited to be partnering with Steinway, the world’s piano leader and nonprofit, Composers Inc. to encourage original and creative piano composition,” said Jenny Silva, CEO of Sheet Music Plus. “Sheet Music Plus has always taken pride in the original work of its member musicians. This contest allows us to celebrate and promote our independent community of composers and arrangers.” “As an advocate for living American composers, Composers Inc. is proud to be partnering with Steinway Piano Galleries of the San Francisco Bay Area […]

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Explorations in Music, KALW, The Alexander String Quartet & Relationships

The old line goes that being a member of a professional string quartet is like being married to three people, except there’s no sex and nobody cooks. The lack of food and sex notwithstanding, professional quartet membership IS a marriage. The members of a quartet live for and with each other; they depend on each other; they spend countless hours with each other through sickness and in health and along the way survive the ups and downs inherent in any long-term relationship. They rehearse together and, in doing so, they constantly compromise in order to create a musical whole greater than the sum of their individual parts; they travel together (when a string quartet travels, it must book FIVE airline seats: one for each of the players and one for the ‘cello); nightly, they experience together the stress and trial and potential disaster (and occasional glory) of public concertizing. If the musical and personal chemistry between its four members are not right, a string quartet – no matter how good the players are, individually – cannot succeed or survive. The magnificent Alexander String Quartet was founded in New York in 1981. After 33 years, the ASQ is still going strong, […]

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The Diane Elizabeth Clymer-Greenberg Memorial Concert — Next Week!

A further plug for the Composers, Inc. concert scheduled to take place next week in Berkeley. As a reminder, Composers, Inc. – now in its 31st season – is dedicated to the cause and performance of New American music. The concert will feature works composed within just the last few years, by Cindy Cox, Don Freund, Marty Rokeach, Andrew Sigler, and yours truly. All five composers are slated to be in attendance at the concert, there to receive your huzzahs or your rotten tomatoes. (If you choose to pelt me with the latter, I would ask that you throw as well some buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil so that I might at least snack après le concert.) The performers at Composers, Inc. concerts are always world class, and will include on October 7 Trio 180 (Ann Miller, violin; Nina Flyer, ‘cello; and Sonia Leong, piano); violinist Kelly Leon (who is about to celebrate her 25th year with the San Francisco Symphony), and the percussionist Jack van Geem (who has been the principal percussionist with the San Francisco for 23 years). (Jack is a legend: one of the greatest mallet percussionists of all time. While he is not performing my music […]

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Composers, Inc. News

I’m about to become even more tiresome than usual in my promotion of the new music performance group “Composers, Inc.” Founded in 1984, Composers, Inc. is dedicated to the creation and performance of new American music. There are no Euro-composers, alive or dead, on its programs; goodness knows, the Euros have enough venues already. Neither will you find metabolically challenged (i.e., deceased) American composers on the programs of Composers, Inc. (although the organization will, on rare occasion, mark the passing of an American composer with a performance). No, the mission of Composers, Inc. is to perform (and commission) works by living Americans, particularly emerging composers. My interest in the group is both personal and professional. For 29 years I have been one of the “composers” who directs the group (I was asked to join when the organization was just a year old), and on May 1 of this year I was elected president of its Board of Directors. Check out our beautiful website! My election means that you, my friends, will have to endure my ongoing efforts to enlist Board members, raise moolah/dinero/buckaroonies, build audience, etc. etc. The Board and money can wait; the remainder of this post is about […]

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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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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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