Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Composition

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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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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