Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Vocal Sampling

Dr. Bob Prescribes: Vocal Sampling

You’re going to thank me for this It was Wednesday, September 18, 2002 (I didn’t remember that date; I looked it up). I was stuck in the car, driving somewhere. (Generally but accurately speaking, when you’re driving anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are very like stuck in the car, meaning stuck in traffic.) In those days before GPS and Waze and Google Maps and such, the only way to find out what the traffic was like was to turn on the car radio and listen to your local all-news station. Of course, by the time you actually heard that traffic report, you were likely already caught in traffic or were about to be. Since there are few things more maddening then being stuck in traffic and then being told via the airwaves that hey, guess what?, you’re stuck in traffic, I did what I always did under such circumstances, and that was tune in our local NPR affiliate, KQED. All Things Considered was on the air. The stories aired that afternoon described a depressing litany of the world’s problems at the time, and included stories on the Congressional hearings on Iraq; school vouchers in Maine; pre-September 11 […]

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Greenberg Recommends – Vocal Sampling

When I was a graduate student I had the opportunity to study with a wonderful composer (and teacher) named Olly Wilson. A piece of advice Olly gave his students (myself included) was to listen to and thus immerse yourself in whatever instrumental combination you were composing for in order to get (and keep) the “sound” of that ensemble in your ear. It was good advice, but for me, only up to a point. Yes, in preparation for beginning a project, I like to do a little such listening. But once I’ve started writing, there is no chance and no way am I going to listen to another composer’s music for a like ensemble. Here’s why. I am presently working on a trio for violin, ‘cello, and piano. I began writing in early March and am presently about halfway through the first draft. Listening to recordings or live performances of other piano trios at this point can only do two things: distract or induce despair. Regarding distraction: I’ve got to let my musical materials go where they want to go. That means focusing with narcissistic intensity on my materials and my materials only. To hear – and worse, be influenced – […]

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