Saturday, January 16, 2016

Études Volume 3

YouTube made this playlist — the third étude CD on Bridge. Liner notes will be found a ways down here. You can also view this playlist on YouTube, where you can see the entire list.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Metadata is forever

So Michael Lipsey commissioned a bunch of us to write hand drum pieces for him about a decade ago, he concertized with them and recorded them, and the recording made it onto all the streaming services — with the usual host of metadata boo-boos.

To wit, my piece for talking drum and tabla which I called Mr. Trampoline Man (me so funny) got entered into the metadata as David Rakowski, by composer Michael Lipsey. Want it fixed? Never gonna happen. Metadata is forever.

Also of note. YouTube autogenerated this movie for reasons unknown.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ten of a Kind

My first band piece since high school, and I benefitted from Michael Colburn's advice "don't write a band piece. We have lots of band pieces. Write your music, for band." You need ten virtuoso clarinetists in the same room, which doesn't happen all that often. As Beff noted, "even the alto clarinet part is virtuosic."

Not only did I get paid to write it — the guys in the production room did the parts, and I got a free trip to Lucerne (the one in Switzerland) at taxpayer expense. for the 2001 WASBE Conference. What I remember most was a complicated coffee maker right out there in public for anyone to use. So I did. Also the instrument collection at the former Wagner summer house (we saw the staircase where Siegfried Idyll was premiered) and the Picasso museum — mostly late-in-life pornographic drawings from Picasso's dirty old man period.

This is the edited studio version, recorded in 2001 at George Mason University. It also appears on my Martian Counterpoint album on Albany records.

There is an idée fixe-cantus firmus thing in all the movements. Its most obvious manifestation is the double reed solo in the B section of the third movement. It's also the trumpet melody in the fanfare that opens the whole piece.

I. Labyrinth. This movement was written last, thus it benefits from knowing everything else that's going to happen in the piece. It also has a whole bunch of metric modulations, and some pretty apeshit writing at the end.

II. Song Stylings. This was the first movement written, and thus the tune that emerged became that cantus firmus thing. It ends with an expanding chord progression, the last being ten notes. The two notes not in that chord become the opening tutti of the next movement.

III. Yoikes And Away. A scherzo about overstated climaxes, each more overstated than the last. The last gesture is like Daffy Duck slamming into a tree and then sliding down it. Hence the title.

IV. Martian Counterpoint. Some of the most complicated counterpoint I've ever written. Of the bass clarinet solo in the middle, the original player said "you must really love or really hate your wife." The ending reprises the ending of II, lingering on that ten-note chord, followed by a silly flourish to end.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Bogan songs

These are my first published songs, and were the first vocal music I had written in 10 years. 1989, when these were written, is a very long time ago, but it didn't seem that way at the time.

Judy Bettina was my colleague during my year at Stanford, and we hit it off. So she asked for songs, and this is what happened. The third song, To Be Sung on the Water, took a very, very long time to write because I kept chucking stuff — and thanks, of course, to Ross Bauer, for whom I played an early draft of that song, and his reaction was lukewarm. "Not up to your usual standards" is how I remember it being phrased. See, that's what a good composition teacher does. Ross was not my composition teacher.

And it turns out the song is pretty. Plus it has one fractional time signature.

Cassandra was originally written as an unaccompanied song, and I heard Judy do it that way swimmingly soon after I wrote it. The lush textures of the other two, though, convinced me I should add a piano part to it. Which I did, while keeping the vocal line exactly the same. And adding more wedges to the counterpoint at the end.

Late might have been loosely aggregate-based, I don't recall exactly. Marty Boykan liked it, and assigned it as a generals piece in about 1991. So three papers have been written on it. One of them speculated that I like pop music.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The interval études

One of the what's-the-étude-about strands is intervals, as in Debussy's piano études. Here are a bunch of them. Missing from this cavalcade are Twilight (on melodic thirds) and Pitching from the Stretch (on tenths), since there are no videos or auto-generated videos on YouTube.

Seconds (N.B. this is the first étude video ever shot. Note butterfingers camerawork)


no video or recording of Twilight.








no video or recording of Pitching from the Stretch on YouTube.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Zio davino dot net

This blog now has its own domain, Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Incidentally, check out the mobile blog. It's my new tumblr/old mobile blog. Its new URL is

The music blog is now at

And my old, classic blog is

All of them for less than the cost of a bottle of Brunello.

davy@ or zio@ any one of those domains will send an e-mail to me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I can arrange that

And then there is the issue of arranging existing pieces. A lot of composers make a special effort to go to a Polynesian restaurant just for the Pu-Pu Platter so that there is plenty of resonance when they pooh-pooh the notion of arranging arrangements. There is, after all, a cult within a cult within a cult within a cult of composition-by-buttstik in which the music and the ideas for the music flow from the nature of the instruments themselves. You know, you don't write open-string double stops for saxophone — am I right? Am I right? Ich hab' recht. Kein scheiß.

The other thing, of course is the spelling of pooh-pooh. If you poo-poo something, then literally it is scheiß, and if you pu-pu it, well, at least there's a lot of variety in cuisine, and it's largely bite-sized. But in the pooh-pooh spelling, are we setting up a Winnie-Winnie situation? Very small minds want to know. Which is why I'm glad I don't want to know.

Well, okay. Famously, lots of Bach's music is transcriptions of his other music. For you see, he was a cult within a cult within a cult, having never broken through to the fourth level. Beethoven orchestrated one of his piano sonata movements in order for it to serve as incidental music (thanks, Dalit). And how many of us would know Pictures at an Exhibition without Ravel? Hey, we had a whole pile of supermarket classical CDs in the house (bound together on metal rods and secured by flywheel screws) and, though we never listened to it in the house (Judy Collins and Bobby Vinton singing in Polish were on auto-repeat), I do remember seeing that there was a composer in the pile whose name was Moussorgsky-Ravel. A hyphenated name from the old country. And incidentally, I added a syllable in my mind: Mussogorsky, possibly a relative of Piatogorsky, who, at the time, I hadn't heard of. And the last two syllables? Pronounced exactly like the last two syllables of unravel. As in, at the time, Saint-Säëñs was the Un-Ravel.

In the fifteen minutes spent on copyright issues in grad school, you learn that arrangements are derivative works. If composer B arranges composer A's work for different forces, then composer A owns the copyright on composer B's arrangement. Composer B can fret and fume about non-payment for all his or her work, but since the underlying music belongs to Composer A, so do all the arrangements of it. To wit, when I was an undergrad, a colleague-in-undergradness wrote Bernstein's publisher to ask if there were a saxophone version of the clarinet sonata. The publisher wrote back saying no, but they'd give him $100 (or something like that) if he would arrange it. Which is a lot more than if he had taken the initiative to make the arrangement and then just sent it to the publisher. In which case, the publisher would have been within their rights to send him a MWA ha ha It's All Ours Now letter.

I first arranged something of mine way back in high school. I had written a pretty, auf-Persichetti piano piece that I would play whether or not anyone was within earshot. A clarinetist and a saxophonist from our church, thinking it cute that I was a composer now, asked if I'd write something for them to play together. Rather than revealing the truth that they both sucked as players, eew, I arranged the auf piece, and made sure I was never within earshot when they played it.

Then somehow through conservatory training, and the prevailing gestalt, I joined that cult within a cult within a cult within a cult. It was a lot of work to do that, since I had to learn four different secret handshakes. My handshakes brought all the boys to the yard, and that was just weird. That violin and piano piece I wrote for Ken Sugita? WOW, was it all about the violin and about the piano. It was serious, and full of thought. Thought oozed from every pore of it, and even though the "ugh" was silent, it was something experienced by all who looked at it. For it was one of those pulseless, highly syncopated things using lots of ink that, in 1979, were supposed to get awards.

Yes, ink. Not toner.

And then I got into Tanglewood.

On my, uh, seventh try. Each try was a different year, by the way. I didn't send in seven applications all in the same year. Because that would be silly. And expensive.

Good things come to them what waits.

Russell Hershow, Theodore Antoniou, T'wood premiere
And it was well known by me that a piece of mine would be played at Tanglewood by some of tomorrow's stars (tomorrow was only a day away, at the time), and by lots of them if I wanted. I wanted a performance of a big piece! Size mattered! But full orchestra was out of the question, and my one orchestra piece (the one I wrote in order to have an orchestra piece for grad school applications) sucked anyway. So, quickly and without much thought, I arranged the violin and piano piece for violin and a chamber orchestra of eighteen instruments. Why eighteen? Because I thought I could reuse it if I ever got into the Johnson (now Wellesley) Composers Conference, and I used pretty much the whole complement of instruments available. Greedy me. I was taking all the complementary angles I could.
Davy takes bow after premiere. 1982.

So of course the instrumental writing was full of overwriteyness, but it got played, and played very nicely. The soloist was but 18 at the time, and now he plays in the Chicago Symphony. And there were two or three nice things in my arrangement, including a breathing place where a D# seemed to resolve to E in an A-majorish atonal context.

But only eight minutes of music for those big forces? Was I crazy? (One word answer: ask again later. Yes, that's three words because I'm a heavy tipper). So I made up a story. This is the finale of a concerto. Yeah, that's the ticket. The finale of a concerto. They bought it!

And, oh, by the way. When I got back to graduate school after Tanglewood, I wrote two more movements to go in front of it, which became known as the first and second movements. And by the time I did go to the Composers Conference the next year, there were two movements for them to play. With Rolf Schulte as the soloist! For a while that recording was my big (literally) hit, and it was on cassette. Good things come to those whose big hits are on cassette.

Years later, CF Peters took the violin and piano piece for publication, it got engraved, and sold almost, oh, 37 copies. It's a big score. Since I signed over copyright, that meant they also owned the concerto — because it is a derivative work! At the time, when I was seeking resumé lines, it was cool, because two new published works turns out to be twice as many as one new published work. With STEM in place now, that ratio is under review.

And the issue of arranging? Assigning arrangements of piano pieces for various instrumental forces is the way I (and billions of others) teach orchestration. One fine February vacation when I only had a few blank working days to spare, I decided to orchestrate my Zipper Tango piano étude, possibly in the future to be a demo piece for Orchestration of How I Did It, See?. Which was immediately and unexpectedly weird, because I was hearing saxophone for the opening tune, and saxophone is an "extra" in the orchestra (they don't get tenure). Thus were gears shifted for me (in my head), and I arranged it for band instead. Even though the only band music I'd written to this point (other than in high school) was stuff with ten clarinets going apeshit all the time.

And then, dammit, that opening tune kept going higher and outside of the saxophone range. So I got to demonstrate, for myself, that handoff thing that I always talked about in Orchestration. Sax hands off the tune to clarinets, rolls right, and the clarinets gain 4 yards. The play is now under review. Then, metric modulation, oh baby. Because bands do metric modulations all the time, right? Or at least soon they would. Because, you know.

I sent it to Michael Colburn at The President's Own for his feedback. He said a 3-1/2 minute band piece doesn't have legs (and it would be weird if it literally did, and if it did, how many would there be?). If it's part of a set that's 10-15 minutes, well, then he said the band, and other bands, might give it a go. No, he didn't suddenly become British.

Moosehead Pond in Maine
And so that summer (we were vacationing on Moosehead Pond in Maine) I revisited the four existing so-called vernacular études — tango, bop, stride, rock and roll — and arranged them for band as best I could in the mornings, given the size of my brain. Of course, since Peters owned the rights to the piano études, thus did they also own the rights to the new derivative work. Woo hoo!

And the band premiered it/them at the Midwest Clinic that year. They sprung for a schmancy hotel room for me and Beff, and I got to introduce it, standing there as if I wore a suit regularly. At the event, I met Donald Hunsberger (woo hoo!) who went out of his way (he had to step around an oboist) to praise Ten of a Kind, and we were off.

Incidentally, I didn't hear a runthrough before the premiere because the Marine Band's plane was co-opted by a General who was certain he needed it more. Thus were they a day late to the festivities, arriving just in time for the sound check.

Years later, Michael recorded the piece for a whole CD of piano pieces arranged for band, and today the band posted the recordings on Yout' Oob. How good are they? When he sent me the second edits for commentary, my comment was We fall off the edge of the earth. He probably thought I was talking in code, and he was polite enough not to send a return e-mail containing only the text "????".

Here they are in all their glory: the band arrangement of each étude, followed by the original piano piece. So there. Thanks to the vagaries of Yout' Oob, it's possible to listen to both the arrangement and the original simultaneously, if being so inclined to do so is something you are right now.

Zipper Tango, tango-étude on grace notes. Originally written for Amy Briggs's tango project.

Bop It, bop étude. Geoff Burleson asked for it after I'd written a stride étude.

Strident, stride piano étude. Amy Briggs asked for it. (In the arrangement, I cop to harmon mute abuse and especially to vibraslap abuse)

Moody's Blues (suggested by Rick Moody), rock and roll étude, Jerry Lee Lewis style, on repeated chords.

And they all rolled over, and one fell out. I use it in Orchestration as an example of arranging piano music for band. Winnie-Winnie.

Post Scriptum. I was asked, but not in the passive voice, about orchestrating a piano glissando into band. Here's what I did. Thank goodness for the miracle of cut and paste in Finale.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The earthlink site is dead. Or frozen. Or something.

I'm no longer updating my old, old website (begun in 2002), so the big red links from that site's opening page now point to this blog, and to other things related to this blog. The pages are still there, but not referenced from the opening page, because, you know, stuff. And a lot of the pages are now here, referenced from the list on the right.

Also, I like pickles.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hyla lick maneuvers


I don't want to have to write this.


My dear friend Lee Hyla passed …


My dear friend Lee Hyla passed away at the beginning of June. Besides being a very dear friend, he was also one of the most intriguing and original composers out there, a composer imitated (usually badly) by many — and a great guy to hang out with.

Shit. Fuck.

When I heard, I was at Yaddo, at work in the Stone Tower. Beff called. The studio is deep in the woods at a place where cell phone signals go to die. To hear Beff, I had to go outside onto the bridge connecting the Tower to the hillside.

"It's all over Facebook. Lee Hyla … died." At this moment, it was like I was watching myself get that news, not getting that news. This is such a cartoon thing. No way it could be true. No way it should be true. Crap, he's so young, he's my friend, I knew he had been ill and had pneumonia, but…

I was on Facebook early that morning, and not a word.

Fuck. God damn fucking fuck.

It really didn't sink in until I hung up, took a walk through the Yaddo woods to clear my head, and got back into the studio. It was a bit much to bear. I checked e-mail in this cellular hell, and several emails were there about Lee. It was true.

The best — and only — way to forge ahead was to bury myself in work, which I did, immediately. I was writing a song cycle, and was at a verse break. Right there — exactly where I was in the music — is where I applied a synthetic Lee Hyla texture to the piano part. I.M.L.H. means what you think it means. It's not as good as Lee Hyla, but it doesn't have to be.

Tributes (not so much different from this one, but mostly shorter) started to appear pretty quickly, on blogs from his students and friends, and a bunch of astonishingly cogent, intelligent, and serious obituaries appeared in Boston, New York, Chicago, and online.

I don't intend here to try and splain the hell out of Lee's music, nor duplicate the kinds of stuff already said elegantly and in great quantity in many places. Though I don't mind saying that Pre-Pulse is one hell of a great piece, the string quartets are masterful, Howl is a scarily good piece, the Piano Concerto No. 2 is killer; even the smaller pieces like We Speak Etruscan, Mythic Birds of Saugerties, and Wilson's Ivory Bill are pieces I've returned to often. Beff played Mythic Birds, so I heard her practicing it a lot. The house tended to shake when she played the repeated low notes after the squawky punk lick that is a signature of the piece.

Yes, Lee brought vernacular into the serious music world. He wasn't the first, but he opened doors that no one knew existed. Yes, he brought eclectic collections of licks together into the same piece. What no one has talked about (and I don't intend to, much) was the brilliant, micro-timed way he sculpted fractured continuities. His pieces turned on a dime, and even when the fracturing had been happening a while, each new one was surprising and fresh. Proportion, phrase length, breathing, microtiming — Lee was a master at working out the nuts and bolts that made everything sound so natural and inevitable. Long whole-tone or octatonic swatches of stasis, in-your-face loud stuff that had a few things seemingly wrong with it, sleight-of-hand climaxes — trademarked Lee effects, but that's just description. The stuff composers care about and are uncomfortable talking about because it doesn't make for good dissertations — Lee did all that stuff, worked hard on it, and made it sound easy. And didn't talk about it.

In fact — several times I have had graduate composers in lessons whose work I would read through, pause, and simply say, "if you're trying to do the Hyla thing, let me give you some actual Hyla to listen to." As it turns out, stealing from Lee Hyla was pretty easy to notice (it never stopped me, however). But if you're going to appropriate, let's see how it's really done. Otherwise, you get bad Hyla, or really good fake Hyla. Which is better. I also would try to give advice to how to work out timings and breathing. Yes, breathing. As an exercise, go listen to any Lee Hyla piece and listen to how it breathes. Now listen to the timing of events laid over it. Pretty cool, huh?

Oh yeah. And Wilson's Ivory Bill? The antsy, angry dialogue between the live piano and the field recording of a squackety bird is one of the funniest, most serious, most amazing and inventive things I've ever heard. If I had thought of that, I'd be giving CDs of it to everybody. And there would be a link to the sound file in this blog post.

And the Polish Folk Songs. If they went on all day, I would be happy.

But I want to talk about Lee Hyla, my friend.

I had known of Lee, but was innocent of his music, for quite a long time. In the late 70s, Ezra Sims had told me that Lee was one of the most interesting young composers to watch, and that he was doing things that reminded him of Varèse. I liked Varèse. Fractured continuity and all, bigass scowly music.  Never cracked a smile. Ever. Lee was doing the New York thang, and lots of people mentioned how cool he and his music were. As far as we knew, he cracked a smile.

I remember exactly when I first met him. I taught at Stanford in 1988-89 (this is how I remember the year), and was informed I was a finalist for the Rome Prize that March. My interview with the jury was scheduled in New York about a week after the phone call came (and it was the day before I was interviewing for a job at UC Berkeley — the story of doing a job interview after two redeyes is for another post, and hopefully one I never write). That year they had two composer fellowships and four finalists, who all interviewed. They had tried to set it up cleverly such that there were two waiting areas, and so none of the finalists would come into contact with the other finalists, thus keeping that information secret. Gossip spreads like wildfire in the community of Composers Who Think They Shoulda Got It Instead. Well, they apparently got backed up, so there were Lee and me, in the same waiting area, both waiting for our interviews. Lee started the conversation, and it was a normal, pleasant, easy conversation. No gossiping, no shop talk. Just how nice it was to meet me, he'd heard some of my music and liked it, we talked about mutual friends, and we wished each other luck.

That year, Lee and I were the two losers.

Lee's music was getting out on recordings, and I heard Pre-Pulse Suspended live, and was completely bowled over by it. Lee got the Rome Prize the next year. I was a finalist again in 1994 and did not win. And I was a finalist in 1995 and Lee was on the panel. I won.

We were both interviewed for a job at NEC in the early 90s, shortly after he got back from Rome. We conversed about it through intermediaries. Thus did the Boston phase of his life start. Mine started not so long after.

I really got to know Lee when we got some serious hang time at the MacDowell Colony in the summer of 1998 — we overlapped for about three and a half weeks. He was great to talk to at dinner, and was very good with questions at presentations (I'm more the keep it quiet and be thought a fool type). Several times he asked to borrow my car, and now that I think of it, he's the only person besides me and Beff to have driven that old 1991 Dodge Spirit. I was in Omicron, Lee was in New Jersey.

Quite frequently when I was around Colony Hall in the mid-afternoon, returning my lunch basket (they're strict about that), Lee could be spied with an intense expression, holding binoculars and a book, saying nothing, and spiriting into the forest in every which way. Yes, he was a serious birdwatcher, but he kept it to himself unless pressed. I asked one night which birds he had seen, and the three he listed were ones I'd never heard of.

Lee's star turn, and one of his most memorable moments for me, happened on July 4. The colonists had decided to make it a short work day and hold a sort of barbecue-county fair thing in the afternoon, including croquet, a sack race, a three-legged race, and a tug-of-war. The teams were composers, writers, visual artists, and of course the composers won the tug-of-war because Carter Pann was there.

Nicholas Dawidoff, representing the writer team, decided to kick off the festivities with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on his saxophone. It started out simply enough until at the first repeat, Lee started coaching him, loudly and ostentatiously. "That's right, babe, bring it home!" "This next phrase, give it your all!" "Yes! That's how to do it." "Now pull back one last time" "build, build, build.." "show us whatcha got, show us, Nicky!" … and then from on his knees, Al Jolson style, he coached the last phrase with stereotypical Hollywood director fervor. "Bring it home! Bring it home! That's it, that's it!" I think the SSB took longer than normal because of Nicky's laugh breaks.

The Colony asked Lee, me, and Anna Weesner if we would mind doing a little outreach to the Walden School — a fantastic summer composer program for younger composers just a little west of the colony — and we did so. Lee played We Speak Etruscan among a few other things, and one of the Walden composers, smiling brightly, asked Lee if the piece was supposed to be funny. Lee gave a very complete answer: essentially yes, there was humor in his music, sometimes it was intended, and if you the listener think it's funny, then follow through with that in listening to the piece. He then deferred to me and said that I wrote funny pieces, too. I probably said aw shucks.

I also remember that after David Del Tredici's presentation, he remarked that it was uncanny all the different ways he had to sustain tension. Now that was a smart comment.

When I first got to Brandeis, I was asked to do a public panel with Lee, Peter Child, and Randy Woolf, having to do with something about something, and on a Saturday morning. Before it started, Lee said, "you'll do a lot of these here, and the questions are always the same. It doesn't actually matter what you say." Yes, we got a question about humor in serious music. And so on.

Lee and I and Beff and Kate — Kate! — started doing things socially after this point. Kate Desjardins is a painter who also taught at NEC, and she is a whole lot of fun, too. They got a lovely place at the top of an extraordinarily narrow staircase in the North End, with a great sun porch thing in the back, and we often did dinners with them at restaurants in the North End. Lee had an encyclopedic knowledge of them, which was evident when he presented our choices for the evening. He really liked octopus and squid.

I believe Beff stayed in their place one night when she was on her way somewheres and we hadn't moved to the area yet.

Meanwhile, the four of us on the comp faculty of Brandeis were asked to write celebratory pieces for the Lydian String Quartet for Brandeis's 50th anniversary, in 1998. I had been hearing Beff practice Mythic Birds of Saugerties a lot — our principal residence was still Maine — so I had those licks in my mind, as well as those in Pre-Pulse, when I started the first movement of my piece. There was a budget to bring in a fifth performer, and since I wasn't getting paid to write my piece, I added Beff, thus keeping the available fundage in the family.

Thus did I start with some antsy licks that I thought were Hylaesque™ (if nobody has trademarked that word, I hereby do so now). The piece ended up being in three movements, and I seriously considered calling the first movement Hyla Lick Maneuvers. It wouldn't have been my worst title. Listen above.

Lee had, of course, written several brilliant quartets for the Lydian Quartet, and it astonished me that he came to the performance of my piece (Take Jazz Chords, Make Strange). The Quartet had told him I wrote them a really hard piece (I didn't tell him anything), and he said he wouldn't ever miss a Rakowski premiere if he was able to go. It turns out Rakowski is me.

Also, right around this time, he started calling me Davidy. Every e-mail began "Dear Davidy," …. Also, he noted that the Polish pronunciation of his name was Hee-wah.

Once we had finally moved to the area, we had a standing invitation to the legendary yearly New Years Day party every year. It lasted just about all day, Lee wore a bathrobe, and spent nearly all of it at the stove, making pierogis and soup and other such things (this picture to the left is at one of the Chicago parties. Gusty Thomas sent it) It was of course a wide mix of artists, and it was at one such party that I discovered my favorite pickle! Kate made an hors d'oeuvre plate that included Smak pickles. I immediately grilled her on what they were and where she got them, and it turned out to be a small Polish market in South Boston close to a red line station. You better believe I went there, and quick, and bought all the Smak pickles they had. I'm like that.

Beff made sure to take a picture, with her 2004 phone, of me buying the pickles.

We also remember nice conversations with people we didn't know, and being lobbied very, very hard by a composer of cabaret songs to give up names of performers who would be interested in the songs.

We also started getting invited to shows where Kate was exhibiting artwork. Our first show was in the South End, walkable from Copley, and since we're not visual artists and not familiar with the lingo, we actually started practicing generic things to say when we saw it. "Kate, your work has a certain QUIETness" was a big hit. It turned out to be marvelous work, actually, at the time somewhere between painting and drawing, so it was pretty easy to say nice things about it. I suppose it had a certain QUIETness about it, too.

We thought one of the characters looked kind of like Amy Briggs. We loved it. She gave it to us. I think. This picture was taken at an exhibit with a 2004 phone, unsurprisingly in 2004.

Kate eventually had a large work at the deCordova Museum, not so far from us, as part of a big themed exhibit entitled Pretty Sweet. Kate's large painting was right behind the ticket taking. We decided to make an evening of it: Lee would take the commuter rail to Lincoln, we would pick him up, we'd all see the work privately before the museum closed, and then we'd have seafood in Maynard at the Quarterdeck. But I screwed up. The Lincoln station is actually two stations, one for eastbound, one for westbound, and I was too dumb to have figured that out. Waiting on the eastbound side, we wondered why Lee wasn't on any of the trains. Well, he was about 300 feet away, wondering where the heck we were. Lee called Kate from a pay phone, Kate left a message on our answering machine, Geoff Burleson was in the house and heard it, and he called my cell to say Lee was waiting at the station. Now that's a hell of a relay network.

Now I know about the other Lincoln station. We found Lee, hightailed it to the museum, but the lights were out and it had closed. We found Kate, though — who remarked that now there was sufficient evidence for them to get cellphones — and we drove to the Quarterdeck, in the dark, and in the dense fog. We almost hit a deer that sprang across the road suddenly (Beff wants to make sure I mention that we all had kind of a freak-out), but we got there, had great food, and the evening was a success. Also, no shop talk.

Since Lee hadn't seen the exhibit in person, and had no wheels to get out there, it was up to me to go when the museum was open and document it with my lovely Nikon Coolpix. You can see all the pictures of the exhibit on this Photoset on flickr.

Lee loved teaching at NEC, but they didn't give him paid time off to write — no sabbaticals like at a research university. So he schemed various ways to get something like a sabbatical. He got an offer for a full-time job from a university, and his reward for not taking the job was some paid time off. Woo hoo! Thus in 2004-5 there was the need to find replacements to teach Lee's students, and I was such a replacement. Yes, I was a surrogate Lee Hyla. Twice! More on that later. So I taught two very good students on Monday afternoons that academic year (while I was Chair), at what might be called a discount rate I only offer to alma maters. I enjoyed being on the faculty of my alma mater, and I especially enjoyed the not going to meetings part.

Lee at Kate's opening

In 2006, both Lee and I got offers from Northwestern and for a time we imagined how cool it would be to be teaching in the same program. I didn't go, but Lee did (duh). His remark was "three-quarters of the work for one and a half times the pay. A no brainer." Thus did Northwestern become the top of my you-should-apply-to list. Meanwhile, though, NEC started offering sabbaticals, and Lee took one in the year before he started at Northwestern, in 2007-8. Thus was I again a surrogate Hyla, and thus was I able to recruit Travis Alford to Brandeis. For you see, Travis had gone to NEC to study with Lee, but he ended up in his second year with me. Pretty disappointing, huh? Also, Mike Gandolfi managed to get them to pay a non-alma mater rate.

Of course I was at the farewell concert that NEC gave for Lee, and it was a very classy one, with some great performances. There was a well-catered reception preceding it, and I got a little bit plastered before the concert started. When I say a little bit, I mean something else. So I had the whole concert up which to sober (I was driving home), and I gave Wilson's Ivory Bill a one-person standing ovation. It was well-deserved. Also, I was a little plastered.

Lee's exit to Chicago coincided with Beff's desire to get a four-wheel drive vehicle — a Subaru, specifically — for her weekly drives to and from Maine. Thus we were getting rid of our Camry, which had 226,000 miles on it. When we ditched our Dodge Spirit years earlier, Lee mentioned that he would be pleased to accept a car we were getting rid of, even though he hadn't owned a car in many years, and they used Zipcar when they needed one. So we gave him the Camry, and I made up a bill of sale that overstated the price he paid for it by a dollar (it said he paid a dollar, and I presumed he'd pay Massachusetts sales tax on that amount). Then Lee needed sage advice on what car ownership in Massachusetts means, and it turned out to be complicated: he had to get it insured before he could register it, and then he had to pay sales tax when he registered it, at the RMV. It was very complicated, especially when in the midst of moving, and especially since they charged sales tax on the Blue Book value of the car and not on what he actually paid. Sales tax was about 300 bucks, as I recall.

Then, new title, registration, new plates, and insurance document in hand, Lee and Kate came over for another delicious lunch, and a complicated handoff. Kate wanted to make sure that before she drove it to Chicago it was in tiptop shape. So first I explained to them, in the driveway, how to use the cruise control, and I handed over all the maintenance documents we had. We drove in two cars to Acton Toyota, and Kate asked for "the once over". While that was happening, we drove in the available car to the Quarterdeck for lunch (it was great), and back. They said the car was in excellent shape, but one light had to be replaced, for $112. Kate looked at me accusingly, and I told her I'd give them double their money back if they didn't want the car. Then I pointed left out of the Acton Toyota driveway, said "Route 2 is a mile in that direction and go three quarters of the way around the rotary to go towards Boston", and off they went. Since I rode in that same car in Chicago three years later, apparently they made it safely. Kate had reported that she drove it to Chicago solo, with all their plants.

And every e-mail from Lee after this time had a brief report about "the Rakmobile". Dear Davidy, the Rakmobile is doing fine and serving us well.

And right around 2004, we started writing recommendation letters for each other — Lee was itching to spend a semester of his leave at the Camargo Foundation, which asked for letters. It's tedious for middle-aged guys to find even older people to recommend them for artist colonies (or worse, their students) and other residencies, and they all want letters. But hey, I wrote maybe a dozen letters for Lee, and he maybe two dozen for me. I applied to more residencies, apparently. "Hey, look, this guy got a Hyla letter!" "Who the fuck is this guy writing for Hyla?"

In 2005 I was a Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and when it was time to leave, Jim Frost asked me for recommendations for future Master Artists — specifically composers who were very different from me when possible. I gave them a substantial list topped off by the two composers with the shortest names: Lee Hyla and Kyle Gann. Damned if both of them weren't Master Artists the very next year. After Lee's session was over, he e-mailed me to say he had a great time, and thanks for the recommendation. I had not told him I recommended him.

In 2010, Lee was asked to curate a concert of the Chicago Chamber Musicians on the Saturday of Super Bowl weekend. This turned into a fun and busy trip, as I stayed at Lee and Kate's new place — a loft carved out of an old factory — and got to be a passenger in the back seat of the car I had driven to Maine and back so many times. It's a lovely place with very high ceilings and a few rooms carved out for sleeping and studios. So I had the couch, which was comfortable. I remember Kate driving us to a seafood place they liked, and it was quite good. They wouldn't let me pay. And I remember the concert itself. Lee was charged with introducing the concert, which had Lee's flute and piano piece, Voice of the Whale, my Hyperblue, and something else. Lee simply said, "these are pieces that blew me away the first time I heard them and changed my thinking about music." High praise indeed.

Lee had secured a colloquium at Northwestern for me on the Monday after the Super Bowl, which left us with Super Bowl Sunday to do stuff. So we did a Super Bowl party at Gusty Thomas and Bernard Rands's place! Adam Marks, Stacy Garrop, Amy Briggs, and Joe Francavilla were there, too, as evidenced by the cheesecake shot (also Kate, who must have taken the picture). I didn't care who won. Lee apparently did.

Overnight it snowed 10 inches, but I was able to get to the colloquium, and in a cab to the motel near the airport I'd stay in before my early flight. Yes, what I remember about this trip is seafood, a great compliment, Super Bowl, and snow. Lots of snow.

Lee and Kate were in town in June 2011, apparently having finally sold their place in the North End (I could be wrong), so we went out for tapas on Newbury Street. I brought my brand new iPad to show them my Camargo pictures, and I took this picture to show them how I had an app to Monet it, to van Gogh it, etc. Little did I know this would be the last time I would see him.

Last fall I was asked to judge some scores for the Red Note Music Festival, and Lee's name was dropped in the e-mail asking me. He was to be the composer in residence for the festival, and he was also judging scores. My student Emily went to that festival, and when she got back, I asked her how Lee was. She said he looked old and frail, he walked very slowly and fell down once. She thought he was in his 70s (he was 62). She also said she'd heard he'd had pneumonia. I was hopeful that he would be on the mend. Lee did write a letter for me in the fall, and uncharacteristically quickly. "Dear Davidy. Consider it done."

Toward the end of May I was at Yaddo, retrieving e-mails from the baby internet they have in the library there, and there was a missive from Kate, sent to a list. Lee has pneumonia again, but is up and conscious and thinks he has to get to a concert. They are micromanaging his blood pressure. When he is better we hope to get him on a list for a liver transplant.


I asked Kate to keep me informed about everything, no matter how small.

Then the news from Beff.