Suite from “Existential Doubt” (2021)

for solo piano

This suite is taken from the album, Existential Doubt, which I released in April of 2021.  It transcribes and adapts the first, second, and fourth track.  The music is moody and probing.  There are questions, uncomfortable visions, and a fixation with a sense of dread.  The music is not apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, but rather more worrisome than fatalist.

As long as I can remember, there has been real concern about the direction in which humanity is heading.  When I was young, the focus seemed to be on nuclear war and overpopulation.  Today, the concern seems to be more about climate change, which is maybe less immediate or glamorous, but no less apocalyptic.  Maybe this sort of doubt is somewhat endemic to the species, centering around the subject du jour.  I don’t know.  Civilization certainly brings compromises and stresses that were not as present in a more rural, peaceful, or stable lifestyle, and it has been doing so for thousands of years.

 Maybe it is just the added concern from the Covid pandemic, which is still raging, but the present level of real consternation over our future seems more widespread lately.  In this suite, I try to deal with this angst from both an intellectual and emotional point of view.  Though there are many who are convinced, or at least hopeful, that technology will bale us out of our present crisis, others are daring to look over the edge and imagine what it might be like on the other side.  The possibilities and emotional impact are not always pleasant, nevertheless we carry on, but hopefully we engender an enlightened sense of environmental commitment.. 

I am performing on the piano in the following videos.

The first movement is marked by worrisome probing. It’s aching unanswerable questions linger beyond the final bar.

The second movement is a moody scherzo of sorts, an oxymoron. It is an unsettling vision of life during upheaval. It also offers the hope of honoring relationships, a focusing of more important values.

The third movement is about the inevitability of reckoning. None of this is going away, no matter what the diversion.

Suite from Existential Doubt is available from American Composers Edition at

The album “Existential Doubt” is available from BandCamp at

Sonata (1991)

for cello and piano

During the 1980’s, I developed a goal of writing sonatas or something similar for all the string instruments.  The Sonata for Cello and Piano was the last one I wrote, though I didn’t write serious multi-movement work for the double bass, oddly enough, until the 2000’s.

The Sonata for Cello and Piano is written in the Neo-Classical/Neo-Renaissance style that I used for most of the 1980’s.  It combines a spiraling expository process with more traditional forms.

The first movement is rather standard sonata form, complete with a repeat after the exposition.  The timing really needs the repeat, and I suggest taking it.  It is quite lyrical and delicate at times.

The second movement uses a modified binary form, but I have eliminated the traditional repeats.  The spiraling of the material is more obvious in this movement, especially in the first half, and it is more dramatic than the first movement.  The movement ends with a lyrical but dramatic mini-cadenza for the cello.  The third movement is effective when played attacca.

The-third movement is a spirited and virtuosic rondo.  It is rather equally balanced with busy solo passages for both the cello and piano.  The telescoping passage at the end brings it to a rousing conclusion.

The Sonata for Cello and Piano was first performed by Duo West, Ian Ginsberg, cello, and Sherry Lenich, piano, in Tempe, AZ in October of 2004.  They are the fine performers on these videos.

Sonata for Cello and Piano (1991) is available from American Composers Edition ( and may be ordered here.

Midsummer Night (1982)

for violin, marimba, and piano

Growing up in the USA, I didn’t know anyone who celebrated Midsummer Night.  I had studied the Shakespeare play in high school, but still didn’t think of the summer solstice as a holiday that people celebrated until the late 1970’s, when I went on an reading binge of the novels of Ursula Le Guin.  In her Earthsea series, there is a detailed description of the celebration of Midsummer Night, which included dancing until dawn.  All the holidays I had ever known were either religious or political and rather tedious, but this sounded like a holiday that I would actually enjoy celebrating! 

The trio, Midsummer Night, was written for a concert of new chamber works in 1982 in Scottsdale, AZ.  The work is in three lively movements. 

Jazz Dance does not refer to “swing” jazz so much as the Jazz Fusion that flourished in the 1970’s, which is more rhythmically derivative of Hard Rock with straight eighth notes. 

The second movement, Waltz, is a little more subdued, but slowly picks up the tempo to a point where the dance swings freely in one.  

The last movement, Tarantella, though not as fast as the original dance, is never-the-less fast enough!  The syncopation and counterpoint make it seem faster than it is.  The tempo never falters. and continues to drive forward to a wild almost Bacchanalian finish.  I have often performed the Tarantella separately, as it is a show piece all its own.piece all its own.

Midsummer Night is available from American Composers Edition ( and may be ordered here.

The Unreal Dwelling

for unaccompanied violin

The morning that I received the call from Steven Moeckel in which he asked me to write a piece for unaccompanied violin, I had been reading from a collection of literary prose by Matsuo Basho, the famous Japanese haiku poet.  We were in the midst of the long shutdown for the Covid-19 pandemic.  Musicians were not working; whole symphony seasons had been cancelled.  We discussed the artistic (let alone financial) crisis the situation was creating.  He talked of having taken a trip to the Oregon coast and taken long walks through misty forests to facilitate some serious artistic soul searching.  He had formulated a plan for an unaccompanied recording and wanted to commission a new work for it. 

His talk of hermetic isolation in forests of the Pacific Northwest (where I grew up) seemed to fit into the mood of the material I was reading.  I decided start writing with a working title of Mists of the Unreal Dwelling.  The “unreal dwelling” was a hut Basho had lived and recuperated in after his famous ten-month journey to Northern Japan in 1690.  It was tucked away on a mountain slope behind an oft-neglected shrine overlooking Lake Biwa north of Kyoto.  The image seemed to convey both the isolation and reflection which brought the piece into existence.

As I wrote the piece, however, the fog lifted and the work became more extroverted and showy.  The “mists” were swept from the title, which became just The Unreal Dwelling.  Basho wrote more than one prose poem about the hut and his time there.  I was taken with how he wrote with affection of the hut’s disrepair and his own battered, road-weary body.  As he says, “Isn’t it true that there’s no place that is not an unreal dwelling?” His ideals of asceticism, however, were disturbed by his artistic vision and constant restlessness.  The music is indeed restless, and displays a fair amount of virtuosity.  The work was completed in August of 2020 in Phoenix.

Steven Moeckel is concertmaster of the Phoenix Symphony and Santa Fe Opera. He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all over the world.  His upcoming album Sei Solo (from an inscription on the six solo sonatas of Bach which refers to the number six, but literally translates as “I am alone.”), features music of Bach, Ysaye, and Paganini, as well as The Unreal Dwelling.  The video below is an excerpt of a preview Steven did of his album for the video series, The Way Back Sessions.  There is a little intro before he plays the piece.

Serenade In Isolation (2020)

for string orchestra and harp

Serenade In Isolation was written during the first three months of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020. Most of it was written in isolation at our cabin outside of Ash Fork, AZ. Though I was retired at the time, and a bit of a hermit by nature anyway, the complete isolation brought on by the crisis was a bit much. I really missed playing and performing, and when I wrote this Serenade, I was thinking of my colleagues. 

Like most of my music for the last thirty years, the music originated as a keyboard improvisation. Though the first, second, and, especially, the last movement have gone through multiple alterations and transformations, the third and fourth movement, though orchestrated, are almost literal transcriptions. 

In writing a five movement string serenade, I suppose I am modeling after Tchaikovsky but (except for the inclusion of an elegy of sorts) there is no other similarity. The 1st movement, Moment of Resolve, starts off with a good deal of resolve, and it shows quite a bit of determination. However, with the introduction of the solo quartet, it begins to get distracted. I missed my family and friends, and felt badly for those who were getting sick. The ending mimics the opening, but though it pushes for resolution it ends up not getting anywhere. 

The second movement, Song of Intimacy, alludes to the fact that, unlike some, I did not have to face this alone. My wife, Leslie, not only was my loving companion but a problem-solving guru, and guided us through the complex alterations of our routine with great skill and determination. Though we have spent nearly a lifetime together, the added intimacy was both a joy and a wonder. 

The third movement, March of the Toddler, is conjured by joyful memories. There is absolutely nothing like having a toddler around the house for both sheer joy and terror.. This toddler is constantly testing him or herself; running, climbing, and joking with parents. He or she eventually begins to tire and a parent is there to hug and console, and convince them to take a nap. 

We have lost many people in this pandemic, and we are losing more every day. Most victims have been isolated and intubated, and have not had the chance to even say goodbye. Goodbye Song, the fourth movement is for them. 

About two months into the pandemic came the horrendous killing of George Floyd in police custody. The demonstrations, which became worldwide, raged for the entire summer. The initial reactions from the police included examples of exactly the kind of behavior that were being protested. The fact that those protesting risked infection by just gathering, added to their impact. The last movement of Serenade in Isolation, Protest, is for them. It starts with a quote from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and ends with an allusion to Respeghi’s Feste Romane. In between are also allusions to the first and fourth movement. The ending features a long buildup leading to conflict at the end. I have vivid memories of the demonstrations of the 1960’s.  I remember being stunned by the violence I witnessed on both sides. The problems exposed by the Black Lives Matter movement are nonetheless quite real, and I hope the awakening leads to some enlightened solutions.  

Serenade In Isolation is available from American Composers Edition ( and may be ordered here.