The 30 Days Project, Live in Concert!

I have exciting news, Music Nerds!

If you’ve been following the adventures of Miss Music Nerd for any length of time, you’ve probably heard mention of The 30 Days Project. Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote a short piece of music every day for 30 days, and posted digital recordings right here on the blog. I made the recordings using my digital piano and MIDI sounds provided by my resident ensemble, the All-Electron Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ever since I was in the thick of the project, it has been my dream to have all 30 pieces performed as a live concert at some point. It’s a logistical challenge given the number of instruments involved. But the starts and planets eventually aligned in just the right way, and I made the acquaintance of a group of talented musicians from New England Conservatory who were itching to tackle interesting new music projects. They call themselves the Inter-NEC Ensemble. Finding the musicians was the hardest part, but I also needed a venue. That’s where it helps to be involved in organizing a concert series at the church where I’m the Minister of Music!

So I am very pleased to announce that a dream three years in the making is finally coming true!

UPDATE: I almost forgot, I’m also planning to webcast this shindig, so if you’re not a local music nerd, watch this space for details! (MMN-TV is currently doing quality assurance testing!)

Here are the vital details:

Saturday, Sept. 25, 7:30 pm
St. John’s Episcopal Church
1 Roanoke Ave, Jamaica Plain (Google map link)

JP Concerts Presents:
The Inter-NEC Collective
The 30 Days Project
music by Linda Kernohan

$10 suggested donation • more info:



Existential Pilot: A New Music Group That’s Going Places!

I have to confess: I get a little jaded sometimes. I ask myself, “Is being a musician really worth it?” I mean, except for a very lucky few, it’s not glamorous, it doesn’t pay a lot, it can be very time-consuming and stressful, and the tax returns are a bear! (Being self-employed makes for a lot of red tape, paradoxically, as anyone who has ever floundered in a sea of 1099s can attest!)

But just when I’m about to chuck it all and learn how to be an accountant or dental hygienist or something, I have an experience that shows me that it really is worthwhile.


I recently made the acquaintance of a the new music group Existential Pilot when they visited Boston on their first official tour. The group’s members are current students and recent alumni of the University of Michigan, which has a very well-respected music program. The members are:

William Zuckerman, composer, pianist and electronic performance
Ezra Donner, composer and pianist
Claire DiVizio, soprano
Jonathan Lubin, composer, pianist and electronic performance
Zoë Aqua, violin
Mark Dover, clarinet

I met the group for coffee the afternoon of their performance here in town, at First Church in Boston. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the concert itself — it was a Wednesday night, and I had a choir rehearsal to run… But I did get to hear most of their dress rehearsal, and that was pretty cool, because it was like having a private command performance just for me!

While fortifying ourselves with coffee beforehand, we chatted about how the group formed, what the different members are up to individually, and this business of running a new music group in general. There’s no set playbook for it — no one has written a “Forming a New Music Group for Dummies” as far as I know. One thing that really helps is advice and encouragement from others who have already done it, and composer-pianist Ezra Donner mentioned a few composers and groups who have mentored them, including composer Joan Tower, the groups Eighth Blackbird, and Time for Three, who said to them, “You can do this!”

EPClDuo EP will certainly have no shortage of material to perform. The program they presented on this tour consisted entirely of music by the three composers in the group, but they intend to issue a call for scores sometime soon, and branch out into playing works by other emerging composers as well.

I admire this spirit of generosity and cooperation. When I saw that there were three composer-pianists in the group, I had visions of dueling keyboards, both the piano kind and the computer kind. But the embarrassment of keyboard riches seems to serve the group very well. In fact, I was sorry to hear Jonathan Lubin was on the injured list that evening, and was unable to accompany soprano Claire DiVizio on his song, This is the Garden. Ezra stepped in and learned the piece on just a few days’ notice, but I wouldn’t have guessed that from hearing their dress rehearsal!

I also got to hear Ezra play his own Sonata no. 1 for Piano, which had energy to spare, with driving rhythms and harmonies based on 4ths and 5ths. His Sonata Judaica for clarinet and piano gave clarinetist Mark Dover a chance to rock ‘n’ roll as well.

EPVlnDuoI heard two of William Zuckerman’s pieces: Sinuous Rills, for violin, clarinet and piano, and a movement from Music In Pluralism, for violin and piano. William mentioned that he was influenced by minimalism, and we had a playful conversation about that, because I had to confess not being a huge fan of that style. But I didn’t really hear minimalism in his music — it had plenty of arpeggiated chords in the piano and ostinato-like passages, but it didn’t stay in one place or try to evoke a meditative or trance-like effect the way minimalism does, to my mind. Actually, I felt his music was rather romantic, full of drama and sweeping gestures, conveyed quite effectively by violinist Zoë Aqua.

It was great to spend time with these musicians on their first tour — funded, incidentally, through kickstarter, which helped them harness the support of generous family, friends and beyond. I hope it’s just the first of many successful ventures for them!

You can hear several audio excerpts on the Existential Pilot site — just click “Listen” on the lower right.


The GRAMMY Nominations: A Classical Music Smorgasbord!

Christmas comes early to Music Nerd Land! 🙂

The GRAMMY® nominations are out, and boy, do I feel like a kid in a candy store!

The Classical Field boasts 68 recordings in its 12 categories – none of which I’d say “no” to in my Christmas stocking, hint, hint!

Since it came out on Wednesday night, I’ve been poring over the list – and, yes, perhaps drooling a little in some cases (and not just because Leif Ove Andsnes is kind of hunky!).

I was immediately struck by the prominence of modern music in the field. 32 of the nominated recordings feature music from the 20th century, and 22 of them contain works from the current decade – classical music goes 21st century, baby!

By the way, come on over sometime and see the spreadsheet I put together to help me get all this info organized! It’s enough to overheat a music nerd’s brain!

I was also thrilled by the recognition given to the opera world this year – yes, I’m an opera fan; I’m not ashamed to admit it! And I love the traditional repertory, but McDoc had to peel me off the ceiling after I saw that The Best Opera Recording category was completely dominated by modern works! The earliest piece on the list is Dmitri Shostakovich‘s The Nose, completed in 1928. The other four date from 1950 onward, and the most recent is John Musto‘s Volpone, still wet behind the ears from 2004!

But modern Opera was not content merely to take over its own category; it spilled into several others as well. The Virgin Classics release of Benjamin Britten‘s Billy Budd (1951) received three nods, as did the Shostakovich opera. The ink is barely dry on David Carlson‘s Anna Karenina, premiered in 2007 and nominated in the Producer Of The Year category for Blanton Alspaugh’s production work. And Alspaugh’s nomination includes his work on Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951) by Giancarlo Menotti and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (1925) by Maurice Ravel. John Fraser, who produced the Billy Budd recording, was also recognized for his work on soprano Kate Royal‘s disc of 20th-century opera arias, Midsummer Night. (I am envious of Royal’s eyelashes, by the way; does anyone know who her makeup artist is? 😉 )

I’m a big fan of choral music, too, and there are several fascinating selections among the nominations. Two works in particular stand out for the long journey they made from composer’s imagination to CD case. John Corigliano wrote the first section of A Dylan Thomas Trilogy way back in 1959, and completed the work forty years later; now it appears on Steven Epstein’s Producer Of The Year list.

The Best Choral Performance category features a work, Song of the Stars by Enrique Granados, that was nearly lost due to a series of unfortunate events, but was rescued and restored thanks to the efforts of dedicated musicians and scholars over several decades.

Well, I can’t even begin to do it all justice to all of the Classical field in one post — there’s a wealth of orchestral, chamber, solo instrumental music and more, waiting to be discussed.

So keep watching this space, because I’ll just have to work my way through it during the coming weeks. As if the extra calories one encounters throughout the holiday season weren’t enough, I’ll have this musical smorgasbord to feast on as well – yum!


A Little Housekeeping

NaBloPoMo Day 27!

I found out recently that the audio hosting site I had been using isn’t working anymore. It might come back at some point, but for the moment there are licensing issues to deal with. It’s too bad, because I was hosting my own music with them, so licensing really wasn’t an issue for me (though if they had wanted to pay me the vast sums of money that the record companies were demanding for use of their content, it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings! 😉 ). But, that’s show biz. I tend to agree with the assessment that the major-label music industry is “certifiably dysfunctional.”

At any rate, this meant that I needed to go back and change all the audio links for the 30 Days Project. It was tedious, but it’s done now.

So if anyone has clicked on this tab between May 1 and now and been disappointed to find no music there, please accept my apologies! It works now — I tested it! (And feel free to comment if there are any hiccups. That don’t seem to be intentionally part of the music, that is. 😀 )

A Musical Interlude

NaBloPoMo Day 15!

The conclusion to my little series on criticism continues to brew, so I thought in the meantime I’d post some Actual Music. Have you ever heard the quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”? I think I had first heard it attributed to Laurie Anderson, but apparently it’s one of those things that have several alleged sources — here’s a rundown. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my musical idols is in the running!

Here’s a piece I wrote and performed when I was in the thick of coursework in my Ph.D. program. I was torn between, among other things, highfalutin academic ideals on the one hand, and my own slightly quirky notions of beauty on the other. I was also tired of being so dang serious all the time, so I decided to have a little fun (the fun part comes toward the end, so, if I may beg your indulgence be sure to listen to the whole thing! 🙂 )

It’s called “Second Thoughts.” Enjoy!

Piccolo’s Collected Works, vol. 1!

NaBloPoMo Day 5! (Happy Cinco de Mayo! 😀 )

funny picturesIt probably won’t come as a surprise that I have a musical cat. His name is Piccolo, after all, and he was raised in a musical household. I knew someone once who claimed that she could not practice her guitar or recorder because her kitties couldn’t tolerate the sounds. Tragically, they had not been exposed to live music-making in the home from kittenhood, so they hadn’t learned that it was not, in fact, the sound of predators or other kitties in distress. As with music education for humans, it’s good to start young. 😉

Piccolo is completely unfazed by the sound of me playing the piano or guitar, or singing. In fact, he has been known to attempt to sit in my lap while I play, which is inconvenient yet adorable.

He also has a habit of walking across my digital piano’s keyboard; it’s the easiest way for him to access my desk, which is essential when he wants to 1) climb onto the windowsill or b) demand my attention by getting between me and the computer. Since the keyboard is often turned on, Piccolo has become an accidental composer. (Occasionally, inspiration strikes him in the middle of the night; if I’ve forgotten to turn the piano off before bed, this can be rather alarming!)

Now, I know he’s not the only musical cat in the world, not by a long shot. As is well-documented on youtube, cats are naturally gifted at playing the theremin.

But Piccolo’s main competition is certainly Nora the Piano Cat™. And that’s fine — there’s room in the world, 😉 and Nora and Piccolo have different styles, so it’s all good. I would say that Nora is more of an improvisor/live performer, and her style is minimalist, focusing on repeated notes and intervals. Piccolo, on the other hand, is a composer/recording artist, with a fairly modernist, pointillistic style. Both cats clearly owe a large debt to modern and free jazz, though.

Just for the record, I’m not an overbearing stage mother with my little feline prodigy. The recording thing was his idea — that is, if you’re willing to project volition onto a cat jumping on the keyboard and hitting the record button before walking across the keys. If you have any objections to the rampant anthropomorphizing of our animal friends that is taking over the world today (or at least the internets), well, I’m sorry my friend, but that ship has sailed! 😛

Herewith, the first volume of Piccolo’s Collected Works.

Composition #1 is clearly influenced by the First Piano Sonata by Pierre Boulez, although Boulez would surely disapprove of the octave leap at the 5 second mark. Piccolo knows that rules were made to be broken!

In Composition #2, Piccolo experiments with the different instrument sounds built into the digital piano. He particularly likes the vibraphone sound.

Composition #3 continues in the same vein as Composition #1, covering a broad pitch range (for a kitty, I mean) and incorporating a high degree of dynamic contrast. But it is sparser, and almost elegiac in its melancholy. Piccolo is not afraid to have moments of silence in his music, or to let it develop slowly. John Cage and Morton Feldman would be pleased, I think!

After his hard work, the musical master is taking a well-deserved nap. But he’ll be back at it soon — next time Euterpe pays him a visit (or Mom gives him some catnip! 😉 ).



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    Keyboards of the World, vol. 3!

    NaBloPoMo Day 4!

    A couple of pianos from my San Diego whirlwind Theremin Concerto première tour didn’t make it into my previous KOTW post, because I shot them with my cell phone camera and hadn’t yet transferred them to the computer.

    Here they are in all their lo-res glory — 2 shots of the piano at the Del Mar Country Club, one of the venues where the Theremin Concerto was performed. These are valuable photos — I managed to snap them right before security escorted me off the property! 😉

    usflag.gif Rancho Santa Fe, CA

    usflag.gif Rancho Santa Fe, CA

    It was a strange experience, having my music performed at a concert I never would have been able to afford to attend any other way. Perhaps it was made stranger by my low blood sugar; there was a swanky reception with hors d’oeuvres and drinks before the concert, but all the hors d’oeuvres had caviar sprinkled on top (I think they have a rule about that), and this bohemian vegetarian doesn’t dig that jive (and if you think I’m crazy to turn up my nose at free caviar, think of it this way: I’m just leaving more of it in the world for everybody else!).

    Later on, I was talking about the event to someone I know who has more experience than I do running in such sophisticated circles. I remarked that I felt like everyone was looking at me as if I didn’t belong there. She replied, “Oh, they all look at each other that way, too!”

    I felt better. 😀


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