Category Archives: Chamber Music

In Rio

The Brazilian composer Sergio Roberto de Oliveira, holding the poster for Mélomanie‘s concert in Rio de Janeiro on November 22nd, during the international four-day festival Compositores de Hoje. I was honored to meet Sergio in Wilmington at our release party for Excursions. My chamber work The Nobility of Women is on the CD, along with terrific music by Sergio, Ingrid Arauco, Jennifer Margaret Barker, Mark Hagerty, and Roberto Pace. It’s being explained to me how my name is pronounced in Portuguese!
Sergio with poster

Network for New Music’s Exquisite Corpse

KileSmithExquisiteCorpseI was honored to be asked to celebrate Network for New Music’s 30th anniversary by composing, with 29 others, an exquisite corpse, along the lines of the literary parlor game of a whisper-down-the-lane story construction. Each of us had 48 hours last summer to write 6–8 bars of music, having only the last bar of the previous person’s effort to go by.

Jan Krzywicki administered everything, chose the order of composers at random (or so he claimed), and put the final score together for flute, cello, and piano. He also cobbled together 9-second videos we all sent in, each of us using just the last word from the previous submitter. The video and music orders were the same; none of us knew the order until the concert.

The performance was Sunday October 26th at the Settlement School on Queen Street, and has just been written up in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Daniel Webster.

Two aspects of the project delighted me. (1) Jan’s random choosing (or so he claimed) placed me immediately after my teacher, Maurice Wright (for the video, he stuck me with the word “dodecaphonically” or something or other [I just checked: dodecachotomies], which I had to practice saying over and over before I hit Record, and which makes me also believe that he paid off Jan for the ordering). (By the way, Maurice and I put our heads together at the reception afterward and agreed that our two musical offerings comprised the most inherently organic two-fer of the bunch, but we haven’t told anyone else, so it’s our secret. I think that means, yes, I’m sure that means, that I didn’t compose anything new.) Jan wondered if I had been inspired by the tango from Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale. I thought I had stolen something from Ravel.

It was funny to see how many of us (myself included) threw in a curveball at the end of our offering, but what was most lovely was (2) the very real sense of personality that came out of these snippets of music. It was astounding, actually, to see the names pop up on the screen and to hear the music. I smiled the entire time. The word I think I’m looking for is exquisite.

Thanks to Edward Schultz, Priscilla Lee, and Susan Nowicki, for their lovely and enthusiastic playing on flute, cello, and piano.

Jim Primosch would’ve won the video award, if there had been a video award, and if I had been in charge of awarding it. I have no idea what he said, as we were all laughing, but his full-face in camera, sunglassed, low-voiced hopping recitation called to my mind Gil Scott-Heron, Rod Serling, and the Unabomber.

Congratulations most of all to Linda Reichert, the engine and heart behind Network for New Music, on 30 years!

The suspects, on the roof of the Settlement Music School, Queen St., Philadelphia, from left to right:


Richard Brodhead, Daniel Dorff, Philip Maneval, James Primosch, Robert Capanna, Jennifer Barker, Van Stiefel, Maurice Wright, Jay Reise, Cynthia Folio, Jeremy Gill, Anna Weesner, Andrew Rudin, Robert Maggio, Ingrid Arauco, Evan Solot, Kile Smith, David Bennett Thomas, Roberto Pace, Tony Solitro, Adam Vidiksis, Gerald Levinson, Gene Coleman, Jan Krzywicki (who put the music and video together), Paul Epstein. Not pictured: Kyle Bartlett, Luke Carlson, Andrea Clearfield, Joo Won Park, David Shapiro, Augusta Read Thomas, Thomas Whitman. 

Network2014SettlementRoofRobert Capanna, Scott Ordway, Jay Reise, Jeremy Gill, Kile Smith, Roberto Pace, Linda Reichert, Paul Epstein

Melomanie CD Release Party, includes Nobility of Women

MelomanieCDReleaseMélomanie’s new CD Excursions is about to be released, with my dance-suite sextet for Baroque instruments, The Nobility of Women on it; the release party/concert is Saturday, September 13th, in Wilmington. All the edits have been finished for about two weeks, and I’m delighted by how it all came out. A special treat for me is that my daughter Priscilla Herreid joins Mélomanie on Baroque oboe.

I’m honored to be included with the composers Roberto Pace, Ingrid Arauco, Jennifer Margaret Barker, and Sergio Roberto de Oliveira on this project, with, of course, the wonderful players of Mélomanie. They bring their energetic and beautiful sound to everything they do, whether it’s in their concerts of “provocative pairings of early & contemporary music,” or in this all-contemporary CD Excursions. Thanks to Tracy, Kim, and everyone at Mélomanie!

The Nobility of Women

The Nobility of Women
2011; Baroque fl, ob, vn, viola da gamba, Baroque vc, harpsichord; 20′
Commissioned and premiered by Mélomanie

nobiltaThis 20-minute work takes its name from the 1600 dance instruction manual Nobiltà di Dame by Fabritio Caroso. The name of the book alone captivated me. I used none of the music from Nobiltà di Dame, but rather imagined a piece that would grow out of a work with that title. I also wanted to write legitimate dance music, that is, music that people could really dance to if they liked. Mélomanie is skilled in Baroque and new music, and I’ve enjoyed writing for historical instruments in the past. The sound-world is entrancing, so I’ve tried to compose a work that would release the beauties of these fabulous instruments, including some short and not-so-short solos throughout.

Here’s a post on the first rehearsal, and here are reviews of the premiere in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chestnut Hill Local. Below are excerpts from the premiere.

Branle Reprise 

Bremen in Harrisburg March 29th

bremen1Wish I could be there! My children’s piece for narrator, violin, and cello, The Bremen Town Musicians, is being played Saturday morning at 11, March 29th, at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa., as part of the big Book Festival there. The players are Cary Burkett, narrator, Peter Sirotin, violin, and Fiona Thompson, cello, and the event is produced by Market Square Concerts.

Here’s more about the piece, and here’s the text I wrote from the Brothers Grimm story. I wrote this in 2008 for David Yang and Auricolae. Glad to see Market Square taking this on, and I hope everyone has a great time with it!


The Bremen Town Musicians Come to Harrisburg

bremen1I’m happy to report that Market Square Concerts in Harrisburg, Pa., has programmed my children’s work The Bremen Town Musicians for a performance on Saturday morning, 29 Mar 2014, at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore, 11 am. It’s part of a big book festival going on then, and should be fun.

WITF’s Cary Burkett narrates the story of the four animals (those be they, left) waylaid on their way to fame and fortune (by playing music, natch) in the big city. Joining Cary are violinist Peter Sirotin, who is also Market Square Concerts’ artistic director, and the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Fiona Thompson.

Thank you, everyone!

Philadelphia Brass takes Red-tail and Hummingbird on the road


Delighted to report that the Philadelphia Brass has been playing the newest version of Red-tail and Hummingbird, just finishing up two festivals where they featured it. On June 29th they played it at the Sam Maitin Summer Chamber Music Festival in Cape May, N.J., and on July 6th, at the Wildflower Music Festival in the Poconos, White Mills, Pa.

The guys couldn’t decide between the beach or the mountains, so they chose both!

In a short time Red-tail is now up to five versions: Renaissance sextet, brass quintet + bassoon, brass sextet (2 horns), brass sextet (2 trombones), and brass quintet. That’s right, after the Piffaro/Orchestra 2001 premieres, which included players from the Philadelphia Brass, they asked if it’d be possible to make a quintet version. While I was speaking the words “Of course!” my mind was saying “No. No. No. No. No.”

But I worked it out, looking at it as an orchestration challenge, which was a neat trick because it was originally a piece for three duos. Then I made a lower-key version, so that the D trumpets wouldn’t be necessary to haul along on tour. That was easily done, with just a few minor changes to some notes for trumpets and others.

Oh man, that makes six versions, doesn’t it.

Well, this page has more information about the story behind the title, and this page begins a 4-part series I wrote in the Broad Street Review about the process of composing the work.

Thank you, Brian Kuszyk and the Philadelphia Brass!