Program Notes

Listen4LIGHT AND DARK (2013)

(samples of Krzysztof Penderecki’s String Quartet No. 1 – Tale String Quartet; Franz Schubert Ave Maria – Luciano Pavarotti, Tenor, John Wustman, Piano; and accompanying electronic sounds)


Two kinds of music were sampled from the standard concert repertory: Krzysztof Pendercki’s String Quartet No. 1 (1960) which is presented without editing, and the familiar Ave Maria for voice and piano by Franz Schubert. I separated the Schubert music into natural phrases then rearranged the segments on several tracks. Other tracks were devoted to original electronic sounds.

The music is designed to provide a landscape of two opposing worlds.

iMUSIC (2011)

(recorded sounds from portable computers and computer devices, computer music, including a few segments from the early Columbia/Princeton recordings, mixed with original electronic sounds)


The sounds of various computers, peripheral devices, and digital phones were mixed with samples of computer music, including several short traces from the Columbia/Princeton early computer music recordings, and a variety of original electronic sounds.  There are eight tracks altogether. The sounds on each track were arranged independently of one another and of other tracks, and separated by silences.

 BENJAMIN FRANKLIN STRING QUARTET MIXUP (1778 / 2012)

(The Benjamin Franklin String Quartet, as Originally Written for Open Strings, with Digital Samples and Electronics by John Holland, performed by the Kohon String Quartet.)


1. Intrada
2. Menuetto
3. Capriccio
4. Menuetto
5. Sicilliana

Benjamin Franklin, an experimenter, revolutionary, music enthusiast, and one of America’s founders, composed a string quartet around 1778 while living just outside of Paris. It is scored, not for the usual 2 violins, viola, and cello, but for three violins and cello. The score calls for scordatura tuning of each instrument, that is a retuning of the four open strings of each instrument, thus providing 16 open string pitches – a 16-tone scale – while bowing only open strings with no left-hand fingering. The music is divided into 5 separate movements that form a simple dance suite.

In the same spirit of experimentation, I have ‘collaborated’ with Franklin’s quartet, adding 21st century electronic sounds to the 18th century strings. In addition to the electronics, I have sampled various sounds that refer to Franklin and his interests, such as the Glass Armonica (Mozart), thunder and lightning (discovery of electricity), the American eagle (which he wanted to replace with the turkey as a national symbol), pheasant, and other animal sounds common during the 18th century. I hope Franklin would have approved.

There has always been some doubt whether Franklin actually composed the String Quartet, which was discovered in 1945 in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and ascribed to him. “There is no mention of the Quartetto in his writing or correspondence and the manuscript is not in Franklin’s handwriting,” says Kenneth Sarch, professor, violinist and arranger of three movements of the quartet for String Orchestra. “However, there is nothing like it in the entire literature and I have no doubt that Franklin did compose this work to fulfill a challenge to add to his many interests and intellectual pursuits. Franklin penned a drinking song in his youth, published music, improved the Glass Harmonica (for which Mozart and Gluck wrote) and wrote an essay on the aesthetics of music.”

Below is a link to an article written in 2006 by Andrew Druckenbrod (popular music critic for the Pittsburg Post Gazette) that revives the historical debate surrounding the authorship of Franklin’s quartet.

 (http://www.postgazette.com/stories/ae/uncategorized/scholars-revive-debate-on-whether-ben-franklin-composed-tongue-in-cheek-string-quartet-444052/

 CAGEIANA (2012)

for the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth

(from Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard (1950) No. 1 with Annelie Gahl, Violin, Klaus Lang, Fender Rhodes, from Music for Amplified Toy Pianos (1960), Juan Hidalgo, Walter Marchetti, Gianni-Emilio Simonetti, Toy Pianos (with plastic cow), hand-held percussion, nature sounds (bullfrog, yeast*), and original electronic sounds)


The sparse sounds of the violin and electric piano, written and dedicated to painter Joseph Albers and his wife Anni in 1950, were randomly mixed with samples from Music for Amplified Toy Pianos composed in 1960. I added hand-held percussion, nature sounds, and electronic samples. There are six tracks altogether. The segments on each track were arranged independently of one another and of other tracks, and separated by silences.

* (you can hear the whistling-like sounds of the yeast at about the 2-minute mark)

MIXED BEATS (2012)

for Two Keyboard Synthesizers, Digital Percussion, and Electronic Sounds

John Holland – Keyboard Synthesizers


SIDEREUS NUNCIUS (2005)

 for Synthesizers, Electronic Sounds, and Signals from Space


At the turn of the sixteenth century, Galileo observed never before seen details of the face of the Moon, the Milky Way, and nebulous stars with a powerful new telescope. These dramatic discoveries helped to establish the eventual acceptance of the heliocentricity of the Solar System.

Galileo also observed for the first time four Moons orbiting the planet Jupiter. In March 1610, he published his findings under the title Sidereus Nuncius, which ultimately caused an international stir. The new twenty-powered ‘spyglass’ or telescope used to make the observations was the first scientific instrument to amplify the human senses. Galileo was credited with being the first person to point the spyglass upward ‘toward the heavens’.

Signals from space include the sounds of Saturn recorded by NASA, Huygens Satellite radio and carrier signals, radar.

SOFT LISTENING (1980)

(quiet percussion sounds and soft resonant tones are combined with various electronic sounds to produce a quiet listening environment)


Originally, this music was composed as a listening atmosphere for a quiet architectural, office, gallery, or home space. I have recently incorporated the music into a Meditation on the Natural Harmonic Series for piano and complementary electro-acoustic sounds.

VISITATIONS OF J. S. BACH (2010)

(Electronic Version*)

(electronic music, samples from traditional works of J. S. Bach, digitally modified photographs**)

There are six tracks of music containing original electronic sounds. In addition, there are fragments from traditional works of J. S. Bach scattered throughout the music, and a slideshow of photographs including the twelve cities where Bach worked as choral director, private teacher, and resident composer throughout his lifetime, along with portraits, instruments, and music settings of the day.

** The slideshow of digital photographs that accompanies the music is not available on the Program Notes page.

The list of excerpts from the works of J. S. Bach include:

The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Fugue No. 7; Two-Part Inventions No. 14 (realized on Synthesizers by Wendy Carlos)
Nun Komm Der Heiden Helland for Organ Solo (performed by Hans Fagius)
Jesu, meine Freude chorale (performed by The Sixteen, Harry Christophers conductor)
Sarabande from Suite No.5 for Unaccompanied Cello (performed by YoYo Ma)

* Along with the 2-trk stereo electronic version, there is a version for harpsichord solo that is also accompanied by photographs.