By Night My Mind (1998/2009)
for Concert Choir with piano solo
By Night My Mind
By Night My Mind is a setting of two Shakespeare love sonnets (“Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing” and “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed”) for choir and piano solo. The piano part of this work, although often supporting the choir harmonically and melodically, is not an accompaniment. It is a vital part of the music and is actually in duet with the choir, often independently stepping out on its own in a new direction.
The piece was written involuntarily or unintentionally, immediately after the death of my father – a natural response. My dad was a good friend of mine. In fact, I loved both of my parents very much. When my mother died, I also immediately responded by composing music, although that was a bombastic piece for accordion and eight instruments (Le Maître Du Marteau). It is interesting that for my mother, a gentle mother of seven and professional singer, I would write a non-vocal, rugged piece with an accordion, but for my father, a dominant, rather macho psychiatrist, I would compose love sonnets for choir.
I am lucky to be able to harness an intense emotion, such as grief, and then transform it into a musical statement. The highbrow name for this is “artistic expression.” As a kid, my father tried to get me to harness my intense musical curiosity and transform it into an interest in chemistry, biology and math, so that I might get into medical school. Forbidden by my father to even think about turning my passion into a career, it was during my fourth semester of Pre-Med at the University of Wisconsin that I finally confronted him. It was an important night for me, taking the bus from Madison to Milwaukee, facing my parents, and then emphatically declaring that I would be foregoing medicine for music. (I had actually made up my mind hours earlier, while studying for an Organic Chemistry mid-term exam, which I later aced.)
That night changed the course of my life, and not only because it began my professional life as a composer: My dad, after hearing the pronouncement and realizing my fervent resolve, immediately and respectfully became supportive, and, at that moment, the two of us became equals. At age 19, I was suddenly a man, independently stepping out on my own in a new direction.