C O M P O S I T I O N S ~ and ~ I M P R O V I S A T I O N S

Welcome to the music portion of my website. This is a sampling of some of the music and sounds that I've composed or improvised. Please peruse liberally. Scores and recordings are available for the compositions. The improvisations are moments captured in time that I was lucky to record. There's something very special about listening to one's own music if one has expressed oneself as honestly as possible. I grew up playing the piano and that was wonderful because it allowed me to explore harmony, voice leading, and melody. The guitar has also become a special instrument for me during the pandemic. I'm going to be releasing an album of musical meditations soon. Feel free to email me at cupchik@gmail.com if you'd like to be notified of the release. Meantime, please listen, and check out the descriptions of what's behind the music intentionally, since many of the pieces are programmatic and meant to symbolize something or depict an experience.

F E A T U R E D ~ L I V E . P E R F O R M A N C E

TIBET: Time Is Bringing Everyone Together   (5:16)     Trio for flute, harp, and vibraphone (live performance)

Inspired by the Tibetan traditional folk song "trang son la," this orchestration/composition features Seibi (Agnes) Lee (harp), Gillian Johnson (flute) and Jackie McCaig (marimba). The acronym-inspired title has a deliberate "double entendre." To approach the numerous challenges on the Tibetan Plateau, people from all sides have come together, which could become a new model for intercultural engagement and cross-cultural understanding.

Symbolically, interlocking musical parts offer another interpretation of how musical time brings people together…in a way that may be experienced as more sonorous rather than cacophonous.

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Waterfall in Exile (Roma)   (2:28)     Piano Improvisation - live (first take)

Awaiting the flight to India on a stopover in Rome, a beautiful black grand piano was situated in the boarding gate area with a sign "please play" beside it. What a brilliant idea, I thought, to place a piano in this public space where it could be of benefit! I'm sometimes shy to play, but, at that moment felt that with people's sometimes anxiety on a long flight, there might be some music I could improvise that could assist my fellow passenges to relax. With no one else playing, I sat down and improvised an 8 minute set. For the last improv, I was thinking about the filmscore I'd heard by Philip Glass of the film Kundun, and the special attention accorded melody and raga South Asians are accustomed to hearing across a range of folk, popular, and classical genres. Based on those sources of inspiration, I began playing what you hear in this recording. I'd never played it before or since; it's a "one off." In such cases, I feel that perhaps it was meant to be heard at that moment and was co-created by the audience and myself. One of the passengers, a military commander in the Indian army returning from a vaciation to visit his family, said he loved it. I'm happy I could offer music at a time of slight anxiousness that enabled people to relax and feel better.

Midnight Sun Shadow Blues   (3:13)      Piano improvisation

I'm a confessed fan of the blues. I love the sound of the blues whether on piano, guitar, or the wailing away of blues rock of Jeff Healey. This is a piano improv of a blues groove that is introduced. It reminds me of the Midnight Sun Shadow, the impossibility of shadows at midnight, unless the context is the Great North. A bluesy cry for warmer days ahead.

Piano Improvisation Set, Redline Inn, Stockridge, Massachusetts, USA   (7:22)     Solo Piano improvisation on grand piano

On June 9, 2019, days before heading to India for six months, I sat down at a grand piano at the Redline Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, near the Norman Rockwell Museum, and down the road from Kripalu Meditation Center. I made a pilgrimage there for a few years running. Discovered the name Stockridge for the first time in a James Taylor song years ago, by the title, "Sweet Baby James" with his great lyric: "The first of December was covered in snow / And so was the turnpike from Stockridge to Boston / Though the birch sure seemed dreamlike on account of that frostin' / With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go." Gosh, there was a beautiful baby grand piano in the foyer, dark brown walnut or mahogany, a resonant solid wood. I played a few improvs... and a lovely couple on their honeymoon came up afterward and said they enjoyed it. Made my day!

Dranyen Dechen   (5:00)     Solo Guitar improvisation - acoustic guitar

Learning that the guitar family has its ancient cousin the sitar was important and eye opening for me. So much that melody allows us to understand about breathing and phrases is about living, living with change and living wtih the temporal nature of impermanence. When improvising, the sonic space becomes alive with possibility. This soft meditation is a track from my next album. Dranyen is the name of the Tibetan banjo which literally means "Pleasant Sound." "Dechen" is a Tibetan word related to Buddhist practice and its meaning is Great Bliss.

Late Afternoon Sunshine   (3:31)     Solo Guitar improvisation - acoustic guitar

During the pandemic I started recording various improvisations I was exploring on the guitar, as I found myself utilizing the guitar's fluid tactile experience of guitar string plucking to be rhythmically relaxing and grounding. Toward the end of this riff I play with in subtle changes with each repetition, I found myself having an urge to sing. What emerged vocally were positive affirmations. I hope you find it enjoyable to explore, both here, and when you play you own instrument.

Inner Temple   (8:55)     Solo Piano improvisation

thanks for listening...

Blue Jays' Way   (6:06)     Solo Piano improvisation

Improvisation on the piano is a wonderful exploration, where the left hand can engage in a chordal change, while the right can improvise.

This chord change came to me some years ago. I love to start this A-flat improv with a melody descending from Bb, and see where it evolves. Playing with C blues, Eb, Bb and some gestures of cascading melody, I always find new pathways and explore somewhere new. In the process of discovery that is created by this aural space, it is ever evolving, and never the same way twice. Though the recording captured one such moment. I hope you enjoy it.

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Doves From Dusk to Dawn   (3:17)     Choir (SATB) - performed live in concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto, under the direction of Sasha Rappaport

Khalil Gibran's chapter "On Friendship" inspired the lyrics for this choral piece, which has a 4-part vocal fugue as a central feature. The narrative is programmatic. Friends symbolized by doves are near at heart even when they fly away. While at a distance, "At night we see the same stars...in the sky above..." the fugue voices intersect.

Lyrics: "From below we see our doves fly away, crying songs we love to hear, And vanish silent in the far sun. Now at the dusk we grow lonely for our doves in the West." The choir intones an epiphany about close friendship, "When parted, we grieve not, for that which we love most in them may be clearer in their absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. Wait! Is that dawn we see? Before us, look, our doves!" The doves return, to the delight of the villagers, leaving their longing in the past.

InSights   (7:55)     Bb Clarinet and French Horn - Duet - live performance

I've always loved the chalmeau register of the clarinet, and when it reaches those low tones it can be quite rich and delightfully expressive and even moody; likewise, the high baritone "voice" of the Double Horn offers a special strength in its fulsome quality. I wondered if I might blend them in a duet! If you start listening at 5:18, you'll hear them in relationship in a very special moment; the climax of the piece, especially when it reaches 6:35

The idea of InSights was quite programmatic. We all have a routine in our days that we go through mentally and physically, but then, there are those moments of "Aha" -- insights wherein problems become clearer, solutions appear to mind, and good decisions can be made. I wanted to depict that process musically, initially those brief moments of insight. But then, I wondered, "What would happen if we were in a state of insightful awareness for an extended period of time?" The extended ending is an imaginal state, wherein I tried to depict this musically. D'Arcy McGee (horn) and Loretta Switt (Bb clarinet) did a beautiful job! This performance is at tempo 2/3 slower than originally conceived! Feel free to contact me if you'd like the score.

A Lover's Quarrel - Solo Cello Suite in Three movements (Lento)   (8:01)      Cello - studio performance

Now that you have heard the Lento version (in studio) above, why not listen to the live performance (below) which began with an Allegro interpretation?

A Lover's Quarrel - Solo Cello Suite, first movement "Uncompromising" (Allegro)   (2:03)      violincello - live performance
A Lover's Quarrel - Solo Cello Suite, second movement "Contemplating" (Lento)   (2:51)      violincello - live performance
A Lover's Quarrel - Solo Cello Suite, third movement "Reconciling" (Sarabande)   (1:40)      violincello - live performance

The three movement cello suite is designed to explore facets of the cello and three very different emotional states. The programmatic piece is a drama set around a relationship in a moment of conflict. The first movement "uncompromising" tells the story of a moment when one is entrenched in one's position; "contemplating," the second movement, is a relaxing of one's position, a rethinking of what one has done to engender this discomfit, and a wish to seek an end to the conflict. The third movement "reconciliation" is meant to be a Spanish-style dance with a flamenco lilt to it. I tried to explore and utilize the harmonic power of the cello rather than only one melody line. This piece toured the East Coast a few times. I thank Jeremy Findley for his wonderful performance--both the live version at the University of Toronto, and the later studio recording, (the Lento version)

Before and After January 17, 1991: 1st Movement, "The Propaganda Before"   (3:12)      contrabassoon, basson, marimba, percussion & effects
Before and After January 17, 1991: 2nd Movement, "The War After"   (2:47)      contrabassoon, basson, marimba, percussion & effects

The opening of "The Propaganda Before" features the contrabassoon and cymbals before I'd heard Tibetan Buddhist ritual music. It's rather similar in its pronouncement to the ritual sonic evocations. This programmatic piece involves visualizing the rationale for war, expressed initially through media, to gain the public's confidence. Subsequently, the drama of war is heard in the second movement,"The War After." Though we collectively witnessed the war on Television, the dramatic play-by-play on CNN seemed to belie the fact that people's lives were being upended. As someone committed to peaceful conflict-resolution, who believes listening can heal trauma, it is difficult to reconcile my appreciation for the drama and cultural politics, which I get, but abhore. This piece was initially an "anti-war" piece as an historical statement, but now I think it applies more widely, and is about the need for conflict resolution, diplomacy, and compromise where possible. The title suggests that both conflict and resolution require voices of interested and interceding partners, who may together arrive at a compromise that is sensical for all.