Thursday, May 3, 2018

Six Songs I Never Should Have Written / An Interview.

In the past, I've given considerable space to the shallow, and yet semi-interesting voice of Louis C. Monteverdi.  After all, who can forget  his biographical essay "Confessions of Louis C. Monteverdi: An Educated Cocktail Pianist"  and his less than helpful "5 Tips for Overcoming those Pesky Piano Performance Anxieties".

But, despite strong feelings to the contrary, I found the title of Louis'  latest song cycle, just barely compelling enough to sit down with him, once again:

Greenberg:  The name of your latest piece is--?

Monteverdi: "Six Songs I Never Should Have Written"

Greenberg: Touches me as a bit morose.

Monteverdi: Never heard of Moe Rose. Is he good?

Greenberg: So that's the name of the song cycle.  But what are the titles of the individual songs?

Monteverdi: Well, there's  "First Song I Never Should Have Written".  Followed by, "Second Song I  Never should have Written".  Then there's  "Third" -  (Over talk)

Greenberg: Got it.  What would you say was your biggest influence?

Monteverdi: You know those 1.5. liters of wine?

Greenberg: WHO would you say is your biggest influence??

Monteverdi: I'm not sure I understand..

Greenberg: What do your songs sound like?

Monteverdi: They sound like crap.

Greenberg: Which is why they're called-

Monteverdi: Yeah!

Greenberg: So, will all six songs be performed?

Monteverdi: Hardly. First of all, there's only three of them.

Greenberg: But, the title-

Monteverdi: And the third song's incomplete.

Greenberg: Do you intend to finish the third song?

Monteverdi: Sure - I'd love to get it up to at least half-a-minute.

Greenberg:  So, let me see - in your compositional technique these songs are conceived as sparse,         perhaps delicate, miniatures??

Monteverdi: You are one fruity guy.

Greenberg: Well, that's it. We're done. As far as I'm concerned, you can take these songs and wrap      your fish in them!~

Monterverdi: Franz Schubert did!

Greenberg:  Seriously?

Monteverdi: Absolutely!  Haven't you heard of the "Trout Quintet"?

Greenberg: Is there any wine left in that bottle?


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Vinyl Revitalized

CD recordings are running their course.   

MP3 and digital downloads have been chipping away at the CD market for well over 10 years.  Brick and mortar chains have substantially reduced their CD inventories   (e.g., Barnes& Nobles, Sam Goodies), or disappeared into the ether (Border Books, Tower records).

Sure, the internet creates downward pressure on store-based inventories across any industry, across product lines.  
But music is different. If you don’t want to wait for Amazon to deliver a CD, simply download everything electronically.  Don’t want the entire CD?  Pick your favorite tracks for immediate download gratification. (The same thing, via pdf, is happening with sheet music).

But Vinyl is back in a big way – revitalized and spinning its music in an analog, audio-format many consider more natural to the human ear.  Vinyl’s 12-inch platter, its ridged, groovy look and feel is irresistibly nostalgic.  And in comparison to CDs – it’s download-proof.

SIDEBAR: Forbes noted that sales for vinyl recordings had increased 260% between 2009 and 2015.  

Yes, your new turntable may provide an out-of-the-box, USB port with entry-level, SoundForge software to help digitize your tightly held collection of 1970s Nonesuch classical records.  But why bother transferring to digital when you can actually start - from the ground-up -  pre-ordering pianist, Seong-Jin Cho’s recently produced, Debussy vinyl recordings.  And by-the-way, Nonesuch, in fact, is back to producing vinyl recordings.

New vinyl recordings, however, are typically more expensive than CDs. They have tighter inventories and provide a relatively smaller product catalogue, suggesting an imbalance between supply and demand.

Having spent time recently at Portrait Recording Studios   as part of an original CD project (please feel free to sample a couple of new songs via ReverbNation), I was advised that creating CDs is decidedly more cost effective a process than vinyl recording production;  especially when converting  a final recorded master from digital to analog.  In fact, pressing a single record may cost up to $200.00 per side.  What’s more, vinyl manufacturing resources are still thin, and may require a lead-time of 4-6 months to deliver.  But, if you’re a recording artist who can’t see his or her name in lights, the much larger album fonts, actual readable liner notes- and increased real estate for graphics - are tempting.

None of this is germane to vinyl fanatics, however, who may be throwing away Beatles CDs, deleting MP3s and buying the newly re-pressed, Sgt Peppers album. (In fact, Paul McCartney never much cared for the digital remastering of the early Beatle recordings, especially since added clarity and track separation sometimes shined an unfavorable light on the execution of harmonies).

True Nostalgia

But seriously, with increased market adoption, there’s a good chance the music-buying-youth of the world will finally understand, recognize and come to enjoy the many extraneous sounds derived from putting needle to record. Consider just a few of vinyl’s theatrically employed clichés for videos and commercials.

·         The sudden yanking of the tone-arm, scratching the record.  (Often used as a metaphor for interrupting an inadequate product/service or a “shut-up” to a boring announcer or untruthful politician).
·         The ending, non-audio record space that just scratches along . (Used dramatically to indicate someone’s not home, dead-drunk - or just dead).
·         The skipping record (Used to indicate inattentiveness, or for comic effect, as when the skipping record interrupts some couch romance).

It doesn’t get any more nostalgic than that. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

My 20 Best Trump Posts for 2016!

My plan was not only to cease posting humorous (and irritating), Facebook-Trump posts, but eradicate all existing FB posts after Hillary won the election.

But given the over-performing popular vote decidedly taking it up the canyon in California, plus the rust-belt, alarmingly between tetanus shots,  I  (as a  Never-Trumpite),   must now give my Timeline some breathing space, a chance to heal -  and celebrate other less polemical, less combative creative efforts while emphasizing family pictures (preferably of me), and lots and lots of dog pictures of the Weimy persuasion.
Exotic, New Jersey Weimies.

Which is all to say my Facebook Timeline has been utterly expurgated - not to mention decisively expunged -  of all Trump commentary. For those of you  who think I'm converting to complacency or have overdosed on Pepto Bismol, FEAR NOT!

For given that this is the time for end-of-year, Best-of-Lists, I am compelled to compile my favorite, 20 Best Trump Posts for 2016!, based on two major criteria:
  •  Stand alone comments only
  •  No comments (dozens!) associated with graphics or linked articles (Politico proved a constant inspiration - as did Trump).
The following appear in Chronological Order, beginning in July, 2016:

1. July 11: I propose if Hillary Clinton loses the election, Donald Trump should move to Canada.

2. July 11: Y'know, if Trump hadn't existed, Rod Serling would have had to create him.

(The convention)

3. July 21: Hey TED CRUZ, GET A GRIP!! lot's of things are said in the heat of a primary campaign. Y'know, like your wife's too ugly to be a fashion model, you're an ineligible foreigner WHO CAN'T run for president - your Cuban father was a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination. Y'know like, just lighten up, will yer

4. July 21: Based on confidential sources, look tonight during Trump's acceptance speech for announcements on appointees for cabinet assignments - including BEN CARSON for the newly created post of EXORCISMS.

5. July 22:  Mike Pence should swap roles with Scott Baio. What?! Too soon?

(The campaign)

6. August 2:  Now that Trump is saying Hillary is the "Devil", I suppose the burden of proof is on her to produce a Terra Firma birth certificate.

(First debate)

7. September 26: #debatenight  Latest instruction to audience: "Please refrain from sucker-punching the person next to you".

8. September 26: #debatenight Reportedly, Trump will accuse any Democratic Viagra users of having a rigged erection

(Second debate)

9. October 19: #debatenight And it's about to begin. Praying for commercial interruptions - and an appearance by Alec Baldwin.

(The Campaign)

10. November 6:  As a sometime professional lyricist, I feel obliged to say "BLOW ME, COMEY!!"

(The 5 Stages of Grief)

11. November 9:  #recount I DEMAND A RECOUNT!! Starting w/ half the voter's marbles.

12. November 9:  Trump will probably be good for manufacturing, given how much he likes to make stuff-up.

13. November 10:  Started #TrumpSings!, my new musical. Finished opening number, "The Birther of the Blues".

14. November 12: DONALD J. TRUMP & "PROFESSIONAL PROTESTORS" See? He's already creating jobs

15. November 12:  JUST STOPPED AT BOTTLE KING. Thought I'd buy some Spanish wine before it's deported

16. November 12:   PERSONALLY, I'M READY FOR AN INTERVENTION. Or as some people like to call it, mid-term elections.

17. November 12:  OK, TIME FOR OPTIMISM! FOR EXAMPLE, "Draining the swamp in Washington" could be all about Trump's first EPA directive!

18. November 13: WAIT, WAIT, there's more! Based on his own experience, Trump will put in place ACCOST CONTROLS.


20. December 17:  

Dear Santa, 
Can I please have a new Precedent Elect with an off-button??

Your friend, 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Re Re Re Revisiting THE BIG LEBOWSKI

L/R: Steve Buscemi, Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, John Tuturro, Sam Eliot

How can you help but revisit The Big Lebowski?  If you’re blessed (or afflicted), with the pseudo vastness of premium cable movie channels, you surely encounter this Coen Brothers film with the regularity of a Gesundheit.  And should you go beyond an entire two weeks without this film assuming control of your Smart TV’s remote – fear not!  It’s been segmented and uploaded to YouTube where you can repeatedly watch the film's penultimate episode; marked by John Goodman chewing–off Peter Stormare’s ear.

The Big Lebowski, like all Coen Brothers creations (and I believe I’ve seen them all), is eminently re-watchable.  Repeated viewings are not only individually rewarding (as well as inevitable), but probably the reason the film has achieved cult status.
The Coens (always sharing directing and writing duties), are quirky creators - sometimes misguidedly so.  But the brothers (even at their darkest, i.e., Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men), are highly inventive and naturally flowing humorists.  Nothing happens in their films by chance.  What may sometimes seem like frivolous filler, is actually organically motivated stuff and foundational to their story telling.

The Big Lebowski: is brilliantly cast and directed - but also driven by deceptively smart character and plot development.

Since their first films in the mid- 1980s, the Coen’s plot-credo has focused on every event – small or large – as somehow an inexorable interconnection between fate and human foibles.  The Coens are Jews from the Midwest, and at their core, seem to have a devotion to some divine spirit that insists (despite best efforts), man is only capable of producing consistent irony and adhering to the law of unintended consequences.


"The Dude" Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it. When approached for reimbursement, the “millionaire” instead enlists Dude to recover his kidnapped bride (at least 40 years his junior), and entrusts the dude with a valise full of money for the ransom payoff. 

But the ransom cash is stolen from the back seat of Dude’s (Jeff bridges) car. His closest bowling buddy Walter Sobchak (John Goodman), erroneously determines that the money was stolen by a 12 year old.  

Meanwhile, the crew of kidnappers (the “Nihilists”, actually a Germanic, punk band fronted by a former porno star and friend of the alleged kidnapped wife), have faked the kidnapping and are actually in cahoots with the millionaire Lebowski’s young wife.  But, she becomes bored with the entire scene, and goes back to her millionaire husband who, as it turns out, never provided any ransom cash to “The Dude” in the first place.

In between these events, the Dude’s apartment is inexplicitly trashed once again by the same thugs who first ruined his carpet and who refuse to believe he’s not the older millionaire Lebowski.  Two additional sub-plots include the Big Lebowski’s daughter, Maude (Julianne Moore), who counsels The Dude and ultimately uses him as an unwitting participant in the conception of her child. 

Some will find this plot either unconventionally flat, or then again, off the charts. In retrospect (and considering “The Dude’s” character attributes), the story feels like it’s being shaped under the influence.  Which is about right, as “The Dude”- even in middle age - is the ultimate stoner.  

The plot feels almost Seinfeldian in its diffusing of what should be major plot points. But at the end, there is no kidnapping, no ransom money, no theft of the ransom money – and no bowling tournament, which probably is the most important thing Dude, Walter and Donnie care about. Donnie (Steve Buscemi), a soft and thinly spoken bowling buddy, who essentially demurs and is just along for the ride, suffers a fatal heart attack when he, Dude and Walter are confronted by the three “Nihilists” demanding the nonexistent ransom money -  for the nonexistent kidnap victim settle for pocket money. But who  are then viciously (though comically), dispatched by Walter. Donnie’s understated death scene provides a quiet and contrasting irony compared to the misapplied blunder-bust of every other character.

Characters: The Dude and Walter Sobchak

“The Dude” is several decibels below passive-aggressive and favors most any path of least resistance.  He enjoys not working, frequent pot usage and poceses an uncanny ability to find himself in most any environment capable of supplying White Russians (an amusing running gag, throughout).
Jeff Bridges owns"The Dude" (Almost as much as "The Dude" now owns him).
 But throughout the film, his sole objective is the replacement and repair of his ruined Oriental rug. Everything else is a highly vexing inconvenient impediment to that end.
Underachieving is the Dude’s philosophy of life. He has long ago adopted a “get along-go along” point-of-view.  Even when threatened in the parking lot of his favorite bowling alley, he’s happy to offer the Three Nihilists (alleged kidnappers), four dollars in lieu of a multi-million dollar ransom payday.

Walter, on the other hand is not only all-in, but grossly over-committed. A veteran of Vietnam, his experience and gung-ho patriotism informs every point-of-view and every emotion.  When descending upon the home of a recalcitrant 12-year-old who refuses to confess to stealing the ransom money (which he didn’t), Walter decides the kid has used his ill-gotten gains to buy a flashy, red sports car  parked in front of his parent’s home (which he hasn’t), and impulsively pulverizes the vehicle with a wooden baseball bat. An act of vengeance interrupted by the kid’s next door neighbor who reciprocates by bashing the Dude’s dilapidated wreck of a car.

This scene is preceded by the Dude insisting Walter join him for the kid’s interrogation about the ‘stolen’ ransom money. Walter angrily protests leaving his house as it’s the beginning of Shabbat.

“Hey man, you’re not even Jewish. You’re Polish Catholic, or something”, the Dude annoyingly points out
Walter, remembering his Jewish, ex-wife, is incensed. “Listen, you just don’t stop being something!”

The film’s one big catharsis (at least for Walter), occurs when Walter aggressively defends the Dude, Donnie – and all things American – against the three Nihilists.  The parking lot of their bowling alley as his battlefield, Walter becomes the aggressor, pitching his bowling ball into the chest of one attacker, knocking unconscious another, and biting the ear off the leader.

The Big Lebowski may at first seem convoluted entertainment. But ultimately, it’s a film whose repeated viewing provokes more thoughts – and new laughs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Circus Vibes - from "Scenes without Words"

"Circus Vibes" on YouTube.

I've always loved chamber music and wouldn't dream of passing up an opportunity to write for the classic ensembles.

"Scenes without Words" is about four descriptive pieces for three instruments -  each one named after something popular, or at least theatrical, the exception being "Carl Churning Rides Again".  (Please don't ask.  I can't even fully explain the reference. It's title seemed right, yet impulsive - but nonetheless intuitive.  Whatever..)

 The 3rd piece"A Homage Nina Simone" has been premiered via YouTube with visuals I selected and edited.  Consequently, its title is self-evident.

So too with "Circus Vibes" (no. 1), which found its title when I realized one of the early themes resembled "Entry of the Gladiators" (also known as "Thunder and Blazes").

Once again, the performers are:

Piano: Warren Helms
Violin: Amy Hamilton-Soto
Cello: Amy Butler Visscher

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Homage Nina Simone

  A Homage Nina Simone

"a Homage Nina Simone" is the third of four chamber pieces I've written, grouped under the title "Scenes without Words". Others pieces include  1. "Circus Vibes", 2. "Dickens and Nelly" and 4. "Carl Churning Rides Again".

"Homage" was titled after I had begun its composition, inspired by the versatility of Nina Simone, the African American artist and civil rights activist. She began her musical life as a classical pianist and singer of church gospel music, followed by folk, blues, and  later jazz and popular music

The work attempts to suggest that sense of eclecticism.


Piano: Warren Helms
Violin: Amy Hamilton-Soto
Cello: Amy Butler Visscher

I can be contacted at

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Five Categorical Reasons Why Wrong Notes Occur in Piano Recitals.

While sharing a few beers with my buddy Louis C. Monteverdi  a couple of weeks ago, we started (somewhat ruefully), discussing the phenomena of wrong notes in classical piano playing.  

Now, please keep in mind, we’re discussing the great classical piano repertoire - by and of the masters.  Perfect, peerless, and at times, ludicrously difficult stuff that is nonetheless, very well-known and highly well-thought of. 

“Very well known” despite decades– nay centuries!- of tumultuously tortured renditions. As the night wore on,  Louis and I formulated that each and every great piece is itself accompanied in a parallel universe, a meta-layer, a Superman Bizzaro World, if you will – by its wrong-note doppelganger; a desperate twin of perfectly formulated wrong notes.  

Why does this have to happen?  Do we need background checks before the average Joe can even purchase a piano?  But given the Jerry Lee lewis factor, maybe it’s just a question of better securing the printed music.

But I digress.  Somewhere between the Tequilas and the Buffalo-Wings, Louis and I ultimately came up with Five Categorical Reasons Why Wrong Notes Occur in Piano Recitals. (By the way, to make things sporting, we decided to exclude rampant performance nerves and memory lapses).

  1.  “The Flub!  The flub is the fart-in-church, so to speak. It’s unpredictable and indiscriminate.  The greatest pianists know it well- and the much lesser ones could give a flying flub. In other words, “flubs happen”. 
  2. The Learned Wrong Note” This doesn’t happen on the fly (as with “The Flub”). This is much more organic, attributable to poor training and a potentially lethal build-up of ear wax.  “Can’t you hear that’s wrong?”, the pianist coach might say.  But then there are very early recordings of “great” pianists who evidently adopted wrong notes as part of their own unique styles and interpretations.  Not to call anyone out in particular, but check out the first decade of 20th century piano recordings (or rolls) of Vladimir de Pachmann.
  3. "The Risk Taker” Yes, not all tempos are created equal. You were all set to perform Chopin’s  Ballad in G minor, ‘all set’ that is, until you decided you would kick butt in the coda by bombastically and exponentially making it so fast you finally wished they had prematurely closed  the curtains and turned off the lights.  Aww, and it was your last piece on the program!  Well, there goes your encore of that sweet little – and oh so much easier - Schubert, Moments Musicaux.
  4. "The Technically Outmatched” The cliché is, “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”.  And then there’s” 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.  But if the masterwork is a heavy weight- and you’re a welter weight- then it’s best to wait- and come fight another day.
  5. “Out-of-Focus” No, this is not about memory lapses.  This is about your parents, your significant other, or the old geezer who dozed off – all sitting in the first row.  And don’t forget the cell phone lady who’s really distracting you.  I mean, for god’s sake!  You’re trying to barrel through the piano transcription of Stravinsky’s” Petrushka’ and she’s playing Words with Friends.  Damn, there goes another marred dissonance!

You really suck, cellphone lady.  You really suck!