“Aramaic Fuel Tube” is a short set of notated improvisations based on the song “America the Beautiful”. The improvisations came into my head before I wrote a note, and so the piece has a very free form.
As an amateur mathematician, I am often asked if I ever mix math and music in my writing. The answer is no. I’ve found that such pieces usually result in awful music and worse mathematics. After writing “Aramaic Fuel Tube” however, I noticed this piece could be analyzed using the theory of ‘Group Presentations’, in which a specific number of elements (generators) are given, and a relation between them is defined. Here the generators are 1) two notes repeated and 2) a fall of a third or fourth. However, this probably only demonstrates the ubiquity of the group-theory concept, which has relevance in so many disparate fields and can be seen in unexpected areas…including music.
Even if his works have rarely been popular with the press (“bad culture” [The Hague], “really annoying music” [Danceview Times], “an undeserved standing ovation” [The New York Times], “one is not sure whether to laugh or gape in awe at a mind so warped” [San Francisco Examiner]), Paul Schoenfeld‘s music is widely performed and continues to draw an ever-expanding group of fans. According to Juilliard’s Joel Sachs, “he is among those all-too-rare composers whose work combines exuberance and seriousness, familiarity and originality, lightness and depth. His work is inspired by the whole range of musical experience, popular styles both American and foreign, vernacular and folk traditions, and the ‘normal’ historical traditions of cultivated music making, often treated with sly twists. Above all, he has achieved the rare fusion of an extremely complex and rigorous compositional mind with an instinct for accessibility and a reveling in sound that sometimes borders on the manic.”
Although he now rarely performs publicly, Schoenfeld was formerly an active pianist, touring the United States, Europe, and South America as a soloist and with groups including “Music from Marlboro.” Among his recordings as a pianist are the complete violin and piano works of Bartók with Sergio Luca. His compositions can be heard on the Angel, Decca, Innova, Vanguard, EMI, Koch, BMG and New World labels.
Reclusive and a wanderer by nature (having rarely lived in any one place for more than five years), Schoenfeld is presently on the composition faculty at the University of Michigan. Additionally, he is an avid student of mathematics and the Talmud.
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon