Pittsburghers at an Exhibition

oa 5 low a (2)


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Composers’ notes:

Assemble Yourself
This duet for violins takes several ideas from its corresponding artwork: specifically, the artwork is modeled after a collage, taking bits & pieces of paper & putting them together into one collective whole.  In consistency with this idea, I took the liberty of cutting up a little folk tune into tiny themes.  In my piece you hear these themes, very disjointed & out of place at first, but they gradually assemble themselves into a coherent tune.  The artwork is also rather monochromatic, using lots of different shades of whites, creams & browns.  In the same way, this duet uses a lot of one specific note – A – to try to replicate this idea musically.  Finally, this artwork expresses the frustration that all of us encounter when we want to be creative & for whatever reason just have a lot of trouble pulling our thoughts in a coherent manner onto paper or canvas.  The frustration in the artwork seemed to be a bit of a jinx on me – I had to restart this composition three times over & often railed at myself during the process, thinking, Why should I not be able to assemble myself & write??   This composition does not answer the question, but it does hopefully provide a happy ending to what is often an agonizing process! Composed to “Consider the following again: why should you not be able to assemble yourself and write?” by Frances Stark, by Emily Jones
moon and sea










The Scroll
When I hear the word, scroll, I immediately think of mystery and discovery. I think my introduction creates this feeling. As the 22 foot scroll unravels we see a great variety of patterns that intrigue one’s mind. At times I got a mid-Eastern feel from the art work and you may hear that in my musical interpretation. The various panels create great amount of movement, rhythm and beautiful lines, which I tried to employ in my music. In the end, the scroll winds to a peaceful closure.  Composed to “The Scroll” by  Kristen Kovak, by Robert Farrell, Composer.
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Cycle, the painting, was so beautiful and the rays in the painting just extended on forever. I tried to capture that essence and the idea of a cycle in the music. Composed to “Cycle”, painting by Rochelle Blumenfeld (48×60) by Hannah Ishizaki.




Art imitating life imitating art.  Composed to a living sculpture by Pearlann Porter, by Blake Ragghianti, Composer



The House on the Hillside
I happen to know exactly where this house is in Lawrenceville. That’s where both the artist and I grew up. Although I don’t know the people who lived in that house, I do know the kind of people who lived in our neighborhood. Perhaps they were Irish, like me, or Croatian like the artist, William Vrscak. (Pronounced “Versak). In any case, this painting creates an existential feeling in me. So many of the people I knew lived in houses like this one. Now they are gone: the people from the old country who spoke with accents; men who served in WWII and marched in festive parades. I’m sure many parties and good times were had at this house. I’m also sure the kids that lived there played on those city steps. This house has seen better days, but it continues to house a new generation of people that live on this hill in Lawrenceville. Composed to “Old House on the Hill” watercolor painting by Bill Vrscak, by Robert Farrell, Composer
House on the Hill











Ones and Zeros
I heard Jonathan Reyes, facilitator of the Braddock Carnegie Library Art Lending Collection tell this story at a panel discussion on Martin Luther King Day, 2014:

– A boy was at the lending collection, looking at this particular piece of artwork. Jonathan approached him and asked, “So, what do you think?” “I think it’s stupid,” he said, and the proceeded to have a discussion about the message of the piece and the artist’s intent. After the conversation, Jonathan asked, “So, what do you think now?”  “Well, now I feel kind of stupid,” said the kid. “Can I take it home with me?”  When I heard this story, I knew I wanted to write music about this piece.  And that I wanted to take it home with me.  Composed to “There are Black People in the Future” by Alisha Wormsley, by Chris Massa





Harvest Song

When you look at this painting, the first thing you notice is the foreground, at least, I know I did. It depicts a beautiful, idyllic countryside, with people working in the field. But the more I looked at it, the more I started to wonder if these workers were actually slaves. Suddenly, the scope of the painting changed, and I started to wonder about what the painting left out, about what was in the background.

This piece attempts to portray both of these, the foreground as well as the imagined background. There is the peaceful Americana of the foreground, contrasted with the hard reality, the pain and the anguish, of what may be happening just beyond the horizon. Composed to “The Gleaners” by Jean Frances Millet, from the Art Lending Library at Braddock Library, by Chris Massa










Metal and Wood
What inspired me about this particular work of art, more than anything else, is that it is made of metal. It has both an elegance and a roughness that I find really beautiful. This piece, for solo cello and brake drum, attempts to capture both of these elements. I am indebted to All Foreign Auto Parts, who helped me find the brake drum.  Composed to “When You Walk Through A Storm” by Chris Stain, from the Art Lending Collection at Braddock Library, by Chris Massa
Metal and wood









A Southside Morning

The painting, A Southside Morning, was misty and you could see the church. The music is supposed to represent church bells and the shimmering of the mist and the hills. Also, my piece was supposed to be sleepy because it was the morning in the painting and everyone was just waking up.  Composed to “A South Side Morning” watercolor painting by Peggi Habets, by Hannah Ishizaki.  

Reflections on the Strip
If you’ve ever gone to the Strip on a Saturday, then you know how vibrant and busy this place is. People walk, shuffle, and dance around all kind of obstacles as they try to get to Wholeys, or the Pennsylvania Macaroni store. My music employs rhythms that help depict the dance that shoppers do in their effort to go hither and yon to find exactly what they are looking for. Composed to “Reflections on the Strip” watercolor painting by Bill Vrscak, by Robert Farrell, Composer
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“Bailarina” takes its name and inspiration from a wood sculpture by Peter Johnson. It is an attempt to capture the tactile feeling of the complex curves and facets of the piece. Just as there are no hard edges or solid lines in the wood, the harmonies glide to and from one another, blurring the lines between tension and resolution. Composed to Bailarina, a sculpture out of 200 year old wood by David Calfo, by Ryan McMasters.



Mr. Bouncety-Bounce

Perhaps it was my mood, but as I got into the piece it got harder and harder to keep the adjective “bouncy” out of my head. I tend to title my work only after it is at least partially realized, and this time around, the title crosses media a bit (visual art and literature). “Mr. Bouncety-Bounce” is the name of a fictional children’s TV show in the David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest. We don’t get much information about the show, aside from its popularity among children and drug-addicted adults, and I like to imagine this piece as the theme song. Composed to “The Acrobats” sculpture from railroad spikes by David Calfo, by Guy Russo.

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If you look away, if you blink, you will miss a chance to glimpse it – the briefest of all moments, the “now.” Composed to a photograph by John Ubinger during his travels in the East, by Blake Ragghianti.



Art is the expression humanity.  A “Tac” or “Tattoo” is an expression of art upon humanity itself – the human canvas.  Composed to a back tattoo by Blake Ragghianti.












Thank you!  We hope you enjoyed our collaborative concert!  Be sure to sign our mailing list to stay up-to-date with future performance events!  You can sign up here: www.ovrearts.org/