Notation Software Community Users' StoriesM. G. Jacobs, Flute player
M.G. Jacobs has had many creative outlets in his lifetime - from polishing the mirror-finish tops of tables that he has made to polishing up symphonic works he has composed. He has a site at SoundClick where you can listen to and download recordings of many of his compositions. Here is his story.
"I love baseball and the Reds, and have had a years-long tussle with golf. I guess you could say I'll try almost anything once, if I like it I'll try it again, and if I keep trying, I'll reach a point I begin to work at it.
I started taking piano lessons at some point, I just don't remember when. Well, I played something pretty fast in Mrs Judivines 4th grade class, but "picked out" stuff long before lessons started, and didn't take lessons all that many years because “picking out” was basically what I did when I sat down to practice. Some stuff was original - and pretty terrible.
Then I quit piano, but listened to a lot of 30s and 40s stuff my folks had on 78 records. I still love Bing Crosby, Vera Lynn, and a list that could fill the page. I hated classical music. In those days you could get New York AM radio very clearly in Toledo, so I listened to all the Yankees' games and often came across music whose main characteristic was that it wanted to last forever. But it wasn't long before Rock and Roll came along, and there was a new fascination.
I was introduced to "classical" music when I was about 13 by a friend, a basso profundo even at that age, who went on to sing with the Met touring company and taught there for years. He played me such things as Rhapsody in Blue, The (complete) William Tell Overture, Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky's first one, Grieg's, Katchaturians, and Schumann's; Beethoven's 9th and 3rd and 5th symphonies, as well as the Emperor, even excerpts from operas. Not all at once, and to name only a few. But my salary as a stockboy allowed me to visit the record store just across the street on pay day. By then 33 1/3 had come along. I have kept collecting through tapes and CDs, and learned to listen pretty regularly to PBS radio.
I've also dabbled in painting, which I started at about 12 and continued off and on, when there was a place to do it. I've been searching for a particular sparseness with impressionistic leanings that I still haven't found. "Fishing" (at left) recalled to me that we (my wife Sara and I) used to be avid fishermen, mostly for Largemouth Bass, and did it nearly every day from ice out to November. Usually we had to fish in the evening and night.
Back to music: I started lessons in piano again, with someone who was not a nice elderly lady. He was classically trained, had monumental technique, made his living giving lessons to nice elderly ladies mostly, and tuning pianos, and was in demand among the smart and wealthy for their soirees. He had a fake book that was the Webster’s Unabridged versus the college edition. From it I heard improvisations more beautiful than I have heard arrangements in all the years since. "Tenderly" was one of his favorites, and having heard it in so many different ways, it became one of mine, though I'd never be able to match what he could do with it.
We spent a lot of time on Theory. He was rather old school (though his fake book was not—I always thought that interesting), but he taught me well enough that over the years I came to question the very idea of the association of a piece of music with a key, though there is always a tonal center, even if it changes every few chords. But that's another story.
Anyhow, I worked hard, practicing several hours a day, lots of scales and arpeggios: Hanon, of course, wrist relaxation exercises, strength building exercises, dexterity exercises, etc. And, of course, the compositions I was assigned, usually things I hadn't heard so that I could practice translating what was on the page into sound.
I was doing quite well, but after five years, I got to hear Rubenstein play in Ann Arbor. Realizing how far I was from that, I came home and shut up the piano, and didn't play again at all for several years. When I did again, it was after graduation from college. I had a fellowship to the University of Kentucky, but we visited during the summer and found the fellowship wouldn't be nearly enough to live on, especially with Sara (by then my wife) pregnant.
So I did carpentry and we got into the furniture business, and would probably have continued to build this if it hadn't been for "The Hustler." Saw the movie at an art theater, then read the book, and was excited by the writing. When I read that Walter Tevis had joined the faculty at Ohio U, I sent a portfolio immediately, was invited and given enough of a stipend to make it possible. Walter became one of my favorite people as well as to my mind one of the great authors of the century. If I ever do an opera, it will be his "Mockingbird." We stayed in touch until he died. In fact, when that occurred, there were two tickets for their third visit to us in Arizona on his desk.
Arizona--Ganado to be exact--was where we wound up for the last half of the 70s and most of the 80s. It was the only Native American controlled college in the US, in a building stage, with a highly interdisciplinary faculty, and amazing scenery, both in the high country, where it could get to 50 below, and the desert, which was about four hours away.
It was here that I established a Concert/Lecture Series, funded by grants from the Arizona Arts Commission. The long years of musical ideas that populated my head had a chance to leak out here, and the ideas became more frequent, probably because of the frequent contact with artists who participated in the series. Bonnie Jo Hunt (do a search on google and click on the PBS interview where she explains how she heard a Met broadcast as she sped across the Lakota Reservation in her father's pickup, and announced that she wanted to get a voice like that), asked me to write something for a cathedral dedication, and that produced "Simple Gifts," arranged for piano, flute and soprano, the first thing I ever actually finished. (Recopying after changes took a month, in itself.) The second was for a wedding. The groom's brother played cello, so out came an untitled piece to be played by the brother and I at the wedding on the rim of Canyon de Chelly. We were joined by a bride's maid who happened to have her guitar in her trunk. I never saw it, having been concentrating on the music, but the wedding guests all did. They said an eagle, out over the canyon, was dancing to the music. Some things didn't mature during these years, for more than one reason, but both Simple Gifts and the Wedding Piece have been expanded. I also promised John Denman that when there was computer software that could be used to write and edit, I would write something for his clarinet. When I finished the clarinet sonata I had promised, I found that he had died about the time I began to work on it. (John is another name worth googling.)
In college I had discovered popular folk music - the sort of thing the Kingston Trio, New Christy Minstrels, and some Irish groups did, and I learned to love this music, too.. My field, however, was the Humanities with a specialty in Literature. In graduate school, as already indicated, my field was English and my degree was in Creative Writing. For a number of years, this was my creative concentration. I published numerous poems and a few stories. For some reason once I had placed a story in a prestigious literary journal and sold another to a slick which paid very well, I tended to lose interest. By now when I think of writing, it is about one of three drafted novels, particularly the one an agent expressed an interest in as well as a number of short stories that need work.
It was during this time that I found a computer program that would allow writing music, and more important making the many changes I tend to make without having to recopy pages and pages. It was a program designed to create ringtones, but it had 16 channels and all the standard instruments. I used it to write what became the third movement of my first symphony. Then the search for something more sophisticated was on. I found a couple that were better--one quite good--and finally found Notation Composer, which I have used since. Without it, I would still be copying, changing, and recopying the shortest thing I have written."
MG has written a wide variety of works, including (but not limited to) a violin concerto, clarinet trio, a trumpet concerto, symphonies (including a Christmas symphony) , a couple of concertos for piano, and Song for Sara with a recording at SoundClick, in memory of his wife Sara. To see and hear more of MG's musical work, visit the Notation Software Users Forum "Share your music section". He also has a site at SoundClick where you can listen to and download recordings of many of his compositions.