Compositions

Golus II for Electronic Playback

Golus I  for flute, clarinet, and piano.

The word golus is Yiddish for exile and it refers to the diaspora of the Jewish people. Diaspora Studies, in general, reflect on overcoming tremendous hardship, the ongoing growth of the diasporic phenomenon, and the cultural, social, political, and economic contributions of such peoples to their new homeland hosts.

The musical work Golus I reflects on the tragedy and courage of all exiled peoples and, in some very small way, seeks to emotionally represent that life-altering experience. It is the first in a series of works that takes the notion of exile as inspiration and commentary.

Convivio for two guitars (7’15”)

Midnight Glowing on Horseback for Electronic Playback (4’20”).

Midnight Glowing on Horseback juxtaposes surrealist ideas and classical formal structures within its left to right time-based electronic playback. The audio events combine and mix samples of ordinary objects, instruments, synthesized sound, and Salvadore Dali discussing his moustache. The slightly bizarre mix of elements, rarely all that jarring, and maybe nonsensical, combine to conjure a mental image – midnight glowing on horseback? – or perhaps to merely create an awake dream.

In Dreams for Solo Guitar (11′)

In Dreams is a three movement work for solo guitar based on the art work of Salvador Dali. The notion of the dream and its sometimes other-worldliness is explored visually and sonically often in works of art. The movements take their inspiration from the surrealist’s perspective of time, the absurd, and the interesting juxtapositions of characters and space. The largely tonal part of the work represents the perfectly (mostly) normal parts of the paintings/exhibitions. For example, a bee, pomegranate, rockfish, tiger, bayonet are perfectly normal things – an elephant with long flamingo legs – less so. That those elements are contained and related in one dreamscape is interesting and how I subtlety relate the musical elements in time and proximity is the desired effect – without, I think, any completely jarring juxtaposition.

Photo Feb 26, 6 45 13 PM
Goldspiel and Alexander perform Duck, Duck Soup at the W

Duck, Duck, Soup for Guitar and Tuba/Bass Clarinet (7′).

Duck, Duck, Soup for guitar and bass clarinet or tuba finds its inspiration in the zany antics of the Marx Brothers and their wonderful films. In this setting, the unusual pairing of instruments is no more unlikely than the archetypical characters characters created by Groucho, Harpo, and Chico who come together on stage and screen to tell a story.

Each movement, given a title from one of their films, represents some of my favorite moments from those brilliant shows. The films often juxtapose narrative exposition (mayhem) with complete and utter comic diversion (more mayhem) followed by entirely welcome musical interludes. Here is music that, at once, is playful, wise-cracking, mischievous, earnest, obtuse, suspicious, but always, in the end, warm-hearted – all like the brothers who endeared themselves to generations of viewers. Now, “pardon me while I have a strange interlude.”

I. Monkey Business

II. Night at the Opera

III. The Cocoanuts

IV. Animal Crackers

And The Song Is The Light – a new Shabbat Service for Soprano, Vocal Quartet, Synthesizer, and Guitar; a project of the Alabama State Council on the Arts 2016-2017 Artist Fellowship Award (In Progress).

With Solitude and Song for Voice and Guitar (9′) – commissioned by Barbara Bonfield, Text by Emma Lazarus. Premiered at The Club in Birmingham, AL.

With Solitude and Song was commissioned by and written in honor of Ms. Barbara Bonfield on the occasion of her eightieth birthday. The poetry by Emma Lazarus speaks of the human condition, the wonders of nature and our place in it. The musical elements of the songs have taken great inspiration from the poetic meters found therein and the life of the poet. It is not inconsequential to this work and its dedicatee that Lazarus, whose poem The Colossus is inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty, worked tirelessly on behalf of those who merely wanted a better life. (Click here for With Solitude and Song Poetry)

I. Echoes

II. Links

III. The End of the Song

Yom HaShoah for solo guitar (9′).

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, memorializes those who died in the Shoah, which means catastrophe or utter destruction in Hebrew and refers to the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II. Here, the guitar scordatura, rhythmic figures, and melodic motives express the emotions experienced in such memories.

For me, it still feels necessary to remember and remind. Jewish tradition requires the lighting of a 24 hour candle during periods of mourning. Burning a specially designed Yellow Candle mourns the Six Million who perished and keeps their memory alive. The music is strongly influenced by the song Es Brent (It Burns) by Mordechai Gerbirtig.

Hear My Prayer musically petitions us to honor and remember all the souls who died in the Holocaust. Woven into this movement is the Sh’main one of its most familiar musical representations. The major/minor mode-shifts juxtapose hope (never again) and sadness in a most fundamental way.

The March of the Living brings students from around the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust in a silent march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp complex built during World War II. Set in 7/8, the music’s asymmetry reflects the walking in those steps learning of those things.

I. Yellow Candle

II. Hear My Prayer

III. March of the Living

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The LeBaron Trio performing Sometimes Y at Shelton State Comm. College

Sometimes Y for Soprano, Clarinet, and Piano – Poetry by Barry Marks (20′).

Sometimes Y is the result of an ongoing collaboration between a poet, Barry Marks, and a composer, Alan Goldspiel. The title came first, I was amused by the notion of a proud parent boldly announcing to all that his child was to perform as the sometimes Y in a school play illustrating the vowels.

My initial idea was to somehow musically exploit this situation and then explore some of the peculiarities of the English language as evidence by the many bad/funny translations. Further thought focused on the ambiguity of applying “sometimes’ with both the vowel and it’s homonym why.

Then, as I mentioned these ruminations to a poet, we began discussing the various associations we had with each vowel, the various roles that the vowels play in English, and then we even discussed at great length the actual appearance and shape of those six letters. It was from this beginning that Sometimes Y for soprano, clarinet, and piano was born. Texts were created and ultimately poems were realized.

Each song musically represents the emotional qualities of the letters as expressed by the poetry and the aims of the poet. The forms and/or musical lines often abstractly and sometimes overtly represent the vowel shape. The tonal is also frequently juxtaposed against the less tonal in a manner not unlike the various effects and pronunciations of the vowels. Ultimately, this is about how the letters make us feel. (Click Here for Sometimes Y Poetry)

1. AEIO UY

2. A, First of All

3. E, Silence is…

4. I, Am

5. O, The Story of

6. Beneath a Sky

7. U, The Ugly

8. Sometimes Y

Soldier of Mine for SATB Choir (8′) – commissioned by Snead State Community College, Text by Margaret McQuarry Huskey.

Soldier of Mine by Alan Goldspiel was commissioned by Snead State Community College (Boaz, Alabama) and it is based on a poem of the same name written in 1944 by Margaret McQuarry Huskey. The poem was sent in a correspondence to a soldier who was sent overseas, a soldier who, while not yet boyfriend, would later become husband.

Set tonally, Soldier of Mine musically exploits the character of our soldier as described in the poem and it also evokes the era in which he lives. In the poem, all of the description is juxtaposed against dream imagery to convey admiration and longing.

The sectional nature of the music corresponds to the images depicted in the writing. I wished to musically express the worry and concern of one left behind, the anguish of loneliness, the hardship of war, and our troubled thoughts when those we care about are not near – while also conveying the hope that the poem silently expresses for a romantic relationship.  

Soldier of Mine was doubly premiered in 2017 at Snead State Community College as part of a literary festival and then in a concert salute to the armed forces.

Purple Nokh A Mol for solo Tuba (6′) – commissioned by Joe L. Alexander; Premiered at the Mississippi University for Women for the Mid-South Chapter of NAC/USA

Purple Nokh A Mol was written for my friend Joe L. Alexander. It explores, and was inspired by, the notion of “again.” The super locrian mode with its octatonic beginning and whole tone ending provides the pitch universe and inherently represents “repeat” in its interval patterns. The music juxtaposes two super locrian modes extending the repetition to transposition.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau

Magic Shtetl Klezmer Band at Temple Emanu-El
Magic Shtetl Klezmer Band at Temple Emanu-El

Klezmer Shabbat Service for Quintet, SATB Choir, Soloist (55′) – commissioned by Temple Emanu-El; Premiered at Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, AL.

Written in homage to the Jewish people of Birmingham, Alabama, Klezmer Shabbat Service was commissioned by Temple Emanu-El in honor of Marvin and Ruth Engel. Inspired by the eastern European Klezmer tradition, here, sacred Hebrew texts meet secular life-cycle celebration music.

This music, written in the classical tradition, combines Klezmer’s distinctly sectional formal scheme with melodies based on the Jewish modes. Klezmer’s emotional charge and dance-inducing rhythms surface in many of these Friday night service prayers, yet just as often they are used as the basis or background structure of the prayer with only a hint or tiny glimpse of the original inspiration.

The non-traditional scoring for this version of a Klezmer Band, a choir, and a soprano soloist in a synagogue setting was further inspired by Yiddish theatre music and folk songs, Hasidic Nigunim, Israeli folk/camp songs, and the very notion of a wedding band itself.

The World Premiere of this piece took place at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama on August 26, 2016. It was performed by Cantor Jessica Roskin, the Temple Choir, and the Magic Shtetl Klezmer Band.

Slippery Slope at 16th St Church
Performing Slippery Slope at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church

Slippery Slope for Guitar and Violin (6.5′) – commissioned by the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center.

The Slippery Slope for guitar and violin was written to accompany the play A Slippery Slope: The Consequences of Hate and was premiered at the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL on January 25, 2015. The music was commissioned by the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center in honor of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the UN International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The music, evocative of the script, sets the tone and seeks to convey the consequences of hate and prejudice.

V’shamru for SATB choir (5′).

Sloss: A New City for Soprano, Clarinet, and Guitar (12′) – commissioned by the Alabama Music Teachers Association

Oral histories and songs tell the tale of the industrial revolution in the South and the emergence of Birmingham, Alabama (1871) as a post-bellum city whose rapid growth led to the nickname “Magic City.” Sloss Furnaces, one of the largest manufacturers of pig-iron, and its company town “Sloss Quarters” with its company store were an integral part of early life in Birmingham.

I was fascinated to learn that former plantation workers, convict-laborers, and immigrants from many European countries worked the dangerous jobs of the pig-iron furnaces and foundries. These five songs were inspired by the oral histories of former Sloss employees, section-gang work chants, trade-union appeals, and the many, many references to music as an important cross-cultural part of daily life.

This composition explores, in particular, the life of the migrant farm worker coming to the new city and it offers a tiny glimpse into what the workers and their families had to endure to make a living during those days. Sloss: A New City was commissioned by the Alabama Music Association and the Music Teachers National Association for the 2014 State Conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The World Premiere of this piece took place at the Alabama Music Teachers Association at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on June 5, 2014 and was performed by Melanie Williams (soprano), Lori Ardovino (clarinet), and Alan Goldspiel (guitar).

I. Red House, Yellow House

II. Commissary

III. A Wife’s Prayer

IV. The Union

V. A New City

Vagaries and Sundries for French Horn, Trumpet, and Trombone (4′).

Vagaries and Sundries seeks to musically represent in a small way our ephemeral world of change and miscellany, that which we deal with every day. As such, it explores the notion that with a common musical frame of reference or idiolect, we can sometimes see that the more things appear to change and/or seem irrelevant or coincidental, the more they may remain consistent and connected.

The World Premiere of this piece took place at the National Association of Composers/USA Mid-South Chapter at the University of Louisiana – Monroe on April 13, 2014 and was performed by the Black Bayou Brass (James Boldin, horn; Aaron Witek, trumpet; and James Layfield, trombone).

And All That Jazz? for Guitar, Trumpet and Clarinet (11′).

Taking its cue from three iconic jazz performers, And All That Jazz? is a blend of styles combining blues and swing with a manipulation of sets derived from the three pieces alluded to in each of the movements titles.

Blue Three (in the west end) salutes the pioneering work of Louis Armstrong, his Hot Fives and Sevens, and his West End Blues. Jammin’ (with honeysuckle) pay homage to the landmark 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert of Benny Goodman and the fourteen minute jam session on the tune Honeysuckle Rose which was performed there. I Awake (in a beautiful town) celebrates the music of legendary jazz guitar great Django (a Gypsy name meaning ‘I awake’) Reinhardt and his well-known work Belleville.

The World Premiere of this piece took place at the National Association of Composers/USA National Conference at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana on October 4, 2013. It was performed by Lori Ardovino (clarinet), Joe Ardovino (trumpet), and Alan Goldspiel (guitar).

I. Blue Three (in the west end)

II. Jammin’ (with honeysuckle)

III. I Awake (in a beautiful town)

The Sword and the Lute for Guitar and Soprano Saxophone (12′).

This work was inspired by the interesting conjecture that many of the Saracen bodyguards/soldiers of the Middle Ages were thought to be musicians/lute players who accompanied many narrative songs of war –  soldiers by day, lute players by night! That the power of music and song might be as lethal as a weapon of war is a thought-provoking subtext. Here, these inspirations manifest themselves as a duet/duel between the guitar and the soprano saxophone.

Lion’s Claw refers to the Arabic sword the scimitar, its powerful curved blade said to be quite effective in battle. Cross Swords pits each instrument against the other as groups of eighth notes accent and conflict within different parts of the measure. The saxophone multiphonics serve as a call to arms while the guitar pizzicato and percussion strike back each metaphoric blow. Night Song, when we are alone with only our thoughts, relives the day’s exploits both triumphant and sorrowful, a time for the soldiers to pause and reflect.

The World Premiere of this piece took place at the National Association of Composers/USA National Conference at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana on October 3, 2013.

I. Lion’s Claw

II. Cross Swords

III. Night Song

Five Preludes for Solo Guitar (15′).

The Five Preludes are inspired by and written in homage to Heitor Villa-Lobos and his music. Each one takes some essence (or my interpretation of that essence) of the great Brazilian composer’s work and uses it as the basis for the composition. The preludes complete the set of four five-movement works for solo guitar begun in 2005 (Five Meditations (2005), then Nature Sketches (2007), and Tale of the Bird Mound (2007).

From Birds to the Flying Machine for Guitar and Soprano (11′); Text by Leonardo Da Vinci.

A Day at the Beach for Guitar and Clarinet (7′).

Celebrating the sometimes vexed spirit of relaxation, Day at the Beach evokes the beauty of the scenery and is a personal reminiscence of some typical encounters at the shore. Sand Crab, Clouds and Driftwood, and Umbrella Tales relate the experience of one such trip.

In writing for the clarinet and guitar, my idea was to achieve an internal blend of the parts whereby, for example, the clarinet line would often become the bass line for the guitar melody. in the interchange of parts a sonic variation is achieved that exploits the similarity of range between the instruments. Separating this experiment in timbral structure are melodies with ostinato accompaniment.

Driving the internal structure of the music is the notion of a third, often filled in. This fundamental element appears in many guises and culminates in the bluesy major/minor third reflecting some trouble with trying to shade oneself.

I. Sand Crab

II. Clouds and Driftwood

III. Umbrella Tales

Tale of the Bird Mound for Solo Guitar (12′).

Ancient civilizations in North America built large earth mounds for reasons which we can only speculate. The people who lived then and the society they created are both a great mystery. One such mound, Poverty Point (Louisiana), is in the shape of a bird, an important symbol based on engravings and other artifacts found there. The engraving called Fox-Man, for example, is thought to represent a horned owl.

Excavated objects of pottery and stone tell us all that we know about the lives of these Mound Builders. Stone point artifacts are thought to have been used on the ends of spears which were thrown with the help of an Atlatl, a device held in the hand and hooked to the spear to increase speed and distance. It is fascinating to consider Poverty Point culture and this tale of the Bird Mound celebrates its legacy.

I. Mound Builders

II. Atlatl

III. Poverty Point

IV. Fox-Man

V. Bird Mound

Nature Sketches for Solo Guitar (12′).

I was inspired to create sound environments for various nature tableaus. I really wanted to musically represent states of mind, emotion, and sensation about nature in its many forms. I created the music and then determined what that best felt like. In some instances, I set out to create one mood or sound environment and came up with something totally different.

I. Twilight

II. Waterfall

III. Dark Clouds

IV. Moonlight

V. Windstorm

Latin Overture for Two Guitars (5′).

Five Meditations for Solo Guitar (15′).

I. Seasons Change

II. with Hope

III. The Hand I Hold

IV. Sunset

V. Now Until the End

Alan Goldspiel is a member of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance and President of the National Association of Composers/USA – Mid-South Chapter