November 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


I first saw Arnold Lobel’s picture books in the late 1990’s, when my first daughter was little.  The first one I ran across was OWL AT HOME, a collection of five or six little stories about an owl.  I liked them a lot – at any rate enough to seek out other books by Lobel.


Eventually I found Arnold Lobel’s FABLES at the public library.  At first the FABLES mostly just seemed eccentric.  I liked them, I liked the pictures and the vibe and the clarity of the writing, and I could sense a great depth and energy and MUSICALITY about them, but it took me quite a while to appreciate their full potential.



Here I must digress to mention that I have a love/hate relationship with musical drama.  On the love side, I have some kind of idiot savant talent for the form.  I usually more-or-less automatically do the right thing as a dramatic composer.  I get right up into the NOW of the story, and I can do no wrong.


Musical theatre can be loads of FUN and oh so musical.


Unfortunately, with musical theatre the bad stuff can also be really really bad.  The worst of it leaves me feeling like I need a shower to wash the treacle away.


So though I knew I was good at musical drama, and I knew I needed to become a better  Composer (with a Capital C) in order to write a certain play about a certain eccentric lady poet with a favorite number 7.4, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to find something to write.  Also, the assumption when you come across something with theatrical promise is that somehow I will adapt this story for the theatre.  I will grok the essence and then flesh it out into a story told theatrically.


Not so with these FABLES.  They had musical promise, but not obvious theatrical promise.  I set them aside.


A few years later, back home in Ann Arbor, I picked them up at the library again.  By that time I had a second daughter – I spent the better part of a decade buried beneath little girls – and I found myself stretched pretty thin entertaining the two of them.  One day I sat down at the piano with a little girl and just started improvising music along with the text of the FABLES exactly as they were written – verbatim. 


They worked.  Not only did they work, they came alive in a way that I am convinced would have delighted their author.  It was raining musical soup.  Really good musical soup.  And so I continued to sit at the piano, often with a little girl, with my brand new mini disc recorder turned on Record to slurp it all up.


After a while I convinced myself that I should finish one of the FABLES, mainly out of sheer curiosity, although it also a kind of “proof of concept”.  The first one I tackled was “THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END”, both because of the promising start I already had on it and because of its cautionary Moral – The highest hopes may lead to the greatest disappointments.


And I do have high hopes for my musical settings of Arnold Lobel’s settings.  I’ve written music for all twenty of them.  They are delightful, and in a sane universe they will be shared with the world in all their glory.  Let this post be a first gesture towards the realization of my high hopes.


I present to you my second pass at THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END, recorded on a 4-track cassette machine probably in 2003 or so.  Enjoy…


Turn It Up!

November 1st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


I’ve written a musical play called “7.4 ROCKS!!!”  It’s real.  Two acts.  Lots of music, lots of songs.  FUN!!!  It hasn’t been produced yet, but it will be.

One of the reasons for my confidence in 7.4 ROCKS!!! is the sheer energy and TRUTH that flow through the song I’m sharing today, Turn It Up!





Turn It Up! is sung by the show’s hero, Reggie Spinkler, an aging Program Director at a Classic Rock radio station circa 1991. Let me share my show’s premise:

7.4 ROCKS!!!


Back in the day, when Reggie Spinkler was a disc jockey at 7.4 WHYTZ, rock ‘n’ roll radio was heaven on earth, every night’s show a unique home town event in the Tri-State Area. But then Reggie’s home town radio station at 7.4 was purchased by Bellicose Breweries CEO Byron Bel Canto…“We’re Here to Sell Beer”…and just like 262 other stations owned and programmed by Bel Canto’s Bellicorp, Reggie’s home at 7.4 WSTPD became just another cookie cutter franchise.

Now that rock ‘n’ roll radio at 7.4 is a homogenized mockery of its former transcendent self, program director Reggie Spinkler punches the clock and prays for the weekend, all the while doing the bidding of his Corporate Overlords.

Then one day local poet Mildred Maloney begins broadcasting from her living room on pirate radio station 7.4 WMILD, sharing her poems with all her Tri-State neighbors – and interfering with WSTPD’s signal.

Call the FCC!!! Shut her down!!! NOW!!!

As battle lines are drawn, erased, and drawn yet again, Reggie begins to see in Mildred a way back to his first passion – unique and fresh home town rock ‘n’ roll radio. Can Reggie stand up to his Corporate Overlords in support of Mildred and find redemption?  

I’ll be sharing more from 7.4 ROCKS!!! in coming posts.


Here’s a link to Turn It Up! on Soundcloud  (by the way, that’s Richard “Radio King” Dishman on drums):

On the Library Lot

April 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


Time to weigh in on this one. What do we want on the “library lot” here in Ann Arbor. It seems self-evident that we need a public social space for Ann Arbor residents. OK. Let’s think about it. How do we get there? » Read the rest of this entry «

A Zillion Theatrical Volts

February 4th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


I’ve been working on musical settings of Arnold Lobel’s FABLES for several years now, and am finally at the point of getting singing actors to take a look at them.  I have a metaphor.

Over the past few years I’ve been involved with the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan.  One of the cool things the Purple Rose does is to “greenhouse” new plays by taking a week… » Read the rest of this entry «


February 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink



Ahh yes, it has been some time since I posted regularly at theWheel – how could that be…?  Truth be told, I’ve been swamped, and theWheel was also at a transition point, so it just seemed best to let it go for a bit.  And how was I swamped?

In a word, Gravity.  This winter I’ve had the good fortune to write music for the world premier of David MacGregor’s play Gravity at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea Michigan.  It’s been a great experience, and sufficiently consuming that I just didn’t want to be distracted by theWheel or anything else.  The play is about the great Natural Philosopher Isaac Newton at a critical point of his life in 1693, when he was 50 years old.  If you live in the South Eastern Michigan region, or even anywhere close, you will be well rewarded if you come to the show.  Being involved with the play myself, I hesitate to say much more than that I believe that David MacGregor has written a Masterpiece – it is really really good – and that a very talented Purple Rose team, led by Artistic Director Guy Sanville, has delivered a loving production.  Here are a couple of reviews.  Do come if you can.

Per theWheel, I’ll have more to say later in the week.  I’ll be posting again, and you are invited to join me.  Till then…

Tragedy and Comedy

November 2nd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink



This week it is my happy duty to be directing actors in a scene from Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The School for Scandal. The scene in question, Scene I from ACT II, is between the rather late middle aged Sir Peter Teazle and his young wife Lady Teazle:

SIR PETER.  Lady Teazle, Lady Teazle, I’ll not bear it!

LADY TEAZLE.  Sir Peter, Sir Peter, you may bear it or not, as you please; but I ought to have my own way in everything, and what’s more, I will, too.  What! though I was educated in the country, I know very well that women of fashion in London are accountable to nobody after they are married.

So what to do with the actors?  » Read the rest of this entry «

So Get Rid of the Saxophone

October 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


In the course of reading various books on theatrical directing, I found my way to Harold Clurman’s On Directing.  Now, I am interested in the theater, but I always find myself, perhaps inevitably, considering any thoughts I have concerning the theater as potentially applicable to my various musical endeavors.  So it is with Clurman’s book.  At the beginning of Chapter 7 – The Director’s Work Script – the author has this to say:

Having read the script six or more times and decided what the play’s main action or spine is, the director would then do well to study the play in still another way.  He should read all the parts separately as if he himself were going to act each of them. This will help him find the spines of the chief motivating action for each character. The character’s spine must be conceived as emerging from the play’s main action.  Where such a relation is not evident or non-existent, the character performs no function in the play.  There is no basis for a true characterization unless the character’s prime motivation or spine is found.

Hmmm…this seems to be a particularly fertile metaphor for choices one makes in arranging and orchestrating music.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Friendly Ghosts

March 9th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


The other morning I attended a 4th Grade Recorder concert (you know, the hooty little flutelike wind instruments) at my daughter’s elementary school.  It was much as you might imagine.  Several tunes were played by the whole 4th grade, but there were also several solos, which lead me to tonight’s topic…

» Read the rest of this entry «

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

February 2nd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


UPDATED 2.02.09

The important word is “and”…

Let me pass along an acting tip from Ian McKellen via Patrick Stewart:

Here’s the passage from Macbeth:

“She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.”
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

This little clip struck me as very interesting. It has something to say about acting craft and “the illusion of the first time”, but also implies we might use this craft to help us to live mindfully in the moment.

If we attend mindfully to the small things, to the conjunctions in our lives, might we not live more richly and truthfully?

Perhaps we might become more convincing actors in our own stories?

Perhaps “signifying something?”

Reeling in an Audience

January 31st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


This makes sense to me – Frank Langella on Reeling in an Audience.

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