Tag Archives: Prelude Cocktail

South Tour

Our South Tour started with an intense Flamarimba Camp with LONG, and I do mean LONG, rehearsal days:

We didn’t just have a lot of music to practice…there were a lot of instruments:

And, though our real reason to be in North Carolina was to teach a class at the UNC School of the Arts, while we were there, I staged a little protest of their crazy discriminatory new bathroom law:

Then we were off:

It was beautiful:

And sultry:

And fancy:

And meta:

And we spent a lot of time on I-40:

Dead Composers Review Prelude Cocktail

Our debut CD Prelude Cocktail came out last fall, but the reviews are still coming in.  Just in time for Halloween, we have these quotes from the latest edition of De-Composition Quarterly.  They are, well, mixed:

“I thought Stalin was bad, but Prelude Cocktail makes me feel truly repressed.” D. Shostakovich,  staff writer

“I’m skeptical of a flute made of gold…but the well-tempered clavier is amazing!” -J.S. Bach, editor-in-chief

“Flute and Marimba?! It’s an abomination! Negative 4 stars.” -F. Chopin, staff writer

“Sacrebleu! J’aime la flûte et le marimba! Lawler et Fadoul sont formidables!” -C. Debussy, staff writer.

Dos Conciertos

So I’ve been working on Spanish. There is a website where I can practice my writing and get crowdsourced corrections. I wrote a little note about our Carnegie Concert Series performance (and a concert my students put on Thursday). Here it is!

Dos conciertos

Esta noche voy a ir a un concierto en el que mis estudiantes tocarán la percusión. Es el último concierto del año. Me divertí mucho con la mayoría de estos estudiantes. Dos tríos tocarán por la marimba y dos piezas más grandes, incluyendo “Mah-na mah-na”, de Los Muppets. Depués , me iré a Nueva York a tocar con un flautista. La música es muy dificil y espero estar listo. “¡Deséame suerte!”

Whirlwind Weekend in Vancouver

We spent last weekend in Vancouver for a quick tour with a house concert and a conference.  We were pretty much in love with the whole city, and can’t wait to go back.


On Friday night, Barbara Lyall and Kath Poole hosted us in a really fun house concert.  Kath’s home is an architect-designed modern beauty that seemed to have been created with house concerts in mind.  There was plenty of room for the marimba and the audience.

Brent Alley, who really should be considered a third co-host, took this nice photo of the audience:



We are so grateful to our hosts for introducing us to their friends, to their friends for coming to the concert, and to our super-fans (those would be my family members!) who came a long way to see us and to help out!



Saturday was dedicated to British Columbia Touring Council’s Pacific Contact, their annual booking conference.  We started out doing a mini-showcase (a “pitch/perform”) in the morning, compressing 300 years of preludes into five minutes.  The rest of the day was spent getting to know lots of new people–artists, presenters, consultants, and the amazing staff of BCTC as well.  It was the most friendly conference we’ve ever been to, and we hope to return to BC for more performances and yes, to go back to the conference too!

The “app folks” at BCTC were running a photo contest as part of the conference…the conference app had a nifty feature that would take a picture and frame it with the Pacific Contact  logo.  When we returned from lunch to find my parents “guarding” the marimba for us, I took this photo:


 And guess what?  The photo won!  The prize was an iPad mini!!!  Talk about an unforeseen benefit!  I passed the mini on to my parents who really did deserve a prize for all their help ferrying us and the marimba all over town.  I submitted this “post-script” photo of me teaching them to use it:


Anxiety Dreams

Dear Reader,

A lot has been going on for Lawler + Fadoul lately, as you may have noticed. Our CD is out; we had three CD release house parties; we went on tour with Prelude Cocktail; and the first week of December, we were in the Washington, DC area for lots of school shows (with 16 shows in 3 days!!) It’s all been pretty exciting, but let’s be honest, a bit stressful too.

For me, that kind of stress leads to some pretty hilarious anxiety dreams. Well, they seem hilarious after the fact, anyway. I’ve had two whoppers during this busy L+F season.

Anxiety Dream No. 1: Flute Field Trip to Outer Space

Yes, you read that right. In the dream, I was taking a bunch of Suzuki flute students on a field trip to outer space. I think this has something to do with having seen Gravity the week before.  Anywho, there we were, in the Space Shuttle, me and all the cute little Suzuki kids, and of course, something went horribly wrong and we had to prepare for a crash landing. And of course, there weren’t enough oxygen masks. In fact, there were only two, one for the captain, and one for Danny Castellano (the character from The Mindy Project…not really sure what he was doing on a flute field trip to outer space, but that’s the subconscious for you!) So they sent us all into a stairwell (this dream Space Shuttle had a stairwell), where we were to just hang on tight and hope for the best. There were a few terrifying moments, with engines whining, walls shuddering, kids whimpering, and me feeling incredibly responsible, and then we landed with a little bump and everyone was fine.

We were reunited with all their parents on a beach.

The end.

Anxiety Dream No. 2: Flute Playing meets Synchronized Swimming

Just a few days after the ill-fated flute field trip to outer space, I had another doozie.

In this one, I had to play a concerto, the famous Concertino by Cecile Chaminade, in some sort of tropical location. The orchestra was arrayed out on a second-floor U-shaped balcony, overlooking a U-shaped bay. I had to play while treading water in the bay, in my full diva gown…all the while keeping my flute from dipping into the water. At one point the very end of the flute did go into the water, and I had a moment of panic over the brand new pads I had just had installed, but it turned out not to be a problem.

In fact, the playing while treading water wasn’t really that hard. The real obstacle was hearing the orchestra. They were very far away, and members of the audience kept jumping in the water. The splashes made it hard to hear the orchestra, and what was even worse was that the audience members kept swimming up to me and trying to talk to me during the performance.

As if that wasn’t enough, a Russian submarine (Cold War era throwback anxiety, anyone?) was sneaking into the bay, and I had to figure out a way to warn everyone without the Russians knowing I was on to them.

Then I woke up.

The end?

There you have it, dear Reader, a glimpse into the subconsciuos life of a musician.


Why Prelude Cocktail?

Preludes are musical cocktails:  intriguing and intoxicating on their own, they also hold the promise of something more to come.  You might share cocktails before a big meal, just as a prelude often introduces a more substantial fugue.  Cocktails can be sweet (think of a Cosmo!), strong (gin martini), classic (Tom Collins, anyone?) or new and adventurous (what’s that one that is Red Bull and vodka?), and our selections from four centuries of preludes are equally eclectic.  Prelude Cocktail includes two world premiere sets of preludes by American composers Katherine Hoover and Roshanne Etezady, as well as our own brand new arrangements of favorites of the genre by Debussy, Gershwin, Bach, Chopin, Shostakovich and Scriabin.  Guest clarinetist, Christopher Grymes, joins us on two preludes and fugues by Shostakovich.

Photo by Julie Lemberger

Photo by Julie Lemberger

What about the promise of a prelude? That there is more to come? If fugues by Bach and Shostakovich aren’t enough… Lawler + Fadoul’s debut CD, Prelude Cocktail is the first stage of our long-term project to expand the repertoire for flute and marimba, both by commissioning new works and by arranging favorites for other instruments.  All works on the CD are world premiere recordings that herald the rich sonic and expressive potential of the combination of flute and marimba.  Lawler moves from flute to piccolo and alto flute and back again, as Fadoul plays both marimba and vibraphone, in quick succession or at the same time.  The addition of clarinet, beautifully played by guest artist Christopher Grymes, is a surprising and welcome ingredient.

The transcriptions have allowed us to explore the range and richness of what the unique flute-marimba combination can achieve – we see it as a way of looking forward while looking back.”

Interview with composer Katherine Hoover, Part 2

This interview originally appeared in the May 2013 New York Flute Club Newsletter. © 2013 by The New York Flute Club, Inc.

afternoon: BUSINESS

If the morning is about getting ideas out of Katherine’s head and onto paper, the afternoon is about getting her music out of her apartment and onto music stands everywhere…

ZL: So, you’ve composed until you’re done for the day, then what?

KH: Well, I head for the computer: there are always things to answer, like somebody wants a lesson on Kokopeli, and that has to be scheduled. I go to the post office a reasonable amount. I’m very, very lucky that Papagena Press has been enough of a success that about five years ago Theodore Presser came to me and asked to be my distributor, and offered me a very nice deal. So I have to get stuff off to them, from time to time, and then there are a ton of other things, a lot of inquiries. So in the afternoon I handle things like inquiries, and the business level of it.

ZL: Now that Presser is your distributor, what kind of work do you have to do for Papagena Press?

KH: Well, there’s a lot! Getting pieces ready, which includes editing, proofing (ugh!) and designing the publication. And you’ll notice, I do design, very carefully, every cover. First of all, it’s fun for me. And I think it makes a real difference.

ZL: And Papagena is just your works?

KH: I tried once, many years ago, to put out someone else’s work. And my name did not sell anyone else’s work. And it was a lot of effort! So I said, “No more.”

ZL: So your work is creating the product that Presser then reproduces and sells. You have to make it into a printable PDF or something for Presser?

KH: No, for the printer. I pay for all of that, which is the reason they made me such a good deal!

ZL: Oh, so you do literally everything except the distribution?

KH:  Correct.

ZL: So if someone wants to buy your music, they order it through Presser, but basically what they are getting is a physical product that you, Katherine Hoover, have created. That’s very cool! Do you keep all of the music in stock, or did you, until it was distributed by Presser?

KH: Yes…

ZL: So before the days of Presser, if you ordered a piece of music from Katherine Hoover, it came directly from the hand of Katherine Hoover. Katherine Hoover took it to the post office, and mailed it to you. That’s freaking cool! [Both laugh.] I mean, it’s probably tiring for you, but it’s cool for the rest of us. “This stamp was licked by Katherine Hoover!” [More laughter.]

ZL: Would you say that having your own publishing company, having that control and that vehicle for your work to get out into the world, has been successful?

KH: Absolutely. It means two wonderful things: I really do have a say in where the page turns are, what it looks like, all of this…. And, the other one? It’s a big one: I can put out whatever the heck I please!

ZL: Is it financially successful?

KH: I make some money from it every year. I make enough that it helps.

ZL: So your afternoon is Papagena, inquiries, website maintenance, that sort of thing. And you do that for three hours, five hours, twelve hours, until you’re done?

KH: Well, two to three hours. Then if it’s Monday, as it is today, my son usually comes by for dinner.

Which brings us to…

evening: LIFE

KH: I have a house to run and a family to take care of and that takes time too, but the days are very different, sometimes you work two, three, four hours, sometimes you work seven or eight hours, and one day will follow the next and it won’t be the same at all. But basically it’s writing, then tending to Papagena takes the next big chunk, and then practicing. Practicing voice and flute.

ZL: So you do that at the end of the day?

KH: No, I do that after I write, when I’m still reasonably fresh.

ZL: So, to complete this “day in the life,” obviously you have a family life you maintain, and a personal life that you also maintain. You’re having dinner with your son. What are some of the other activities that might take up your personal time?

KH: Well, I just had a daughter-in-law and granddaughter here for 10 days from Vienna. And, this is New York, we like to go to things. We don’t get to half the things we’d like to go to! One reasons this has worked so well for both of us [Katherine and her husband, Richard Goodwin, who is a guidance counselor at a South Bronx high school] is that I knew when I married Richard that he had the passion about what he does that I have about what I do, and so we would respect that for each other. He knows music is central to my life and that I wouldn’t be me without it, and I know he would not be himself without what he does, and his kids.

ZL: Well, I think that’s really important. Both of your careers are so challenging, and require such an investment of your personality. It’s not like filling out forms at the bank all day! You have to be able to give each other that permission, at the very least, and support, hopefully at the best.

At this point, Richard himself interrupted the interview to add another answer to the question of her non-composing activities, by showing me some of Katherine’s pottery. In fact, it turned out I was drinking coffee out of one of her pieces, and that the two spend time together every week, working at a pottery studio. The coffee mug I was using was an exception in Katherine’s work:

KH: I was never terribly good at the wheel, so basically I’ve been making things lately for which there is absolutely no human use. And I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it!

RICHARD: She’s in her “Dali” period, I would say…

And so one day in the life of a composer flows, with writing, practicing, business and life, until it is time to start thinking about tomorrow’s writing session, when another day in the life of Katherine Hoover begins.

Interview with composer Katherine Hoover, Part 1

This interview originally appeared in the May 2013 New York Flute Club Newsletter. © 2013 by The New York Flute Club, Inc.

KATHERINE HOOVER: A day in the life of a composer

Interview by Zara Lawler

The flute world knows Katherine Hoover (www.katherinehoover.com) as a groundbreaking composer of wonderful music for the flute. She began her life as a composer when it was very unusual for women to consider composing as a career. Equally boldly, she started a publishing company, Papagena Press, to get her music out into the world. I first met Katherine in the early ’90s when I was at Barnard College, working on both her Suite for two flutes and Kokopeli for my senior thesis project on women composers. She was one of the first “real” (that is, non-student) composers I had ever met, and I am so pleased that we have worked together quite a bit in the years since! For this profile, we got together last year at her Upper West Side apartment, and I used the opportunity to ask her all sorts of nosy questions about the nitty-gritty of her life as a composer, and how it compares to the life of a flutist.

morning:  WRITING

Actually, it turns out that a day in the life of Katherine Hoover, composer, begins the night before!

ZARA LAWLER: When you sit down to start your composing day, is there any sort of warm-up you do, any sort of mental preparation?

KATHERINE HOOVER: As a matter of fact, I usually start by thinking about the piece the night before. I just sort of review things a little bit, and by the time I get up in the morning, it’s usually running through my head, and I’m into it. That’s the best, because life is so distracting. If the piece is any good at all, though, I’ll be in the middle of it.

ZL: You’ve told me a couple of times when I’ve tried to schedule time with you that you can’t do anything in the morning, that’s when you write. I’d love to get a sense of what a day in the life of a composer is like.

KH: Well…

ZL: Maybe there’s not a typical day…

KH: I think for many, many people there is not. When I started to write, I had a young child—who of course has his own kids now! And the only time I had to write, once I decided I really, really wanted to do this, was in the morning after I took him to preschool. I had a couple of hours and that was it. And then I was into making a living, and taking care of him, and everything else that goes with life. So I started out writing in the morning, sitting down at the piano the minute he was at preschool, and I got very tied to that, because I realized it was the only time I would ever have to write. I still write in the morning. Lately it’s been hard now that I have more time—I have to make an effort to be free enough with myself to go back in the afternoon and work on something I worked on that morning.

ZL: Is there a time you set for yourself to get started?

KH: Usually around 9, something like that.

ZL: And when you spend your morning writing, do you take breaks? Do you work until you’re done? What’s the flow of the morning for you?

KH: It really depends on how hard the piece is. There are times when you can go on for 30 to 40 bars, and other times when I’m happy to have 6 to 8 bars.

ZL: How long does that take?

KH: That depends on the same thing. Again, anywhere from 40 minutes, and I’m really unhappy if that’s all I get, to a couple of hours in the morning. Lately sometimes I’ve been able to come back in the afternoon and do another hour or two as well, and I like that.

ZL: When I practice, I like to work in half-hour chunks, with breaks in between. Do you have a structure for yourself during the time you’re writing?

KH: No, no, no…again it really depends on whether it’s flowing and what I’m thinking about, and actually I’ve been getting up in the middle of the night with ideas now, because I can. But no, it really depends on what kind of idea it is. Some ideas will go a long time before you can stop working with them. And my mind is also saying to me at certain times, “Hey! Write this down!”

ZL: I think people would be interested to think about how the life of a composer compares to the life of a performer. Playing is so interesting because you have to be in shape both mentally and physically. What is that experience like for a composer?

KH: Not nearly so well-rounded I can tell you! You sit on your duff at the piano, or wherever you sit, at a table or whatever, and you write. If I write for flute, of course I’m checking it out, but I write with the piano first.

ZL: When we were working and talking about the piece for E Pluribus Flutum [Zara’s work for 8 to 100 dancing flutists, incorporating folk tunes, dances, and a Katherine Hoover finale—Ed.] that became Clowning Around, I was struck by a comment you made. You said “Well, you know, I’ll just throw some things out and see what comes back.” And I was wondering if you could talk a bit about what that process is, of throwing things out, and seeing what comes back.

KH: That’s really interesting. One of the reasons I decided to do [Clowning Around] is because I hadn’t written anything light in quite a while, and that’s an important balance to me. It’s a balance that I don’t ever want to lose sight of because so much of contemporary music is sooo serious [said in a mock-serious voice].

ZL: Yes, I’ve noticed! [Both laugh.]

KH: So, I didn’t know what would happen. I don’t do that kind of thing very often, so I just had to see what I would get, and that’s what I got.

ZL: Another composer friend of mine said that a lot of his work is just making the conditions right for himself to have ideas. And basically he said, “I just pamper myself. I take care of myself, so that I can then have ideas.” Is there that aspect of it for you?

KH: Yes there is, but it’s different for me. I’ll read something, I’ll go to a gallery, I’ll see all kinds of things, and then something will start giving me sound ideas, ideas in sound. I love to do this, because then the sounds it gives me are usually pretty different from other things. Somehow it triggers a kind of originality, and I don’t want to sound the same all the time.

ZL: So you get your sound ideas from non-sound sources sometimes.

KH: Correct. I have hundreds of years of sound sources in my head, and I want some different sounds if I can find them.

ZL: The part of your job that is seeking inspiration, do you have to set aside time for that, or does life provide that for you?

KH: Life provides that, as long as I get out, and start looking and thinking and reading and so forth.

ZL: During composing time, I was wondering if there’s a balance between writing new material and editing or reworking material that you’ve already written, or does that all feel like one process for you?

KH: It’s all part of one process. I learned this about my own process. A few times in a longer piece, I would think, “Well I want something here that’s totally different, I want to go in a different direction at this point… I want to go someplace else.” And I would! I would do something I thought was completely different in every way, and then, so help me, in the third or fourth rehearsal someone would say, “Well you got this thing from right there in the beginning didn’t you?” [Both laugh.] So I finally just said the heck with that, and accepted that even if I try and write something really, really different, it will probably be part of the same process and the same piece. I just count on it.

ZL: I wish I had my camera out. You just did this gesture of shrugging your shoulders like “I don’t know how it happens,” and I just think that, well, it’s a mystery to me how composers compose, and it’s interesting to me that there’s an aspect of shrugging your shoulders for you too!

KH: It’s a mystery to me, yeah. And for the guy who told you that he just has to pamper himself, get to the right mood somehow or other, that implies the same thing.

ZL: So it’s not like “And now I will write the next five notes of this piece.”

KH: Well, yes, we do do that, we just don’t know where they come from, that’s all. [Both laugh.]

ZL: In the little bit of truly creative work that I’ve done— when I’m really starting with nothing and not just adding an interpretation—I really feel the difference. And for me, there’s a great deal of fear. I mean, what if what I come up with is stupid? or what do I do next? Is there any aspect of that for you?

KH: Oh, absolutely…

ZL: When you’re playing a piece, you work on matching yourself to the piece, and bringing out the best in the piece and bringing your best self to the piece, but when you’re with the blank page, is that fear something you face on a daily basis, or are you kind of over it?

KH: No, not on a daily basis, and no, I’m not totally over it. I don’t think you’re ever totally over it. I’ve had some tremendous fears. I mean, obviously, I didn’t start writing until my 30s, when I should have been writing from the time I was a kid! I went to school in the ’50s, I mean, come on! For boys, and even more so for girls, in music school, there was a sense of “What are you doing, writing? Who do you think you are, Beethoven?” It was really not a good attitude. “All the good music has been written,” was basically it. And I was the only female in class, with six guys, all grad students. I was an undergrad, and I just sat there, and they never bothered to look at my work, and that’s the way it was.

ZL: Wow.

KH: So I did not write, and you can imagine, with all of this, when I finally did start writing, there was a tremendous amount of fear that it wouldn’t be any good. And the bigger the piece, the bigger the fear. And sometimes I still have some of that, but it’s a little different now. I’m not afraid of myself and other people at this point, but I am afraid of not doing it really well.

ZL: How do you know when you’re finished for the day?

KH: I just run dry! Or else the phone rings, and I just get so distracted…sometimes there’s just something I have to go and do. Usually I don’t schedule anything before 11:30, so sometimes it’s that I have to stop, but usually it’s like something says “That’s all for today!” I think, [in a kid’s voice] “Nah, I want to do more!” [Then in a grown-up voice] “Sorry, that’s it, that’s your allowance.”

ZL:  How about for a piece, how do you know when it’s finished, when it’s time to put it on the computer?

KH: I get to a certain point in the piece, and I realize I have to pay attention to the piece’s form. So I’ll sort of sketch an idea of how long it should be, whatever ideas I have in terms of the piece. There’s a certain point when you’ve done enough of the piece that you have to plan out or begin thinking about the form or else it can be very chaotic. I guess that’s kind of a signal to myself in a way—it’s still subject to change as you go on, but basically you’ll have a sense that yes, this is coming to an end, and it has to be in a way that fits with the rest of the piece. I may go back and look and think it over, and sometimes I will ask myself, “What are some really strong ideas or ideas I really liked in this piece?” and you can bring them back to put it together. Because that’s how people will hear it: if you hear it as being strongest, people are going to hear it that way and that’s the way to bring it to an end. A lot of composers say endings are really really difficult. I used to think that wasn’t true, but it is.

ZL: For a performer, you know you’re done practicing the piece because you had the performance, or the performance is tonight or tomorrow. And I guess for your pieces when you have a commission, there’s sometimes a deadline that will help create that for you, but for a piece you’re working on for yourself, is there ever a temptation to just keep tinkering with it until…

KH: A lot of people do more of that than I do, I think. It has to do with the time constraints I had when I started writing. I tend to be done with it when I’m done. But lately, again, when I’ve finally got my life to a point where I can just relax and do what I want, the way I want, I’ve tried to open up in that way too. And I’m doing more rewriting than I used to.

What does composer Katherine Hoover do in the afternoon and evening?  Stay tuned for part 2…