On January 31st, the Music Department of Binghamton (NY) University presented a concert of Professor Emeritus Paul Goldstaub’s music on the first anniversary of his death. It was wonderful to hear such an eclectic mix of Paul’s music, much of it performed by the musicians who had premiered it.
I found my mind going back to my own studies of theory and composition at Smith. At that time, we began our theory course sequence in a contemporary setting with the study of rhythm, timbre, and melody, before progressing in later semesters to common practice period harmony, counterpoint, and chromatic harmony. The concert opened with a fugue for 3 snare drums, which included some air drumming and left us wishing that we could have seen the score to see how Paul had notated it. The second half of the concert opened with Pastorale II for flute and digital delay, played by Georgetta Maiolo. I loved how it wedded wonderful melodic writing with contemporary technology, with the digital delay taking the place of what would probably have been done by tape in my student days.
I also appreciated that Paul wrote for so many different instruments and combinations. In the concert, there was a piece for trombone and piano and one for marimba and piano. Hindemith came to mind. The concert program included a full list of Goldstaub’s composition, arranged chronologically, which allowed us to appreciate the full scope of his range as a composer.
Paul’s inventiveness as a composer was on fullest display in the excerpts from Every Evening for baritone, a chorus of three sopranos, piano, and percussion duo. Before each movement was sung, the poem was read by Professor Emeritus Martin Bidney, who had translated them from Russian, into which they had been translated from the Spanish folk tradition. The settings that followed had an incredible richness of soundscape, including some pitched speech reminiscent of Sprechstimme, close harmony from the three sopranos, and dialogue between the baritone and varied combinations of the sopranos.
As a member of a chamber chorus drawn from the Binghamton University Chorus, it was my privilege to participate in the final piece on the program, the first movement of Shakespeare Mix, which Paul had written for us in 2002. Accompanied by two pianos and percussion, we sang from Twelfth Night, “If music be the food of love, play on.” As we finished, a photograph of Paul was projected on a screen beside the stage. As the ovation went on, it was good to know that we had all joined together that evening to make sure that Paul Goldstaub’s music does “play on.”