Collected Piano Works (Author Interview)


Collected Piano Works looks like a fantastic compilation.  How many volumes are planned?

At the time of this writing, a second 250+ page volume of my compositions for piano is in the works that I plan on releasing for publication sometime in the very near future (most probably in October, 2021). I have written enough solo piano pieces for a third volume but that will take considerably more time to put together, as it will require significant edits and revisions to bring it to full fruition. Before doing that, however, I plan on releasing a sizeable volume of my chamber works for strings and piano that will include works for violin & piano, viola & piano, cello & piano, piano trio, string trio, string duo, and short works for string quartet. Other projects on the horizon include collections of songs (Lieder for voice and piano), a cappella vocal works, and vocal chamber works, a collection of text pieces for narrator and ad hoc variable ensembles, two ginormous string quartets (one of which is among the most ambitious by any composer of my generation), miscellaneous chamber works, orchestral pieces, and graphic scores, among other things.

After having found myself in a level one evacuation zone in the Portland, Oregon metro area last September (in 2020) due to impending conflagrations and dangerously toxic smoke, it hit me hard how important it is as a composer to safely preserve one’s legacy lest all one’s manuscripts be burnt in a firestorm, drowned in a flood, destroyed by an earthquake, hit by a meteorite, or whatever. There is an almost universal fear among composers (especially by freelancers such as myself who have no institutional affiliations) that musically illiterate members of estate committees will, like as not, be singularly predisposed to consign priceless manuscripts to the dust bin for no other reason than their having no immediate discernible monetary value once their artistic creator is deceased (it may not matter whether the composer in question has any next of kin, for it would be preposterous to assume that they would give a flying toss, especially if they’re not musicians themselves). I’ve heard horror stories about monumental masterpieces written by obscure and/or unknown composers being tossed into the garbage once their authors kick the bucket. Yikes!


How long did it take you to write/complete Collected Piano Works?

The works contained in this volume span the last three decades of the twentieth century to the present year (2021), the newest piece having been written in memory of the late composer/pianist Frederic Rzewski (1938-2021) who passed away on June 26, 2021.


What will readers get out of your book?

My critically acclaimed compositions have delighted performers and audiences for upwards of two generations. While I have been publishing my piano (and other) compositions individually over the past 36 years, this is the first time a significant number of my works are compiled into a large, comfortably affordable volume. This is considerably more efficient and cost-effective for pianists—whether they are students of piano, amateur players, scholars, or professional concert artists—to gain access to my compositions, which have heretofore been difficult to find. The pieces range in level from lower intermediate to upper advanced. This collection contains three popular piano rags (Russell Street Rag Op. 5, Ragbones Op. 11, and Nerdfox Rag Op. 23), two fugues (Deformed Fugue Op. 17, and Liebesschmerz Fuge, a thirty-five page virtuosic fugue unlike any other in the keyboard literature), three extended character pieces (Schizomezzo Op. 85, Funeral Waltz Op. 91, and Adagietto Doloroso Op. 121), several epitaphic works (Epicedium Op. 58, Aeternum Vale Op. 93, and Obsequy Op. 41, No. 5), children’s pieces (Broom Brigade Op. 25, The Melancholic Moneymonger Op. 26, Three Little Bonbons Op. 59), an extended four-hand piece in homage to Franz Schubert (Andante in F Minor Op. 46), and other works.

Below are links to live performances of several of the pieces contained in this volume.

Funeral Waltz Op. 91 performed by pianist Myrna Setiawan: 

Schizomezzo Op. 85 performed by pianist Maria Choban:

Russell Street Rag Op. 5 performed by pianist Randall Hodgkinson: 

Aubade Op. 40, No. 5 performed by pianist Anna Sutyagina:

Ragbones Op. 11 performed by pianist Inga Van Buren:

Epicedium Op. 58 performed by pianist Kaori Katayama Noland:

And here below are links to two MIDI renditions.

Andante in F Minor for piano four hands Op. 46:

Prelude & Zootrot Op. 22:

What I hope connoisseurs of piano literature will gain out of the pieces in this volume is the pure ecstatic joy of playing breathtakingly beautiful and expressive music in conjunction with the instinctive foreknowledge that they are simultaneously fulfilling their historically important missions of being brave pioneers willing to traverse wild and as yet undiscovered musical terrain.


Did anything stick out as particularly challenging when writing Collected Piano Works?

Writing music is always challenging and always ought to be, for in the event that the music in question flows out too facilely from its source of origin, chances increase exponentially that the music will end up sounding like the work of a hack—a problem encountered even in some “lesser” works by celebrated, historically important composers. Whether brief or lengthy, simple or complex, every composition is, in theory, conceived as close to the highest standards of craftsmanship and artistic expression as is cogitable within the given parameters of a work’s conceptual framework and thence measured against the very best achievements by the greatest known practitioners of the art from both past and present. In short, one should always compose with the objective of creating an architectural masterpiece. Achieving such a nobly worthy objective more oft than not demands a compulsively labor-intensive process rigorously governed by multiple edits and revisions to the point of inertia—and then some. Le bon Dieu est dans le detail! I keep on sculpting a piece until, IMHO, there’s nothing more that can be done to improve it, at which point it will almost invariably reach that magical, mystical point of no return when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Short bio:

I grew up in a headbox as an airhole freak, soliciting gestural awknowledgments of edibility crapropos of my monthly grub. The greenish gruel I ingested for nourishment drizzled in daggers from the broad vicinity of the ropemaster’s, the driller’s, and the eggman’s quarters high aloft in the west-facing sumpwing of my cloaca maxima. I’d wile away my weeks watching ratsnakes swabbling down the dried up, crusty accounts off the edge of the slop pail in which I inveterately soaked my false tooth.

Long bio:

Gary Lloyd Noland (aka author Dolly Gray Landon, visual artist Lon Gaylord Dylan, and musicians Darnold Olly Yang, Orlan Doy Glandly, and Arnold Day Longly) was born in Seattle in 1957 and grew up in a broken home in a crowded house shared by ten or more people on a plot of land three blocks south of UC Berkeley known as People’s Park, which has distinguished itself as a site of civil unrest since the late 1960s. As an adolescent, Noland lived for a time in Salzburg (Mozart’s birthplace) and Garmisch- Partenkirchen (home of Richard Strauss), where he absorbed a host of musical influences. Having studied with a long roster of acclaimed composers and musicians, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in music from UC Berkeley in 1979, continued his studies at the Boston Conservatory, then transferred to Harvard University, where he added to his credits a Masters and a PhD in Music Composition in 1989. His teachers in composition and theory have included John Clement Adams (not to be confounded with John Coolidge Adams or John Luther Adams), Alan Curtis (harpsichordist, musicologist, conductor, and one of the musical “stars” in Werner Herzog’s film on Gesualdo, “Death for Five Voices”), Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (Master of the Queen’s Music from 2004-16), William Denny (student of Paul Dukas), Robert Dickow, Janice Giteck (student of Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen), Andrew Imbrie (student of Nadia Boulanger and Roger Sessions, Pulitzer Prize Finalist, 1995), Earl Kim (student of Arnold Schoenberg, Ernest Bloch, and Roger Sessions), Leon Kirchner (student of Arnold Schoenberg and assistant to Ernest Bloch and Roger Sessions, Pulitzer Prize, 1967) David Lewin (dubbed “the most original and far-ranging theorist of his generation”), Donald Martino (student of Milton Babbitt, Roger Sessions, and Luigi Dallapiccola, Pulitzer Prize, 1974), Hugo Norden, Marta Ptaszynska (student of Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen), Chris Rozé (student of Charles Wuorinen, Ursula Mamlok, and Vincent Persichetti), Goodwin Sammel (student of pianist Claudio Arrau), John Swackhamer (student of Ernst Krenek and Roger Sessions), Ivan Tcherepnin (student of Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, son of Alexander Tcherepnin), and Walter Winslow (brother of Portland composer Jeff Winslow). Noland has attended seminars by composers David Del Tredici (Pulitzer Prize, 1980), Beverly Grigsby (student of Ernst Krenek), Michael Finnissy (leading British composer and pianist), and Bernard Rands (Pulitzer Prize, 1984), and has had private consultations with George Rochberg (“Father of Neo-Romanticism,” Pulitzer Prize finalist, 1986) and Joaquin Nin-Culmell (student of Paul Dukas and Manuel de Falla, brother of essayist and diarist Anaïs Nin).

To continue on with this (undoubtedly tasteless to some) name-dropping pageant, Noland has also had the honor of meeting (howsoever briefly) such luminaries as Lukas Foss (who was highly supportive of him and with whom he maintained a brief correspondence), Elliot Carter, George Crumb, Frederic Rzewski, John Adams, Virgil Thomson, Oswald Jonas (student of Heinrich Schenker, founder of the Schenker Institut), John Corigliano, Stephen Hough, Henry Martin (composer of “WTC III”), Tison Street, Gunther Schuller, John Harbison, Peter Lieberson (five-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and son of the former president of Columbia Records Goddard Lieberson), Lina Prokofiev (wife of Sergei Prokofiev, with whom Noland once had a brief afternoon tête-à-tête), Sir Peter Pears (the English tenor whose career was long associated with that of composer Benjamin Britten), English mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker, Alvin Curran, Charles Amirkhanian, Marc-André Hamelin, Gyorgi Ligeti, Hsueh-Yung Shen (composer and percussionist extraordinaire, student of Nadia Boulanger, Darius Milhaud, and Lukas Foss), John Zorn (under whose baton he once performed), Noam Elkies (leading Harvard mathematician and composer), Robert Levin, Tomas Svoboda, and (thru correspondence): Joseph Fennimore, Ladislav Kupkovic, William Bolcom, Max Morath, and others. He also found himself on various occasions within spitting reach of (though didn’t quite have the chutzpah at the time to waylay) composers Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Schnittke, Hans Werner Henze, William Albright, Brian Ferneyhough, Leslie Bassett, Luciano Berio (next to whom he once sat at a concert), Milton Babbitt, John Williams, Pierre Boulez, John McCabe, and others. In the early 1990’s Noland used to dine with a friend of his grandmother’s who recounted the story of having once met Gustav Mahler and Bruno Walter while on a hike in the hills outside of Vienna. On the dark side, Noland once met a woman in Cambridge who recounted having attended parties hosted by government officials in Berlin as a young girl in the 1930s where she witnessed her mother (whose husband was an ambassador representing a neutral Latin American country at the time) dancing with none other than (zoinks!) Adolf Hitler, who was on friendly terms with descendants of Richard Wagner. Noland’s maternal grandparents, who, along with his mother and uncle, fled the Nazis in 1936, recounted how they would often see Einstein (who knew Leopold Godowsky and Arnold Schoenberg) stroll past their home in Berlin back in the 1920s and early 1930s. (Und so weiter und so fort....)

One can go on and on recounting historical connections, interlinkages, and associations Noland has had with famous and important musicians and non-musicians alike. This is not meant in any way, shape, or form to reflect favorably (or, for that matter, unfavorably) upon Noland’s own creative endeavors but only as testimony to how privileged he has been (for which he is eternally grateful) to have either met and/or to have been in close proximity to such a legion of distinguished, powerful, and influential luminaries. To those readers who are easily offended by (and/or are inclined to view) this autobiographical account as being blatantly disingenuous and/or self-aggrandizing in tone, the composer offers his semi-sincere condolences for what may, not unforeseeably, smack of shameless name-dropping. One needs must admit, howso, that such shoulder-rubbings as hereinbefore described are highly instructive insofar as shedding light upon the streams of musico-artistic influences that are paramountly important in consideration of how they tend to impact, and ultimately lend cohesion and coherence to, the sum and substance of a composer’s creative oeuvre. This is by no means out of the ordinary, for the power of such lineal influences upon artists is empirically universal—they all tend to eat off of one another’s plates. There are deep cultural, historical, and psychological explanations (call them “roots” if thou wilt) as to why a composer writes a specific kind of music, and his or her reasons for doing so are less a matter of choice than due to some overpowering inner compulsion over which he or she has only the minutest modicum of self-control. Multiple attempts have been made (by critics and others) to pigeonhole Noland into some pre-defined aesthetic category or school of thought. As a composer, he has often been (mis)labeled as “avant-garde,” “neo-romantic,” “neo-classical,” “modernist,” “minimalist,” “maximalist,’ “postmodern,” “radical,” “reactionary,” “tonal,” “atonal,” “dadaist,” “romantic,” “neo- baroque,” and/or “iconoclastic” (among other things). None of these tags or isms, in and of themselves, are adequate to describe who he is or what he does (even the charge of iconoclasticism is a bit skewed), and most of these applied logos are not only functionally irrelevant but consummately meaningless. The composer eschews such classifications, since the affixtures of such generic diagnostic labels to one’s body of work can prove immensely misleading to an otherwise grossly misinformed public at large. One need only instance what is known as the “Bolero Syndrome” to back up this point, lest there be any bones of contention thereanent, for howsoever adventitious such typecasting may be, it nurtures the inherent potentiality of damnifying a composer’s reputability, especially amongst his or her peers of the musical realm. Noland’s music has drawn innumberable comparisons (and fomblitudes) to a wide range of compositional influences, including music by composers as sundry and divers as the likes of Richard Strauss, John Cage, Frederic Chopin, Karlheinz Stockhausen, J.S. Bach, Robert Schumann, John Zorn, Max Reger, W. A. Mozart, Olivier Messiaen, Edward Elgar, Franz Schubert, Frederic Rzewski, George Rochberg, Conlon Nancarrow, Frank Zappa, Scott Joplin, Charles Ives, Ludwig van Beethoven, Cecil Taylor, John Dowland, Thelonius Monk, Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schönberg, Phillip Glass, Gustav Mahler, Erik Satie, and many others. A marked preponderance of such similitudinizations rings, perhaps, with occasional discrete elements of truth (and is, nevertheless, not unflattering to the recipient thereof, as such comparisons can in most cases be taken as encomiums) but none of these things even marginally suffice to tell the story of who the composer is, what his most matterable and momentous accomplishments are, why he writes the kind of music he does, or what his compositions signify in connection with the historical context(s) in which they were produced.

One can only hope against all hopes that, in virtue of the all-pervasive corruption and depravity distinguishing the bureaucrappic abomination that, until only a few short months ago (at the time of this writing), wielded its rubber fists unrelentingly over the politico-moral ideologies of the swank-and-vile for the purpose of breeding a veritable death cult inwith the bottommost echelons of its schlubordinate ranks (namely: those who would, according to its pre-calculatory caballings, be totalitarianly rightwashed into obsequiously serving not just the baby-fingered monster’s pecuniary but also its hell-fired ego-bloating exigencies), as betwixt and betweentimes it empowers, and therewith imbibulates, its fetid effluvium to permeate each and every constituent element of the existing sociocultural milieu—Dandies & Gentledames: welcome to the COVID era!—’twould in a slump be perceived, by those possessing even the paltriest iota of hypo-critical acumen, as a perfectly natural outcome of the ubiquitous surfeit of ignormation and improperganda coupled with the complexity of kinks and viewpoints that have evolved as a result of the chaotic musical landscape that has emerged in recent quinquennia (not to fight shy of unmentioning the multiplicity of dinfluences, once accessible only to the topmost echelons of the eggheaded elite, that has been globally disseminated by dint of an ultroneous cross-pollination of diverse and powerful artistic lineages, as well as the commingling and interfusing of snub-cultures, past and present alike), which may well serve to impact, and ultimately lend a sort of structural cohesion (assuming that such a phenomenon is not pre-indisposed to be steemed a desirable asset inwith the prevailing ethico-moral codes of the present frivolizational ethos) to an artist’s creative output (presupposing overmore that the artist under scrutiny is a thinking individual who has achieved a markedly eminent plateau of craftsmanly adroitness), that one’s critical response thereto would, at an irreducible minimum, be that of paying a fitting tribute (insofar as putting one’s celery where one’s mouth is, that is) by granting formal agnition (even though in all likelihood “too-little-too-late,” having been mongo decenniums overdue) to the creative outpourings (whether willful on the part of the twerpetrator or no) as being LEGIT, AUTHENTIC and/or preeminently AUTHORITATIVE works of artistic expression.

To polemicize, hammergag, or stupinionate obstreperously to the contrary—that is, insofar as afforcing to delegitimize the brainchildren of unexceptionably accomplished creators by virtue of the convenient dismission of their effections in the vein of stigmatizing them for manifesting uncorroborated mouthprints of “derivativeness,” “historicism,” “pastiche” and suchlike (hackneyed forms of faultfinding, accidentarily, that have in due season come to represent the stereotypical tropes that have, time out of number, been shown to possess an instinctible propensity for oozing their way diarrhoeically from the hollowed, sphinct-like groves of vainstream cacademe, and the formalistically run-of-the-drill, accreditated musics of which have also not unfailed to disprove, over and again, to have scarce if any shelf-life in the unadulterated domain of contemporary classical ear-meat manufacturing)— would be either disingenuous, naïve, or dazzlingly indolent on the part of the criticasters under scrutiny.

Far offshore as it might seem, it has come to this dotmaker’s attention, thru empirical observations conducted over a quaternity of decades, that ’tis often-whiles not unprone to be the case that the more refined, facete, and scrupulously rigorous the caliber of the craftsmanship and artistry of a given musical production is fair to be—and one oughtn’t make any bones about the effect that stylistic distinctiveness per se is all but impossimaginable without a composer achieving a consummate mastery of his art (a truism powered by ample historical evidence)— the more probable it is that charges of “pastiche” and other opprobrious, derogatory abusions will be leveled against said composer by invidious flubdubs, ableless wannabes, affectatious morons, conceited simpletons, pompous nincompoops, impenitent philistines, and ladders of other insufferably bombastic social-climbing snoots, parasites, toadies, and other bottom-feeding intestinal cack-weasels, microbes, barnacles, maggots, and the like. There is no “straight and narrow” in the art of music creation—it is an indescribably messy and chaotic affair that necessitates a fierce, sustained, and uncompromising focus of fanatically devoted attention and feverish concentration, never mind a preternatural willingness to have the mockers put on one’s dignity and through-bearing, even to the point, perforce, of dicing with one’s very own death. One of Noland’s self-coined aphorisms is: “There are no rules in love, war, and art.” Another, based upon an inversion of filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s celebrious quism, reads: “Art without craft is like salt without an egg.”

Gary Lloyd Noland’s ever-expanding catalogue consists of scores of opuses, which include piano, vocal, chamber, orchestral, experimental, and electronic pieces, full-length plays in verse, “chamber novels,” and graphically notated scores. His critically acclaimed, award-winning 77-hour long Gesamtkunstwerk JAGDLIED: a Chamber Novel for Narrator, Musicians, Pantomimists, Dancers & Culinary Artists (Op. 20) was listed by one reviewer as the Number One book of 2018. His “39 Variations on an Original Theme in F Major” for solo piano (Op. 98) is, at approximately two hours duration, one of the lengthiest and most challenging sets of solo piano variations in the history of the genre. It has been called by American composer Ernesto Ferreri “an historical variation set for piano, a true descendant of the Goldbergs and Diabellis, beautifully targeted to an apotheosis of supreme grandeur.” Composer/pianist Ludwig Tuman described it as “an astounding tour de force. In its far-reaching, systematic exploration of the theme’s creative possibilities, as well as in the inexhaustible imagination brought to bear, it reminds one of the Goldberg and the Diabelli. But in its monumental dimensions it goes far beyond them both, and in the large number of historical styles referenced and integrated into the work ... I am unaware of any parallel. I especially enjoyed the consistent use of certain features of the theme, regardless of the style or the type of tonality, pantonality or atonality employed—among them the melodic turn, the phrases ascending by whole steps, and others. I offer my humble congratulations on a titanic achievement!” For interested parties, the score of Op. 98 is slated for inclusion in the upcoming second volume of Collected Piano Works by Noland.

Having received both effusive praise and violent censure of his music over the years, Noland has been called “the Richard Strauss of the 21st century,” “the [Max] Reger of the 21st century,” “the most prominent American composer (of modern classical music) of our times,” “the most virtuosic composer of fugue alive today,” “the composer to end all composers,” “court jester to the classical establishment,” and “one of the great composers of the 21st century,” and has on numerous occasions been branded a “genius.” He has also been called some pretty colorful names by his detractors—names unsuitable for publication on the pages of this volume. Although the composer feels something of a constitutional disinclination to share with his prospective groupies the aforesaid hyperbolical quotations, as it causes him (howsoever unwittingly) to mount a red flag, he is clevertheless all but compelled to trumpet such encomiums for the sake of ensuring his survival in the present-day blaringly obnoxious, braggadocious milieu, notwithgrandstanding that he is neither flannelmouthed nor overweening by nature but— quite au contraire—of a singularly equanimous poise and disposition. Unfreely farouche and retiring by nature, composer Noland is, by his own admission (and, beyond peradventure, to his ultimate detriment) an ineradicably head-in-the-clouds introvert par excellence.

Noland’s compositions have been performed and broadcast (including on NPR) in many locations throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Australia. His music has also been heard on six continents via various music-streaming platforms. Noland founded the Seventh Species Contemporary Classical Music Concert Series in San Francisco in 1990 and has, since, produced upwards of fifty-plus concerts of contemporary classical music on the West Coast. He is also a founding member of Cascadia Composers, which has, since the time of its inception in 2008, mushroomed into a veritable colossus of an organization supporting regional and national composers, as well as performers of contemporary classical music, and has, furtherover, distinguished itself as one of the premier collectives of its kind on the West Coast. Noland has taught music at Harvard, the University of Oregon, and a couple of community colleges (bleah!), and currently teaches piano, theory, and composition as a private independent instructor in the Portland, Oregon metro area.

A number of Noland’s works (fiction, music, and graphic scores) have been published (and/or are slated for publication) in various litmags, including Quarter After Eight, Berkeley Fiction Review, Portland Review, Denali, The Monarch Review, Prick of the Spindle, theNewerYork Press, Wisconsin Review, The Writing Disorder, and Heavy Feather Review. His graphic scores are included in Theresa Sauer’s book NOTATIONS 21 (2009), which is a sequel to John Cage’s celebrated compilation of graphic scores: NOTATIONS (first published in 1969). A chapter on Noland is included in Burl Willes’s celebrated book TALES FROM THE ELMWOOD: A COMMUNITY MEMORY published by the Berkeley Historical Society in 2000. In 1999 Noland was awarded the Oregon Composer of the Year Award jointly by the Oregon Music Teachers Association (OMTA) and Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) and was commissioned to compose his SEPTET for clarinet, saxophone, French horn, two violins, double bass, and piano (Op. 43). Noland’s GRANDE RAG BRILLANTE was commissioned by KPFA Radio to celebrate the inauguration of its (then, in 1991) brand new Pacifica Radio Headquarters in Berkeley. This premiere was later acknowledged in Nicolas Slonimsky’s book MUSIC SINCE 1900. The score of this piece is slated for inclusion in the second volume of Noland’s Collected Piano Works.

Many of Noland’s scores are available from J.W. Pepper, RGM, Sheet Music Plus, and Freeland Publications. Six CDs of his compositions are available on the North Pacific Music label at Nine more new CDs of his compositions will be made available for purchase in the near future. Over 400 videos and audio recordings of Noland’s music and narratives are available for listening and viewing on YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora and hosts of other music streaming networks worldwide. Most of Noland’s music videos and audio recordings are also available for viewing and listening on his website: https://

Noland’s award-winning chamber novel JAGDLIED is currently available for purchase at: https:// e8f213ef368b&pf_rd_r=FJW5GVTYY1NKTJ47M5B5

Noland’s critically acclaimed six-hour play NOTHING IS MORE: A HIGH BLACK COMEDY IN VERSE WITH MUSIC FOR SIX ACTORS is available for purchase at: Actors/dp/1795387513/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1570996720&sr=


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