About me

I am an active composer and organizer of music events. I share a monthly Music as Meditation concert with listeners and fellow musicians and I organize several concerts of new music each year. I use this blog to tell people about my musical endeavors.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Program from Music for Meditation of November 5, 2017

Music as Meditation ~ November 5, 2017
Kindness a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye
Evie's Melody Ellen Schwindt
Home from Hagerstown Waltz Ellen Schwindt
Poor Wayfaring Stranger traditional
Turning Back a poem by Lao Tzu, rendered by Ursula K. LeGuin
Turning Back tune from the Cantata Tao and Te Ellen Schwindt
Lillehammer Waltz Jonathan Jensen
Velvet Tear Chip Davis
Adagio excerpt from a forthcoming piano sonata Ellen Schwindt
Bagatelle in E flat major Ludwig van Beethoven
Andante Semplice excerpt from a forthcoming piano sonata Ellen Schwindt
Bagatelle in c minor Ellen Schwindt

This Music as Meditation is dedicated to a young woman I know who is facing a cancer diagnosis with grace and optimism. I met her when she was a teacher at our area's Head Start. I visited the classroom once a week to sing songs and play music games with the children. I watched her guide the children, many of whom needed extra attention, with patience and love. I appreciated her shining spirit then. When I heard about her cancer diagnosis, I wanted to do something to help her through. This performance is meant as some kind of comfort. I have placed a basket at the back of the church to collect donations for Jen's Friends—an organization that is helping her and others in our community who are facing cancer. You can find more information about this group at www.jensfriends.org.
As I was gathering music for today's event, I was focused on finding simple tunes that would act in contrast to some of the more complex piano music I was planning to play. When I saw the tunes written in my scrawling hand-writing on a long piece of paper, I realized that many of the pieces were arranged or composed with other people in mind. Evie's Melody was written for a baby who was baptized At Christ Church in the fall of 2017. I arranged Poor Wayfaring Stranger for my friend Peter with whom I played folk music for a long while. Turning Back comes from a cantata I composed on poems of Lao Tzu as a graduation gift to my son. I transcribed and then arranged Lillehammer Waltz for my husband Bill because he loves the tune. Home from Hagerstown Waltz I wrote for Bill, or maybe because of Bill, before he was my husband.
The benefit of composing for others, though I am certain it exists for me, is also completely mysterious to me. Making a piece of music for someone is a strange kind of gift—one that feeds me as much, or rather more, than it helps the intended recipient. I do trust that it also helps the recipients. Evie's parents were quite appreciative and I know my husband likes it when I practice one of his favorite tunes. I hope today's music, dedicated as it is to my young friend, gives her, and all of us, some sense of comfort “while traveling through this world of woe.”

Music as Meditation is meant to be a healing experience for all of us. You may learn more about this event and my other music endeavors by finding me on facebook, at ellenschwindt@blogspot.com or by e-mailing me at ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Music as Meditation 
with a concern for healing

     My experience of Music as Meditation is one of nourishment and healing. I hope that others find it so as well. Last August while traveling I learned that a young woman I know faced a cancer diagnosis. She is undergoing a rigorous treatment designed to save her life. This treatment will make her sick in the short term. I learned of her misfortune because a team of people came together to offer their support--and no wonder--she is a generous person with a beautiful and open spirit. I know her from her work at an area pre-school where I watched her teach needy young children with patience and love. This month's Music as Meditation is offered with an explicit concern for her healing--and for the healing of all of us. I trust that our concern for her health while we are engaged in the practice of playing and listening to music may bring her some comfort--if only because she knows we wish her well. I will make a collection basket available in case you want to give a monetary contribution to Jen's Friends--the local organization who is helping this young woman and others faced with cancer. 
     As an antidote to the troubles life is throwing at all of us, I have been playing Beethoven. That composer certainly faced his share of calamity: he had an overbearing father and he knew that one day he would be unable to hear the music he created. I'll play two Beethoven Bagatelles. In response to my intense study of Beethoven's C sharp minor piano sonata (called the "moonlight" sonata) I am composing one of my own. I will share some excerpts from this new sonata on Sunday. I'll play some violin or viola as well--as those particular resonances offer me healing every time I draw the bow across the strings. I hope many of you can join me in this Music as Meditation. If you cannot attend but you would like to make a contribution to Jen's Friends, here is a link. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Halfway from one Meditation to the Next One
I've been meaning to get in the habit of posting my programs from Music as Meditation events. It sometimes takes me many days, however, to dig down through the pile on my desk to find the actual wooden surface beneath all those papers.  Posting the program from October 1, allows me to highlight my plans for the program on November 5. That Meditation will include another Beethoven Bagatelle that is quite Haydn-esque along with more Chip Davis and some new notes from a Piano Sonata I seem to be composing these days. I hope you can join me. 

Music as Meditation
Sunday, October 1, 2017

Open fifth resonance and its outcomes on the violin Ellen Schwindt
And Bob Dylan—a poem by Mary Oliver
C diminished rising and its arrival at E flat major Ellen Schwindt
Interlude I Chip Davis
Bagatelle 1 from Seven Bagatelles Ludwig van Beethoven
composed 1802
Two tonal poles: The beginning of the middle Ellen Schwindt
Sonata in D Major Hob. XVI/24 Franz Joseph Haydn
to Nikolaus Esterhazy composed in 1773
Improvisation on Childgrove Ellen Schwindt
Improvisation on Hymns from Summer Suite Ellen Schwindt
A fast return Ellen Schwindt
Many Happy Returns of the Day
Welcome to this day, the beginning of a third season of Music as Meditation. Today's program seems to be about returning. I began working on the Haydn Sonata that is the centerpiece of today's music as a way to experience order in the world. Jospeh Haydn wrote music with precision and detail and still somehow lots of room for interpretation. It is indeed ordered and predictable, but full of humor, vivacity, sorrow, and joy. This music was a perfect antidote to a year full of surprises. Practicing it seemed like a way to reestablish order in life on a daily basis.
As a young person, I played a lot of Haydn and other baroque keyboard music. There was one particular volume of music I checked out from our local library repeatedly. I enjoyed the well-organized harmonies and the clear subdivision of time that made up the music. I still enjoy it, so in that sense playing Haydn is also a return. I find much
more in the music now, however. And perhaps in that way it is like a return as well, because in my experience, when I return to a topic well-loved, I usually learn something new. I hope returning to the baroque era is equally rich for you.

The picture on my new Music as Meditation card is also a symbol of return. It is Pequawket Pond. Please share some of the cards if you'd like to help spread the word about Music as Meditation. Please let me know what you think as well. You can reach me at ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com .

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Music in Winfield, Kansas

Music for a Resonant Space: A New-Music Collaboration in Winfield, Kansas

Ellen Schwindt, Kansas native and composer, organized this project as a way to share her music with people in her home state. She recruited soloists who are collegiate-level string teachers in the state—Ann Samuelson, who teaches violin at Bethany College in Lindsborg and at Kansas Wesleyan College in Salina, and Lillian Green, who teaches viola at Bethany College and at Kansas Wesleyan College. These two graciously embraced the opportunity to play new music. 

Ellen grew up in Salina, where she participated in a vibrant string program and made friends with Winfield resident Kim Helzer. Over many years of friendship, she heard stories about Winfield's vibrant strings program and the dedicated teacher Roberta Banks. Kim provided an introduction and Roberta—“Robbie”—enthusiastically explored how to make the project a reality.

Ann Samuelson is violin soloist

Music for a Resonant space serves as title for the concert and for one of the pieces to be performed. The piece is structured like a concerto in that there are two soloists—Ann Samuelson on violin, and Ellen Schwindt on piano—and an ensemble, but it is unlike a traditional concerto in that neither soloist spends much time playing fast or loud; rather it is crafted as a conversation across all the levels of the orchestra. The music of the piece turns on the shared resonance of strings. Some sounds will come from piano strings vibrating sympathetically to pitches produced by the violin. This kind of music is only possible in a resonant place, and the First Presbyterian Church provides just that kind of space. 

Young Kansas Composer Hannah Bartel Groening 

Hannah Bartel Groening began writing music to play with her four sister in their string quintet, so the vast majority of pieces she's written are for strings. Hannah majored in music composition at Kansas State University and had several of her works performed in student recitals and one full orchestra piece commissioned by the K-State Symphony Orchestra. Hannah shares the piece Pages Floating on Air with the students in Winfield.

Lillian Green to play as viola soloist

While attending a conference in Baltimore last Spring, Ellen noticed a presentation by Lillian Green, a violist from Bethany College. Ellen, whose hometown is only a few miles from Bethany College, introduced herself and asked if she could write something for Lillian. The result is Summer Suite for Viola and Strings. It consists of a dragonfly dance—meant to evoke those sleepy hot days of summer when the sun bakes an idler into a daze—and the experience of listening to hymns sung sweetly and with vigor. 

A Pastorale and Allegro complete the program and offers the Winfield High School Orchestra an opportunity to demonstrate its cohesiveness and artistry. The project includes time for Ellen to visit the high school orchestra's rehearsal and an after-school workshop on composition. The workshop is focused on composition and takes place at 5 PM on Thursday, September 7 at Southwestern College. To participate in the workshop, R.S.V.P. to ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com. 

Ways to Help

This project is undertaken in the spirit of sharing and with the aim of keeping monetary costs to a minimum. Many people's efforts will make for a successful project. You can help this project along in one of these ways: 
  • Attend the Concert. Admission is free. Donations will be gratefully accepted and will go toward direct costs of the concert.
  • Spread the word about the concerto
  • Volunteer to help with the supper for the players or ushering at the concert (contact Ellen at ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com .)
  • Donate a small amount of money to help cover the costs of tuning the piano, printing, programs and posters, feeding the orchestra members, giving a stipend to the host church, giving a stipend to the orchestra, and offering travel stipends to the soloists. To make a donation use the paypal button on Ellen's blog: at ellenschwindt@blogspot.com .

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My heart is so full I can't sleep. It is the early morning after the evening of the Summer Strings concert. So many people came to hear our music. I enjoyed so much connected time with the musicians and composers over the last week. I will share one more thing. Here is a story about banana squash that I wrote for the program.

Gratitude and Summer Strings
 photo taken on the Bickford Brooke Trail.
This has been a summer of abundance for me. I've had time to garden, hike, take pictures of mushrooms, and even go swimming on occasion. These days I wade through the rampant greenery of the garden and marvel that there is so much to bring, so much to share. Some of it I didn't even plant.

The banana squash plant with our
stone wall in the background to
show you how giant it is.
Early in the season, when I was first breathing deeper with the relief of a too-busy schedule finally easing off, I noticed a very vigorous squash plant volunteering itself out of my compost pile. I transplanted it to what was left of my husband's gift to me on the occasion of my 50th birthday—a truckload of real horse manure. In its new, rich location, this squash began growing with an energy I can only admire on most days. It had the upright habit of a zucchini and dark green leaves. I did not know or really care how its fruit would look or taste; its vigor simply brought me joy on every garden tour I made. It was the first of my garden plants that I could really see from my kitchen window. It bloomed early. One day, there was a zucchini-shaped object underneath its large triangular leaves. A few days later I brought it in.

The fruit of  the banana squash

My husband asked “is that a banana?!” In fact, the fruits of this squash look a bit like green bananas—slightly curved and slim. I chopped the garlic and heated the oil and we had our first taste of summer that day. Now “banana squash” make an appearance on the table several times a week. I laugh aloud to think of how they came unbidden to my garden and now are taking it over.

I've been trying to learn, lately, to trust the universe to keep bringing me the abundance I need. The banana squash and Summer Strings are evidence that my trust is well-placed. This concert and our festival could not have come to be without the volunteer energy of many people. Christ Episcopal Church's community offered us the space. The players all volunteered their time and careful attention to detail. Many of them drove long distances repeatedly—a sign of commitment if there ever was one. Significant donations from the Music as Meditation listeners made tuning the piano, posters, and programs possible. Help from Ken Turley and Bill Marvel made the picnic timely and fun. All this to bring to fruition music that itself arrives in composer's ears in a mysterious fashion, volunteering itself for our joy.

I don't know what is behind the mystery of this abundance. Why is this particular strain of zucchini so sweet and prolific? Why is that particular musical phrase so compelling and satisfying? I only know I am grateful to be part of this stream of abundance—and I know that the fruits of our time and attention are meant to be shared. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Preparing for Summer Strings

I've been hanging posters this week and proofreading press releases. Today I went to the church to play the piano. Rehearsals are scheduled and the players have their music. Here is the poster and press release. Please help spread the word. I hope to see you there.

Summer Strings: a String Orchestra Festival Featuring New Music

The sound of vibrating strings will fill Christ Episcopal Church on Sunday, August 6. The event is Summer Strings—a new music festival featuring a string orchestra and piano. The players are accomplished musicians from around the region. Four composers have written the music. Bozena O'Brien, violin, and Ellen Schwindt, piano, are soloists. This is an extravagant approach to Music as Meditation.

The music ranges from light-hearted to grand. Ken Turley, of Bridgton, Maine, wrote a suite for string orchestra called “Un Diner Leger” (A Light Dinner). Despite its levity you may just leave the concert humming its satisfying tunes. The last movement in the suite is called “A Confection” and deserves its sweet name.

Larry Wallach, who comes to Albany every year to lead early music week at World Fellowship Center, wrote a prelude and fugue for string orchestra. It looks backward in time with some early music styles of writing, but includes some delicious modern harmonies.

Ralph Farris, who appears occasionally at Christ Church when he is in town visiting his mother, wrote a piece called Three Mirrors that turns on harmonics and repeated patterns—as if the light between the mirrors might bounce back and forth forever.

Ellen Schwindt, organizer of the festival, wrote a double concerto for violin, piano, and string orchestra called “Music for a Resonant Space.” Bozena O'Brien will play the solo violin part, and Schwindt will play the solo piano part and lead the piece from the piano bench. The music depends on tones produced indirectly; not tones produced by the piano's hammers hitting strings, or by bows pulled across the violin's strings, but by sympathetic vibrations from the interactions of directly produced tones. The performance at Christ Church will be the world premiere of the piece. A Pastorale and Allegro for strings by Schwindt rounds out the program. This piece speaks to minimalist forms while maintaining a driving rhythm throughout.

The festival runs from August 4 to August 6 and includes a potluck picnic for listeners and players on Saturday, August 5, at noon. To participate in the picnic, R.S.V.P. to Ellen at ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com. Summer Strings is part of the Music as Meditation series hosted by Christ Church and led by Ellen Schwindt. The concert is free, but attenders may make donations for the extra costs incurred by the festival, either on my blog or after the concert.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summer Strings in a Gift Economy


How my creative work is and isn't undertaken in the commercial sphere

For the last six months or so, I've been talking about my interest in "gift economies." I think I started down this path when my husband finally convinced me to do something about a dormant retirement account I had that was left-over from a school where I worked a long time ago. I'd always chosen the social justice box on the re-investment paperwork when it came in the mail, and consequently a little less money was sitting in the account than had been there before the 2008 crash, and well, I didn't really pay that much attention to it. When my husband and I talked about it, I just said "I don't want to buy bombs." 

So finally, when I turned 50, I realized that retirement money was actually a concern that might need some attention. So I went to see a financial adviser who works for Thrivent Financial with the stated goal of finding a way for my little tiny retirement account to grow that didn't entail buying bombs. 

The bad news is that I didn't succeed. Even the very honest and very clear financial adviser working for an avowedly "Christian" company couldn't sell me an investment that would make money and keep entirely clear of the defense industry. This adviser did point out to me that because I had very little invested, with clear management, I could buy very few bombs and little more of slightly more palatable end-results with my investment dollars. It was not a very satisfying outcome for my conscience, even if it did come with something we moderns might call better financial security.

My adviser, who really knows her work well, asked me all sorts of other salient questions--such as how much money did I think I would need to retire, when did I want to retire, and how much money do I spend to keep myself alive now? In other words, she started me on a project the telos of which I cannot even see, much less fathom. I am deeply grateful for this nudge.

Then I ran across a short film based on a book by Charles Eisenstein: Sacred Economics: Short Film. I was fascinated by the ideas in the film, and ordered the book and read it all fairly quickly. It made me want to wake up one day and find myself in a fully realized gift economy where I could contribute my gifts and be supported with what I need. Like everyone else, however, I still wake up in this real world we inhabit with gas pumps distributing subsidized, carbon-producing fossil fuels, and decisions about what is possible always created by consulting the balance sheet so many of us keep in our heads all the time. 

When I analyzed my own life, I could easily see what I want to contribute. I found my calling in teaching, performing, and creating music in my mid-thirties, and I can't imagine my life not being centered around music-making. Luckily, I teach for a school that pays me a salary which takes care of my basic needs, even if that salary doesn't really provide for retirement savings, or much in the way of funds for travel or producing my music. I think it makes sense that I get paid to teach music because I have invested a lot of time and energy in learning how to play, learning how to make music, and learning how to teach it. I know that what I offer as a music teacher has value, and asking students or their parents to pay me seems correct. 

When it comes to creating, though, it's much harder for me to figure out how to ask for pay. I write classical music. I don't consider what might or might not be popular or "marketable" when I write--I just write the music I want to write. I am lucky in finding friends to play my music. I do like to write with a particular person, and usually a particular performance, in mind. I don't want to put up any barriers to other musicians playing my music--in fact one of my pieces was performed in Tallinn, Estonia, earlier this year because a musician found it on the International Music Score Library Project webpage. 

Producing concerts often requires some money. From paying the piano tuner to contributing some money to people who manage the space, it's often necessary to have some cash. Then there's the time involved. I often think how much more I could produce if I regularly had a couple of days each week to devote to composition and publishing. I am fortunate to have one dedicated day each week, but it never seems enough--and often my teaching responsibilities fill that day and my other free time as well. I would like to make some changes in my life-work balance that would give me more time for creating and producing my music.

The good news is that I am much more aware, nowadays, how thoughts about money and its power seep into everything I do. Being aware of this seepage, I hope I am doing what I can to take the power away from money and put it into what is more real to me--community. 

Summer Strings is a project I'm undertaking this summer. It is a new music festival that will take place over three days in August in North Conway, New Hampshire. It will involve 12-16 players, all of whom are playing for free. The works of four composers will be included in the program. I have a donated space to use--Christ Episcopal Church for the rehearsals and the concert. I will still need to pay the piano tuner and I would like to offer players travelling from far away a mileage stipend. 

Summer Strings is also an experiment in community funding. I've decided to ask for monetary help from people who get something out of my music. If you've read all the way to the bottom of this page, you must be a little interested in economics. You will see a link at the right of this page to a simple appeal for the project Summer Strings. If donating money to this cause seems right to you, please do. If you can find another way to help the universe along, please do that. 

I feel like signing this blog, so I will:

In a sharing spirit,