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Classical Caber: Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D major

The other night while we were in San Francisco, Dirk and I had dessert at a friend’s house. A little tipsy from three glasses of wine, Dirk sat down at our friend’s piano and played Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D major — from memory — which he hadn’t played in almost a decade. Not too shabby, huh? I shot a couple of minutes of video of his performance, which I’ve posted above. If you’re having trouble viewing it on your mobile device, try putting it in landscape mode first, or try this alternate NSFW link.)

By the way, Dirk was staying at this particular friend’s house during Folsom weekend in 2011… and it happens to be the house where Dirk and I hooked up on the very first night we met. Ahh, memories.

Also, here’s a quick update on the Piano for Dirk GoFundMe campaign. And it’s good news! Dirk and I have located a used digital hybrid for sale… the only problem is that it’s out of state. Used digital hybrids don’t come along very often (it’s just too new a technology) so we’re going to try to snag this one. Dirk’s figuring out a time when he can go take a look at it, and we’re also looking into what it would cost to move it back to Boston. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, we’re leaving the GoFundMe page open for a bit longer in case you want to pick up a copy of Dirk’s music on CD or a printed and signed score. We’re also moving ahead with sending out the stuff that a bunch of you have already requested as “thank you” gifts. It’s a daunting number of items, but with any luck we should have everything sent out by the end of the month.

You guys have completely floored us with your generosity and support. This piano is going to change Dirk’s life. THANK YOU AGAIN.

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Classical Caber (Victory Edition): Piano Miniature No. 10, “Gracieux”

The last 48 hours have been unbelievable. What started as an idea during a trip to a piano store a little over a week ago turned into a whirlwind fundraising effort in an attempt to get Dirk the piano he so badly needs to start composing again. To be honest, Dirk and I expected to maybe get a few bucks from you guys here and there, and every little bit would have helped a lot. But to raise over $5,000 in just over 24 hours? Dirk and I are floored. Positively floored. And moved beyond belief. Thank you so, so much… this is really going to change Dirk’s life.

Dirk said that if we reached the $5,000 mark, he would share an original composition that he’s never shared before. And here it is… Dirk’s Piano Miniature No. 10: Gracieux, the tenth in a series of 24 piano miniatures, none longer than about 3 minutes. He composed this particular miniature in the style of a sicilienne, a form that was first used for arias in Baroque operas and is meant to evoke a pastoral mood. I love how it draws you in; you can really get lost in its texture, but then at the end you can’t help but have a big smile on your face:


I know that “gracieux” technically means “graceful”, but in this case I like to think it means “grateful” … which pretty much sums up how Dirk and I both feel right now.

While we’ve already reached our $5,000 target, it’s not too late to get Dirk’s music on CD (some of which, like this sicilienne, he’s never shared before), a signed score, framed manuscript, or personalized composition! Just head on over to http://gofundme.com/piano-for-dirk and choose which option you’d like. (By the way, the pianos we’re looking at cost between $10,000 and $15,000. We deliberately set the fundraising bar kinda low because we didn’t want to lean on you guys too much, and we’re going to find a way to finance the rest, but every penny you contribute will still help a ton.)

Again… Dirk and I are completely blown away. We love you guys!

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VIDEO: Dirk and I go piano shopping!

Dirk’s been in the market for a piano for quite some time. The only chance he gets to play these days is on the Steinway at his parents’ house in Maine. (There’s a video of him playing it here.) But that’s an hour and half away, and as a composer, he really needs to have a piano at the ready so he can create whenever his muse calls him. So… we’re going piano shopping!

Ideally we’d get something called a hybrid, which is a digital piano with a mechanical mechanism. They’re small enough to fit in our house but still sound beautiful, plus the digital functionality would allow him to play with headphones, which would really come in handy (we have downstairs neighbors). They’re really pricey, though… the one he really likes is listed at $15,000. We’re also looking at straight-up digital pianos, which are a lot less expensive (the good ones range from $2,500 to about $6,000), then we’d eventually trade up. The important thing, I think, is just to get a keyboard in the house. Then I have a feeling we’ll start seeing a lot more compositions like these. Time to start saving money… or perhaps find a rich benefactor. Volunteers, anyone?

QTA1

Horned Up: Dirk talks music with Queer the Air

The following interview with my hubby Dirk Caber appeared in Queer the Air magazine on January 28, 2015. Dirk, as you may know, is a professional classical musician and composer, and he really enjoyed the chance to sit down with guest columnist Cyn Duby to talk about his true passion. It’s a fun and informative read… check it out below, and be sure to visit QueerTheAir.com for more LGBT-related entertainment news!


Queer the Interview: Dirk Caber
By Cyn Duby, Guest Columnist

QTA1I do love doing an interview with someone who is a study in contrasts and breaks stereotypes to smithereens. Such a person is Dirk Caber. We all know he’s hot and a big name in the gay porn industry. We also know he and his fiance, Jesse Jackman, are not only adorable together, but also very intelligent and giving men, They are always doing their part for our community whenever they can. But, to pigeonhole Dirk as just a porn star with a heart is underestimating him so grossly, you could miss some of the most essential facets of this remarkable man.

I had the opportunity to pose some questions to Dirk about his first love and one of his greatest talents: music. Yes, you heard that correctly. He can sing, play several instruments, and compose wonderful original classical pieces. It is just that subject on that this interview focuses.

*       *       *

QTA: You seem to have a fairly large body of work as a composer. How many years have you been writing classical music?

I seem to have been writing since childhood; I honestly can’t remember a time I wasn’t devising tunes for poems or banging out some harmony or something at the piano. I first was consciously writing in fifth or sixth grade; I suppose that would mean I was eleven or twelve when I started.

QTA: Were you raised in a musical household?

I was. My grandparents were singers, pianists, organists. My mom sang and played piano. My dad’s interest in music was mechanical and I grew up in a house full of musical instruments that played themselves, music boxes of all sorts and sizes, mechanical organs, and the centerpieces: six reproducing player pianos. Sometime when I was about ten and dad could no longer tell the difference between the piano roll playing and me imitating it afterwards, he decided it was time to find me a piano teacher.

QTA: What was the first instrument you learned? What instruments do you play now?

I was always singing, although my first formal singing lessons weren’t until college. My first lessons were on violin, then piano. In junior high and high school I had a reputation for picking up instruments and learning them well enough to play on stage in a matter of weeks, so I was given a succession of all the odd ones: contra bassoon, French horn, English horn, contra bass clarinet, harp, etc. Finally I was given the one I fell in love with: tuba.

QTA2QTA: Do you have formal education in music? If so, what?

I have degrees in music composition from two institutions, the second from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. I also studied organ and harpsichord on top of piano, sang a lot of Renaissance and baroque music, dabbled in a number of Renaissance instruments, and, of course, play tuba.

QTA: What is the easiest instrument to write for?

They all pose challenges and have aspects for which they’re perfectly suited. I think because I’ve always been singing and because so much of my music is inherently singable, I’d have to say voice is easiest for me.

QTA: What’s your inspiration? Where do you find it easiest to write? Any quirky habits that help the muses speak to you?

Some of my inspiration is literary; many of my works are responses to poetry or a passage of text somewhere. A few things have been similarly a mood inspired by a painting. Most of my music however simply starts off with the discovery of a sonority I find unique or compelling, or when I discover a melody with some really rich and fascinating contrapuntal potential. Much of my musical inspiration is, in fact, musical. I can write nearly anywhere. It’s better to be in a slightly noisy place; somehow working in silence just doesn’t feed my muse. Some of my best music has been written at tables in cafés, or in the middle of work meetings.

QTA3QTA: How does your mood affect what you write and if you can write?

My productivity is best when I’m either really unhappy or really happy, i.e., when I’ve the most emotional energy to channel. The music that results doesn’t necessarily reflect that mood, though; I can write quiet music in an ebullient moment as easily as ecstatic music in a somber mindset.

QTA: Which orchestra/s do you work with?

I don’t work with one in particular. In fact, as a tubist I tend to avoid orchestra work simply because there’s often a lot of sitting around twiddling my thumbs while the strings do all the work. I’d rather play with bands, brass quintets, Dixieland ensembles, groups where I’m the principal bass instrument and play most if not all the time.

QTA: How do you “hear” what you write? Do you hear the melody when you write or all the parts? Do you hear each instrument separately?

It’s like writing words. Despite these little black characters representing sounds which our brains translate into meaning, we don’t need to sound out every word as we write it to know what it means. This however is something we learned how to do; as children we had to mouth the words when we were first reading. It’s the same with music; with years of practice I’ve arrived at the point where I can write a score for a hundred instrumentalists, and know what every note for any one instrument sounds like, and how it sounds in context. This isn’t to say I start and the top and write out the score fully-formed. I start with sketches. I’ll make a “short score”, sort of an outline, and make successive versions until the piece is fully fleshed.

QTA: When did you first begin to compose music? Do you also conduct?

I think the earliest tunes I remember I probably dreamed up when I was five or six. I first wrote music down when I was eleven or twelve. And I’m no virtuoso conductor, but I can keep time for an ensemble and provide cues. I’d much prefer to actually be part of the group though.

QTA: What music do you listen to for pleasure?

Pretty much anything and everything. Because I delight in picking out the weird moments in music, the odd incongruous moments, and all music has these somewhere, I’m always listening. The problem becomes that music can overwhelm me. If I’m at home and need to be thinking about other things, I love silence, or just the sounds of the neighborhood and the house around me.

QTA: Who are your inspirations?

Poets. Authors. Painters. Sculptors. Other composers. Actors.

QTA: Many of your songs, especially the Eclogues, would go very well as scoring in a film. Is that something you’d like to do someday?

I’ve been really interested in film scoring at times, and might still dabble someday. Film music should compliment the action but must never distract from it, so it needs to be simple and direct. What I’d find challenging is being that understated… So much of my music is so “concerted”, it would tend to overwhelm an audience’s attention, I’m told.

QTA4QTA: The woodwinds in Danzas Cubanas No. 1 are very nicely highlighted. Tell me about this number.

This was written for a Cuban man in NYC, an excellent clarinetist, with whom I was obviously rather smitten. The four movements are impressions of four Cuban dance forms.

QTA: Eclogue No. 4 and Eclogue No. 6 fit their names perfectly as pastoral musical poetry. The conversation between the instruments is very well done. All the parts have their creative versions of the melody, but it feels as though they’re talking and the melody is but the theme of the conversation.

The Eclogues were really my exercises for myself to learn how to orchestrate, how to break music up over larger ensembles with balance and flow. This is actually a rather difficult skill. Different instruments “talk” to each other and “get along” with each other in very different ways, and these are relationships you really can only learn how to utilize by trying and making mistakes. The reason we have Eclogues 4, 5, and 8 is that they’re most successful. The others have nice passages, but for whatever reason they just didn’t work as well.

QTA: When listening to Edification and Amusement I feel I’ve been transported back into time. Was that your intent?

Particularly in high school I had a fascination with Joplin and Scott and Confrey and other writers of ragtime. Having good friends who also played piano meant a chance to write four-handed repertoire; this is just such a little piece of musical “candy”.

QTA: The Miniatures for Piano are very short but complicated pieces and more varied than I expected.

There are 24 miniatures now, of which 12 are recorded. They are miniature in name and duration only; none is longer than two minutes. Most of them are exceedingly challenging to play though! They’re certainly well beyond my skill as a pianist. Someday soon I’ll have the whole cycle recorded.

QTA: Your Mount Desert Island Suite feels like day at a North Atlantic beach. Is there significance beyond the obvious beauty in this composition?

The four movements reflect aspects of Mount Desert Island and its environs in Maine. It’s a little love letter to my home state and to its rocky Atlantic coastline.

QTA: When I hear Nocturne, I picture a mother with her child at bedtime.

You know that this was written for my mom? It was a birthday present for her several years ago. It’s also the one recording where you actually hear me playing.

QTA: One of my favorites by you is The Good Morrow. It reminds me of the Gregorian chants. It’s simply gorgeous!

This was a Christmas gift last year for my now-fiancé Jesse. The poem is an early love poem by John Donne, with spiritual overtones interleaved with subtle sensual hints. I need to make a proper recording, playing the piano, and as I wrote it for my own voice, with me singing. The tune, usually presented in some canon with itself, is long and meandering, often slipping away from the “beat” of the accompaniment, which might explain why you hear the breathlessness of Gregorian chant.

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Classical Caber VIDEO: Dirk’s Sonata for Flute and Piano… live!

Last Saturday saw the public premiere of Dirk’s Sonata for Flute and Piano (more accurately, the 4th movement of the sonata) as part of the American Composers concert at Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dirk and I attended the concert in person along with several of our friends; our buddy Keith, who drove all the way up from Colorado Springs, was kind enough to shoot this video of the performance (above). He missed the first couple of notes, but you can hear the complete studio version of this piece (as well as many more of my hubby’s compositions) on Dirk’s SoundCloud page. The flute sonata is one of my favorites, and it was so amazing to hear it brought to life. By the end of the piece, I had tears in my eyes!

Here are a few pictures from the performance.