A night of big music for the smallest of keyboards.

by David Smooke and Benjamin Buchanan

We’re excited to be hosting two composers of music for toy piano. Not only that, they’ve both experimented with the instrument in ways that stretch our expectations, like toy piano four hands. You might even get the chance to hear a piece for soprano and music box.

Composer David Smooke (b. 1969) currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland, where he teaches music theory, rock music history, and composition, and is the Chair of the Music Theory Department at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. The Washington Post claims that “Smooke has some of the most uninhibited brain cells around” and describes his music as “superb […] a kaleidoscopic sonic universe where anything could happen”; the Baltimore Sun adds that it is “a highly creative, absorbing experience.” His honors include those from the Maryland State Arts Council, BMI, the National Association of Composers USA, the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation, and he has composed commissions for groups and individuals including the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Volti Choir, Rhymes With Opera, the Great Noise Ensemble, and the Peabody Wind Ensemble. He received an M.M. degree from the Peabody Conservatory, a B.A. magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he received the Century Fellowship, the highest fellowship offered by the Humanities Division. His composition teachers have included Shulamit Ran, David Rakowski, Robert Hall Lewis, and Richard Wernick. In addition to his composition activities, David performs improvisations on toy piano with the support of Schoenhut toy pianos, co-curates the Lunar Ensemble, and has written extensively for NewMusicBox, the online magazine of New Music U.S.A.

Described by the three-time Nobel prize nominated poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, as a “most quickly enflaming young composer,” Benjamin Buchanan (b. 1989) is pursuing Master of Music degrees in Music Theory Pedagogy and in Composition at the Peabody Conservatory where he studies with Michael Hersch. Past composition study has been with Roger Price at the University of Tulsa where he received a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance under the tutelage of Roger Price and Stuart Deaver. As a performer Benjamin has worked with a variety of illustrious artists including Paul Stookey (March 2012), Tim Ries (October 2011), Patti Page (April 2010), Conrad Herwig (April 2008 & October 2010), and the three-time Nobel prize nominee, Yevgeny A. Yevtushenko (October 2010). While working closely with Yevgeny Yevtushenko to organize a performance of poetry and music, Benjamin started composing at the request of the unparalleled poet, and found new musical passion in the art of composition. His musical style fits in somewhere between where Beethoven meets burlesque and where startling, avant-garde drama gives way to rambunctious joy. In addition to performing his own music, Benjamin has presented the world premiere of Douglas Buchanan’s Sonata for ‘Cello and Piano at the Peabody Conservatory with the talented cellist Jean-Paul Barjon (October 2009), the student premiere of Keith Kirchoff’s The Adventures of Norby for piano and fixed electronics (October 2010), and was the piano soloist for the TU Wind Ensemble’s performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue under the baton of Ron Predl (April 2011). Also, Benjamin has enjoyed performing as a musical comedian, most notably with Jean-Paul Barjon and The New Toyland Band, an ensemble he founded that offers family-friendly-humor-infused educational music productions.

Event location:

The Red Room 425 East 31st St. Baltimore, MD 21218

The Red Room is a volunteer-run space in Baltimore dedicated to mind-expanding experimental culture, headquartered at Normals Books and Records.