Letters from the Muse Room #25 (January 2021)

The “Muse Room” is the room in my house where I make music and my wife makes visual art. Published the first Friday of odd-numbered months, each issue of Letters from the Muse Room includes news and updates about my music, as well as something that has inspired me creatively over the past month.

Dear friends,
Welcome to 2021! What a year it’s been already…. But I hope I can provide a bit of enjoyment and light to the start of your weekend.

I was able to spend time with family over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and I’m very grateful for that, in addition to being grateful for continuing health and safety for my family.

One thing that time with family was able to provide for my wife Eleanor and me was an afternoon break for the two of us apart from our kids (7 and 2 years old). Eleanor and I always like to spend an afternoon at the end of the year at a coffee shop making plans and setting goals for the year. But since we couldn’t go to a coffee shop this year… we made our own!

For news ‘n’ updates this month, I want to share just a few of my plans and goals with you:

1. Letters from the Muse Room is slowing down. In order to try to provide the best content and most enjoyable email experience for you, I’m decreasing the frequency of this newsletter from once a month to once every two months. My goal is to improve the quality of the cool things (audio clips, news, videos, etc.) I want to share with you. But if anything exciting happens between newsletters, I’ll send a quick update to let you know.

2. Social media is ramping up! On the other hand, something I want to do more of this year is social media posting. Look for weekly(ish) posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

3. I’m (tentatively) planning to compose three pieces in 2021: a piano solo in six movements, a short/fast/fun orchestral piece, and something else yet to be decided. But there are a couple of additional opportunities pending as well, so I’m holding my plans loosely. Look for more on the piano piece in the March 5 letter!


I have some music for you on the inspiration front this month.

At the request of a friend, I’ve recently joined the artistic committee of a new-music ensemble in Kansas City. The committee helps choose the repertoire that the ensemble will perform in its upcoming season.

I hope I can be a valuable contributor to the committee, but thus far I feel like I’ve gotten more out of it than I’ve been able to give to it. I received a potential repertoire list that was seven pages long, and in listening through a bunch of the pieces, I found some I really liked that I wanted to share with you.

This piece by Christopher Cerrone, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion (including flower pots!), explores some really cool sounds and resonances between the instruments: https://christophercerrone.com/music/why-was-i-born-between-mirrors.

That piece, while not having a whole lot of crunchy dissonances, is still very contemporary-sounding and might be a bit too “out there” for some. But this string quartet, by Jessie Montgomery, is rhythmic, groovy and fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVfvGs-8gG4.

And finally, one of my contributions to the list was a piece for violin and piano by Alice Hong. (The pianist in this recording is Perry Mears, who has performed my piece Five Scenes several times.) It’s lyrical, flowing and very pretty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvlPPi2qyaQ.

Enjoy these pieces; I hope they bring you some joy, fun and light as we embark on a new year.

Be well. I’ll see you in March!

AJ Harbison

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