music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Neruda Songs

Last week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played Peter Lieberson’s beautiful piece, Neruda Songs, a setting of five sonnets by Pablo Neruda written in 2005 for his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Lorraine passed away in July, 2006 from breast cancer, but in her too-short career accomplished so much and became one of the most brilliant voices we’ve ever had the chance to hear. I wrote a small piece upon her death, which summed up the loss that so many felt when she died.

I remember seeing the look on Esa-Pekka’s face just before one of our first rehearsals for John Adams’ El Nino in March, 2003. He had just had a run-through with Lorraine in his dressing room and his normally unflappable demeanor was replaced by a gushing look of amazement as he confided backstage to several players, “I’ve just had the most amazing concert in my room.”

Esa-Pekka and the orchestra premiered Neruda Songs in May, 2005 with Lorraine singing and Peter participating in an onstage conversation with EP regarding the piece and Peter’s inspiration for it. Although I didn’t play Neruda Songs that night (there is no part for my instrument in the orchestration) I was onstage to play excerpts from Stravinsky’s Agon, which Peter cited as an influence.

Peter’s father was Goddard Lieberson, the long-time president of Columbia Records who signed so many artists to that label and built it into a powerhouse of its time. During his conversation, Peter recounted that while growing up the house was always full of musical luminaries for visits and dinner. Shortly after Stravinsky had immigrated to this country, Goddard sent an invitation. He was so very concerned with the composer’s well-being in America that he gifted him that evening with a rather large book, the voluminous Tax Code of the United States. The maestro accepted the gift quite graciously as any guest would. Several weeks later when Goddard was speaking to Stravinsky on the phone, he asked him if he had enjoyed the book. Igor replied, “Yes, and I cried on every page.”

April 26, 2010 | Link to this entry


I’ve taken a hiatus during these last two months to relax, readjust and focus. I think it’s good for artists to recharge their batteries every now and then, let things fall where they may and take time to reflect. Breathe here…

As I may have mentioned here before, I’m a dedicated photographer who uses film almost exclusively, prints in the darkroom and use various 19th Century historical processes to produce my final images. Yep, it’s all very geeky but it allows me to combine a love of visual arts with the technical side of my nature, plus I get to have the biggest chemistry set a kid could ever dream of.

After a few years and many hours of darkroom toil, I’m happy to announce that I’m participating in my first ever gallery show at the Elias Gallery in Whittier, California along with a group of incredible local photographer/printers who have been most encouraging and supportive. I have four prints in the show, two platinum/palladium and two gelatin silver lith prints, chosen by the show’s curator, Domenico Foschi.

Domenico Foschi is an Italian-born photographer living in southern California whom I met on the internet in a photography forum. His images were dreamlike and evocative. When I first saw his prints in person at two different shows I knew I had found someone with great vision and articulate skills to bring the image to life on paper. When the opportunity arose to buy one of his prints, I was thrilled to meet him in person and spend time talking, but what surprised me most was his openness and generosity. He was more interested in seeing and talking about my nascent work than telling me about his. It was a great hour and I came away so inspired, one of those rare moments that make you want to work harder to achieve your goals.

The gallery exhibition is currently open, with a reception scheduled for May 8.

Elias Gallery wall

Paul Viapiano photographs at Elias Gallery

Elias Gallery
6736 Greenleaf Avenue
Whittier, CA 90601

Photographs by Domenico Foschi, Matthew Blais, Tori Nelson, Vinny Walsh, Patti Lemke and Paul Viapiano.

April 1, 2010 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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