Keeping Track of the Days in Music
Michael Zev Gordon’s Diary Pieces

Starting in 2015, British composer Michael Zev Gordon started to create a musical diary of 6 or 7 pieces per year that capture a ‘one idea or emotional state or a kind of sound’. Sometimes the fragments in the pieces are ‘as if a window onto a view is briefly opened or a memory, just for a moment, reawakened.’

Michael Zev Gordon

Michael Zev Gordon

The idea of a musical diary is intriguing – often we find the idea of a daily diary important at the start of the year, but less so as the year continues, and the days are more alike than different. How many of us have childhood diaries that record friends we can no longer recall or what were outrageous happenings that are now long forgotten.

Gordon’s diaries, since they’re selective over a year, can be but tiny flashes of images, such as in 2016 when a bird landed in front of him. 30 seconds of sound is enough to catch the flashing image.



Michael Zev Gordon: Diary Pieces 2016 – IV. A Hoopoe Lands in Front of Me (Joseph Houston, piano)

Sometimes it’s a feeling, such as the order and counterpoint that strikes one’s work after playing a particularly disciplined composer.

Michael Zev Gordon: Diary Pieces 2016 – VII. After Playing Bach (Joseph Houston, piano)

In 2018, Gordon was influenced by a lot of Italian ideas, with a diary entry about a celebration of the August public holiday of Ferragosto in Campagna, or a Gondolalied.

Michael Zev Gordon: Diary Pieces 2018 – V. Gondolalied (Joseph Houston, piano)

The lockdown caught him at home, but one diary entry sees it as an opportunity.

Michael Zev Gordon: Diary Pieces 2020 – II. Locked-down, Opened up (Joseph Houston, piano)

When he’s out and about again, there are woods to be explored.



Michael Zev Gordon: Diary Pieces 2021, Set 2 – II. Once More Raspberries in Queen’s Wood (Joseph Houston, piano)

Some of the works are memorials for people or places, some are little waltzes, others just set an idea, such as a darkening sky or floating. He closes 2022 with a skipping piece.

Michael Zev Gordon: Diary Pieces 2022 – VII. Simplicity (Joseph Houston, piano)

It’s a pleasant idea – capturing in music the ideas of a day, or a time, or a vision. It’s certainly more satisfactory than the systems that have you colour-code a day – as if the complexity of feeling could be summarized merely by a single colour.

Year in Pixels, 2021 (by Reddit user lethalafterglow)

Year in Pixels, 2021 (by Reddit user lethalafterglow)

How would you imagine your musical diary? Abstract and modern or sometimes guided by older principles? Is it only the extremes of emotion that you would capture and remember or would you want to have those quiet moments, too?

Gordon’s solution is unique and thought-provoking.

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