WASHINGTON, May 3, 2013 – Detroit-born Michael Moriarty matriculated at Dartmouth College and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. From there, he embarked upon and amazingly diversified stage and screen career earning him four Emmys, a Tony Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Perhaps best known as ADA Ben Stone on the original TV series “Law & Order,” his performance is largely credited as the primary factor in launching that series into a popular and lucrative 30-year franchise.
A veteran of 54 film appearances, seven mini-series and two TV series, he also writes poetry, authored two books, wrote, produced and acted in two films plus writing, producing and playing jazz piano on four jazz albums.
After retiring from acting, Michael Moriarty returned to his first love, composing music for symphony orchestra. He now writes for every instrument in the modern orchestra.
Michael Moriarty: First of all, I’d like to thank you, Paul, and the Washington Times for helping me to share my first love in life: composing. The best introduction for myself as a songwriter [are two videos] here:
In the second video Mel is at his exquisitely beautiful best. Frank Wess’s saxophone behind him?! In any nightclub or boite or concert hall in the world, it cannot get any better than this!
PM: With music your first love, your second love is…?
PM: What about your acting?
MM: It was an art form my father knew little or nothing about. He was a doctor and spiritually an agnostic, so the God I was destined to discover and rely on… in the war zone of my parents’ divorce… made no sense to my father.
PM: Music made no sense to him?
MM: Oh, no! He was an impressively well-informed man about music, both classical and jazz. When he couldn’t understand why I loved and admired Miles Davis, I knew the Grand Canyon separating us would remain forever. Music, of almost any kind, always made sense to me.
PM: What was it about Miles Davis you admired?
MM: He sounded like I felt at the time.
Here’s, as they say, “a taste.”
Stranded somewhere in the emptiest corner of the Universe. There was no self pity in his sound however. Only a frightening clarity and a quietly controlled rage.
PM: When did you first hear Miles Davis?
MM: When I started high school in 1959. He and James Dean became my heroes.
PM: Dean was dead by then.
MM: Yup. He’d become an actor, though, and so acting looked like the right escape route.
PM: Escape from what?
MM: The loneliness I felt I shared with Mile Davis.
PM: Your memoir for the online Canadian journal Enter Stage Right is titled, “An Ecstatic Loneliness,” correct?
PM: Do you still feel lonely?
MM: No. I’m with a soul mate right now, an angel sent by God into my life. Neither of us are lonely anymore.
PM: Why a soul mate?
MM: She loves music as much as I do but she knows everything there is to know about computers and computer software. What she doesn’t know, she finds out. Because of that and her exquisite ear for music, she led me to “Vienna Symphonic Library.” Now, because of her, I have an entire symphony orchestra in my living room! We, Irene and I together, are putting up my exploration pieces with VSL on our YouTube site.
Two Etudes are here:
PM: Wolfgang stands for Mozart, right?
PM: And Federico?
MM: Fellini!! My darling Irene’s name for our YouTube site. 77gelsomina? The name, Gelsomina, is from Fellini’s La Strada.
PM: So film is never far away from your music?
MM: Apparently not. However, the first movement of my first symphony is a purely musical exploration and a bit of a mildly satirical tribute to both Mozart and Stravinsky. It’s in the same spirit of Stravinsky’s purely neo-classical exercise, his Symphony In C.
PM: Where can we hear your first symphony?
MM: After Irene and I learn to deal with the transition from FINALE software, the one with which I have composed most of my music, to the “Vienna Symphonic Library.” The Etudes you can hear on 77gelsomina are the beginnings of that transition. We are a ways off from bringing my Symphony No. 1 to life. Irene’s still working on the first movement of my old chestnut, Symphony For Strings.
PM: What do you mean your old chestnut?
MM: It has been performed numerous times to lovely success. In New York at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine. In Toronto and then with the Calgary Symphony Orchestra with its breathtakingly big string choir. Hearing it that evening? WOW!!!
PM: How was it reviewed?
MM: At every performance quite favorably. The greatest praise, however qualified one might think of it, was from Leonard Bernstein. My agent Robbi Lanz, the man I call the real Claude Rains because of the depth of his sophistication and wit, came to the first public performance of my Symphony For Strings at the Greenwich House Music School in lower Manhattan and secretly recorded it. He then sent the tape to his friend and client, Leonard Bernstein.
“Impressive… albeit academic.”
—The Real Claude Rains
PM: What did Mr. Bernstein mean by “academic”?
MM: I had followed all the rules that covered chamber music in a few different eras, from 17th Century Bach to 20th Century Samuel Barber in the second movement to Mozart in the 3rd and then a kind of potpourri of all three in the final 4th.
The most successful of the movements with the critics was my light but brief modern tribute to Mozart in the 3rd.
PM: So the critics thus far have been respectful?
MM: About my symphonic pieces? Surprisingly receptive. Much nicer than the jazz critics. Then again, I don’t think the jazz critics have given Mel Tormé enough credit. John Wilson of the New York Times branded Bill Evans as a great “cocktail pianist!”
PM: Thank you, Michael!
MM: Thank you, Paul.
* A professional music notation, playback, and score creation program suite.
Paul Mountjoy writes for the Washington Times Communities.
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