1-8    OLD WORLD – Variations on a Circus Song for Pipe Organ (1982)

Calvin Hampton, organ



9-11   STARS – 3 Songs for Soprano, Flute and Piano (1978)

Jenny Haydn Brown, soprano

Michael Parloff, flute

Gerald Busby, piano



12-16 COURT DANCES – Ballet Suite in Five Movements for Flute, Cello and Harpsichord (1980)

Michael Parloff, flute

Jerry Grossman, cello

Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord



17-20  PARALLEL – Suite for 2 Harpsichords and 2 Gymnasts on Parallel Bars (1980) 

Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord

Wendy Young, harpsichord



21-24 CAMERA for Flute, Double Bass and Harpsichord (1979)

Michael Parloff, flute

Donald Palma, double bass

Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord




OLD WORLD – Variations on a Circus Song for Pipe Organ (1982)

[1] Calliope: Circus Song

[2] Waltz: Restaurant Music

[3] Gently: Trope

[4] Love Song

[5] Vocalise for Pedals: Homage to Faure

[6] Caballeta: Conjuring

[7] Steamy: Russian Bathhouse Music

[8] Toccata: Homage to Widor

Calvin Hampton, organ



STARS – 3 Songs for Soprano, Flute and Piano (1978)

[9]  “When the first stars…”

[10] “Now the dark waters of the night…”

[11] “To see what it is…”

Jenny Haydn Brown, soprano

Michael Parloff, flute

Gerald Busby, piano



COURT DANCES – Ballet Suite in Five Movements for Flute, Cello and Harpsichord (1980)

     [12] I.

     [13] II.

     [14] III.

     [15] IV.

     [16] V.

Michael Parloff, flute

Jerry Grossman, cello

Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord



PARALLEL – Suite for 2 Harpsichords and 2 Gymnasts on Parallel Bars (1980)

     [17] Mount

     [18] Peach Basket

     [19] Spooky

     [20] Dismount

Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord

Wendy Young, harpsichord



CAMERA for Flute, Double Bass and Harpsichord (1979)

[21] Capricious

[22] Ruminant

[23] Enticing

[24] Quick

Michael Parloff, flute

Donald Palma, double bass

Kenneth Cooper, harpsichord







Born in 1935 in Tyler, Texas, Gerald Busby began his professional career as a pianist at seventeen, performing Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with the Houston Symphony. 

He had been composing for the piano since he was thirteen.  To teach himself about other instruments – for he wanted to be able to write for every instrument – he drew on his most vivid childhood memories of hearing orchestral playing.  He associated the quintessence of each instrument with a specific workfor example, the English horn with the second movement of Franck’s Symphony in D Minor, the flute with Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, the horn with Tchaikowsky’s Romeo and Juliet. 

He took the same approach when writing for singers, thinking of Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Beethoven’s An Die Ferne Geliebte, sung by Fischer-Dieskau, as “quintessential song cycles”

         Another constant source of inspiration for Busby has been his friendships with superb musicians such as flutist Michael Parloff, bassist Donald Palma, harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper and cellist Jerry Grossman.  Two of the chamber works on this recording, Camera and Court Dances, were composed with their playing in mind.

Though he has produced well over 100 compositions – including operas, orchestral works, chamber music, song cycles, solo instrumental pieces, and scores for film, television, dance and theatre – he has never had formal training in composition or orchestration.  At Yale University his studies included music theory and history, a course in fugue-writing with Quincy Porter, and piano study with Arthur Hague.  But he turned his attention to studying German and reading Kierkegaard, Sartre, Wittgenstein and Heidegger, and majored in philosophy instead of music, graduating with a B.A. in philosophy in 1960.

         For the next eight years Busby traveled in the Rocky Mountain region and the Northeast as a college textbook salesman for Random House, Alfred A. Knopf and Oxford University Press.  He often returned to New York for weekends with his pianist friends Joe Fennimore and Gordon Hibbard in their Westbeth apartment.  He continued to write music, and developed a strong interest in cooking.  Sometime in 1969 Fennimore invited the composer and critic (and enthusiastic gourmet) Virgil Thomson to dinner.  Busby cooked the meal and Thomson, impressed with the food, said to him, “I want to see how you put things together and turn them into something else.” 

Thus began a long friendship, based on food as much as music, which lasted until Thomson’s death in 1989.  Thomson frequently asked the younger composer to cook for his famous dinner parties at the Chelsea Hotel, thereby introducing him to a circle of interesting and influential friends.  Later he recommended him for Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships.      

         The years 1972-1975 were a turning point for Busby as a composer.  Food and friendship again played an important part.  By this time he had left the publishing business and settled in New York, and was working as a cook at Ruskay’s, a popular restaurant on Columbus Avenue and 75th Street.  He also served as menu consultant and creator of dishes for the fabled Empire Diner when Richard Ruskay opened it in 1975. 

On Sunday nights a solo flutist – Michael  Parloff, now principal flutist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra – played in the balcony of the main dining room at Ruskay’s.  Busby made friends with him and wrote his first published piece, Noumena for Solo Flute (1976), for him.  Through Parloff he met other musicians, including Palma, Cooper, Grossman and horn player William Purvis, and wrote pieces for them.  As he puts it, “I added instruments as I met friends.  They were such virtuosos that there was no limit to what I could ask of them.”

In 1977 Busby wrote his first film score –3 Women, directed by Robert Altman – and appeared in his first acting role, as the Reverend in Altman’s A Wedding, filmed in Chicago.  There he met Sam Byers, an advertising executive, who became not only his longtime companion but also his business and artistic manager, producing three BusbyMusic concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall, among other events.  They lived together at the Chelsea Hotel from 1977 until Byers’ death from AIDS in 1994.

Busby still lives and works at the Chelsea, where he is a part of the lively mix of artists and personalities who populate the legendary residence. In recent years he has become a proponent of the Reiki healing modality and also started composing using the Sibelius music notation software. An upcoming project is a cookbook of Virgil Thomson’s favorite recipes.


Old World: Variations on a Circus Air for Pipe Organ (1982), based on a 19th-century gypsy circus song, was originally composed for a theater work commissioned by the Annenberg Theater in Philadelphia, subsequently revised as a concert organ piece, and recorded by the virtuoso organist Calvin Hampton.

Stars: 3 Songs for Soprano, Flute and Piano (1978) is a setting of three poems by Pauline Hanson.  The premiere was given in New York at the Carnegie Recital Hall by soprano Alma Jean Smith with Michael Parloff on flute and Leslie Sixfin at the piano.

Court Dances: Ballet Suite in Five Movements for Flute, Cello and Harpsichord  (1980) was commissioned by the Joffrey II Ballet and first performed at Brooklyn College in 1980.

Parallel for 2 Harpsichords and 2 Gymnasts on Parallel Bars (1980) was choreographed by Victoria Uris, a member of Paul Taylor’s company, and performed by two gymnasts on parallel bars and two onstage harpsichordists.  It is the first of a series of pieces Busby refers to as “theatrical chamber music,” which he loosely defines as music that integrates unusual aspects of performance. Other such works include Rudiments for Tap Dancer, Snare and Bass Drums (1981), inspired by a television series about military boot camp training, and Body Ode (1994) for mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and glass-eater.

Camera for Flute, Double Bass and Harpsichord (1979) is dedicated to Busby’s friend and patron, the late Mildred Baker.  Also a long-time resident of the Chelsea Hotel, Baker had been one of the directors of the WPA in the 1930s, and took a great interest in contemporary music.



Busby continues toward his goal of writing for every instrument and combination thereof.  His recent works include Today: Five Songs for Soprano and Lute  (2002), a setting of texts by Rumi, premiered by Jessica Gould and Peter Martin at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy; The Mother Songs (2003) for soprano and piano, based on poems by Richard McCann; 4! for Four Pianos (2003) and Concerto for Four Pianos and Orchestra (2004), both commissioned by John Kozar and Piano4; and Doppelganger for Two Violas (2004), composed for Scott Slapin and Tanya Solomon.


 – Nurit Tilles





Gerald Busby, a native of Texas and graduate of Yale, made his professional debut as a composer with a commission from Paul Taylor for the ballet Runes: Secret Writings for Use in Casting a Spell.  The work has received hundreds of performances since its Paris premiere in 1975, and in 1976 was chosen as the first dance work to be featured on the PBS Great Performances Series Dance in America.  In 2004 Runes was revived by the Paul Taylor Dance Company at City Center in New York. 

Busby’s debut as a film composer came in 1977 with Robert Altman’s 3 Women, which won international acclaim and special critical praise for its music.  The film was reissued on DVD in 2004 as part of the Criterion Collection.

Several of his theatrical chamber music scenarios were produced off-Broadway and at Carnegie Recital Hall (now Weill Hall) in the 1970s, and three were made into a chamber music film, Sleepsong (1985), which premiered by invitation at the Berlin Filmfest.  Sleepsong also marked the beginning of Busby’s extensive collaboration with the playwright Craig Lucas, with whom he received two commissions from the Houston Grand Opera.  They also wrote a chamber opera, Orpheus in Love (1988), produced in New York at Circle Repertory Theater, and a work-in-progress, Breedlove, a grand opera about a pioneer Texas woman whose bizarre pedagogy and powerful personality deeply affected all whose lives she touched.

Besides composing music for dance, film and theater, Busby has written over 100 concert works for solo instruments, voice and piano, chorus, concert band and chamber music ensembles.  These include Prolegomena of Loves (1981) for chorus and chamber ensemble, Mondsand (1986) for voices, percussion and winds, Us, Them & It (1984) for two choirs and piano, with words by Allan Gurganus, Bullet-Proof Bikini (1983) for piano, Trip to the Valley (1989) for piano, tape and spare tire, Songs from Calamus (1993) for baritone and piano, and The Music (2000) for soprano and piano.

Wild Flowers: A Blue Ridge Bouquet was given its world premiere performance by soprano Jessica Gould and the Cassatt String Quartet in May 2002 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, in a concert co-produced by the Works & Process Series and the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS. During the program, Busby participated in a panel discussion with composers Fred Hersh and Martin Hennessy and moderated by John Corigliano.

His music has been published by C.F. Peters, G. Schirmer, Nothing Heavy, Quadrivium Press and Triune Music.

Busby has received commissions from The Gregg Smith Singers, Joffrey II Ballet, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Speculum Musicae and Union Theological Seminary among others.  His music has been performed by such distinguished artists as Calvin Hampton, Michael Parloff, Kenneth Cooper, Jerry Grossman, Donald Palma, and Craig Rutenberg. Baritone Thomas Hampson recorded Busby’s song “Behold This Swarthy Face” on the disc “To The Soul,” a collection of Walt Whitman settings, which was released on the EMI label in 1997.  He has received numerous honors, including grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and has been in residence at Bellaggio, the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo.  He lives and works at the Chelsea Hotel in New York.






Stars by Pauline Hanson



When the first stars


come into the gray

air of evening;


when their sudden bodies

follow each other into the night

and everywhere cling to its walls;


when everywhere, against those black walls,

their bright bodies move a little, or their wings beat the air--

then, and even when driftnets of cloud gather them in,

their flight is like the flight of moths.


For if I wait, not a driftnet of cloud

but the wind has fingers to tear it:  and lovely to see

how from every height of above me

the remembered bodies of

starts like moths tremble out.




Now the dark waters of the night


deepen upon the world,

deepen upon it and cover it.


And in the faint light that comes down,

if I watch how the slow stars float

above houses that have the curious shapes of coral;


if I watch the slow way stars gather

between the frondlike branches of tall trees,

and the quick way they scatter when with each cold

sweep of these waters, the trees shake them out;


if I watch how some stars rise

to where the surface waters break and are white now with foam,

I wait; and before their bodies again glitter through:

in always the cold wash of these waters,

I think them small silver fish.




To see what it is


is to see how a in a million years of this darkness

a star struggles from dust to luminescence;


is to see how afterwards it shines by consuming itself,

is to see how it ages then, and how it dies

and is itself the dust from which stars are born.


And to see through telescopes more than a billion

and beyond telescopes and beyond numbers, yet more

of these blazing worlds of gas -- to see them

in the terrible atomic winds spin and spiral and spill


white, violet, purple, bloodred, and out

out into black, is to think:  and in everywhere

the movement and flow of always that energy,

our own bodies have their breath, have their sight and thought


and have this slow until this sudden wish of words.


(copyright 1971 Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., used with permission)




Old World: Recorded 1982 for an original theatre production at the Annenberg Theater in Philadelphia.


All other works: Produced, engineered and edited by Judith Sherman.


CD mastered by Marlan Barry, Brooklyn, New York, Fall 2003.


All works published by BusbyMusic (ASCAP).

Inquiries can be addressed to:

BusbyMusic c/o Gerald Busby, The Chelsea Hotel, 222 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10011


Cover art: Painting of Gerald Busby by Maurice Grosser (late 1970s).

Photography: Gerald Dehaugoubart.


Gerald Busby is especially grateful to Joseph Dalton, Nurit Tilles, Randall Bourschedit, Brennan Gerard, Mark Beard, John Kozar and Marlan Berry for their generous and consistent support.


This disc was made possible through the generous support of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.


Produced by the Music Archive Initiative of the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, a program of the Alliance for the Arts. (