Essex Evocations (2016)
Duration: c. 13 mins.Essex Evocations is a rhapsodic, single movement work for string orchestra that draws inspiration from the varied landscape of the Massachusetts north shore, with its forests, wetlands and sea coast. The opening section explores two lyrical ideas before descending into a chaotic transition leading to a faster, more scherzo-like middle section. Here a cascading, descending figure alternates with an angular, ascending motive, which is in turn interrupted by static blocks of varying configurations. Losing momentum, the music eventually transitions into a slower section that reinterprets the previous material from a new perspective, as one experiences a landscape in different seasons and light. The work ends with a final statement of the main, lyrical motive intertwined with the cascading motive from the middle section, synthesized into a new whole. The work was the inaugural commission as composer-in-residence at the Cabot Performing Arts Center in Beverly, Massachusetts, and was written for Don Palma and Symphony by the Sea, who will premiere the work in March, 2017 at the Cabot.
How Curious the Light Behaves (2016)
Soprano, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano four-hand
Text: Anonymous, Irish
Duration: c. 5 mins.How Curious the Light Behaves is a setting for soprano and mixed ensemble of the first half of an anonymous Irish poem, which explores the theme of how one deals with the constant fear of loved-ones drowning, that is universal to any culture based on working the sea. The structure of the poem is similar to a Welsh Cyhydedd hir, but longer, with the first three lines of each quatrain (eight syllables) rhyming. The last line (six syllables) of each pair of quatrains concludes with a singular end-rhyme, linking them into a stanza.
xxxxxAThe phrase structure of the setting parses into nine-measure groups, consisting of repeated cells of differing lengths, for various configurations of the ensemble, creating a gentle, undulating, isorhythmic effect. The work was written for the Virtuoso Soloists of New York and will be premiered in Portugal in July, 2016.
Oboe, viola and piano four-hand
Duration: c. 12 mins.A triskele is an ancient symbol, most closely associated with the Celts, that has been used in various forms and cultures for around 6,000 years. It consists of various configurations of rotationally symmetrical objects around a center-point, most frequently, spirals, curved lines, or representations of bent human legs. In pre-Christian times it was thought to represent the sun, eternity and reincarnation, or the primal elements of earth, sky and water. With the introduction of Christianity to Ireland around the 5th century, the three-part symbol came to represent the Holy Trinity. Triskele reflects the tripartite nature of the symbol in the overall structure, and the intertwining of the oboe, viola and piano lines. (Written for two players, the piano part primarily acts as one, albeit complex, line.) The music unfolds in a rhapsodic fashion, with each section reflecting on and developing previous material. This progression is interrupted by a central, tranquil passage, which is in turn, interrupted by a more active texture, before being subsumed by a return to the rhapsodic opening material. The work concludes with a final section that acts to reconcile the previous materials in a cohesive whole. The work was written for the Virtuoso Soloists of New York and premiered in Italy in July, 2015.
Large orchestra (2+picc.2+Eng hn.2+bcl.2+contra|4.2.2+btrb.1|timp.2 perc|strings)
Duration: c. 48 mins.Dedicated to the composers father who passed away in 2013 at the age of 92, the musical language of the symphony, cast in four movements, is lyrical and elegiac. He often joked that the only thing he could play was the radio, and symphonic and operatic music was all-important and omnipresent in his life. (No Saturday was complete without the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts!) The first movement is energetic, building to a series of climaxes before descending down to a low rumble, while the second movement is rhapsodic and varied in tempo, interrupted by frequent scherzo-like outbursts. The main sections of the third movement are articulated by a series of sonorities in the upper strings that expand outward from a central axis. The majority of the material in this movement is dense and chordal. The finale opens with a plaintive motive in the horns that is developed throughout the movement. The music is largely contrapuntal, and is punctuated by long, sinuous, passages in the violins. A full orchestral tutti surge marks the climax of the movement, leading to the horns recalling the open motive. The work ends with a final orchestral tutti wail, followed by a ghostly echo of ringing Tibetan temple bowls.
While the Drowsy World Lies Lost in Sleep (2013)
Three songs for mezzo-soprano and piano
Text: James Thomson
Duration: c. 10 mins.While the Drowsy World Lies Lost in Sleep is a setting for mezzo-soprano and piano of three excerpts from the Winter section of the The Seasons, by the 18th-century Scots poet and playwright, James Thomson. The text of the epic poem is highly evocative, conjuring up a kaleidoscopic stream of vignettes, impressions and images through the progression of the year. The dreamlike quality of The Weary Clouds is initiated by the opening passage employing harmonics in the piano, underscoring Thomsons personification of Night and Contemplation. The second song, Retiring from the Downs, displays the chaotic interplay of over-wintering birds scrounging to eke out their subsistence during the frugal winter months in a lively scherzo. This section concludes with one of Thomsons brilliant alliterations: ...and with wild wing the circling sea-fowl cleave the flaky air. The set concludes with the personification of Winter as despotic ruler, subjugating half the world in icy misery, in Throned in his Palace. The reign of this grim tyrant is presented in sardonic majesty in both the text and the music. The songs were written for a New Music DePaul Concert commemorating the centennial of the DePaul University School of Music, and premiered by Julia Bentley.
Three Scottish Dances (2012)
Oboe, violin, cello and piano
Duration: c. 6 mins.Three Scottish Dances, a light-hearted work for oboe, violin, cello and piano, is a reinterpretation of three traditional Scots dance formsAir, Strathspey and Reelfor a modern ensemble. The flavor of the original dances is maintained in this fantasia-like setting.
Score to Topless America (2012)
Duration: c. 30 mins.Working temp-track (score) for the film, Topless America, a feature-length documentary chronicling the environmental movement to end mountaintop-removal coal mining. This is an on-going project in the early stages of post-production.
Four Bagatelles for Mixed Ensemble (2012)
Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, piano, two violins, viola, cello, and bass
Duration: c. 13 mins.Four Bagatelles is a work for wind quintet, piano, and string quintet. The opening movement, Ballade, weaves a sinuous line throughout the ensemble, ending with a cadenza-like passage in the piano. The second movement, Kaleidoscope, consists of a series of harmonies refracted through a slowly moving lens, creating a static, yet ever-changing sense of color. The third movement, Burlesque, provides a scherzo-like interruption to the more overtly lyrical movements, while continuing the first-movements linear interplay. The work concludes with a Serenade, which incorporates fragments of material from the previous movements in a gentle synthesis.
Five Miniatures (2011)
Flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, cello and bass
Duration: c. 12 mins.Five Miniatures is an octet for mixed ensemble. The odd-numbered movements, Entrada, Interlude and Finale, form a linear narrative which is interrupted by the even-numbered movements. These interruptions, Nachtmusik I and II, provide quiet reflections on the surrounding movements. The work cycles through a series of proto-chords of fixed registration which generate all of the harmonic and motivic material. The work was commissioned by ALEA III, Contemporary Music Ensemble in Residence at Boston University, Theodore Antoniou, Music Director.
Flute, bassoon, violin, viola and cello
Duration: c. 15 mins.Structures was commissioned by Music at Edens Edge, Maria Benotti, Music Director, and funded in part by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), and Meet the Composer/New England. The title carries a double meaningthat of a musical, as well as physical, structure. Each movement employs an historic building in Essex County, Massachusetts, as a point of departure. The buildings, and the associated histories of their real or fictional occupants, provide a loose narrative that runs through the work. How the actual buildings influence the musical structure varies from movement to movement. One aspect that unites all of the buildings is in their direct, or tangential, association with the Salem witch hysteria of 1692.
The first movement is based on the House of the Seven Gables (Turner-Ingersoll mansion, Salemca. 1668), and is set as a symmetrical seven-part rondo reflecting the contour of the well-known roofline. This historic building provided the inspiration for Hawthornes famous novel from which the popular name of this structure is derived. While not overtly programmatic, the music does evoke the oppressive gloom of the novel, progressing to a corresponding lightening of mood at its conclusion.
The second movement is based on the Rev. John Wise House (Essex1701), which reflects the eminently practical nature of post-and-beam construction, where additions were added as need for space and money allowed. Faint but evident traces of the evolution of this structure appear in various places throughout the house, providing quiet testimony to the living nature of the residence. In line with the historic narrative, the Rev. John Wise was a strong advocate of democracy and no taxation without representation, providing a key point of inspiration for the later Founding Fathers. He supported Increase Mathers attempts to ban spectral evidence from use in the witch trials, and later attempted to have the convictions reversed.
The final movement draws its inspiration from the First Religious Society (Newburyport1801). The spire of this venerable structure is a prominent landmark in this coastal town, visible from all directions. The church, (now a Unitarian Universalist congregation), has roots that stretch back to the 1630s, and is a living descendant of the earliest settlers in Massachusetts. The proportions of its beautiful spire are translated into the proportions of the movement, ending with the squeak of the weathercock at its pinnacle.
Arboreal Memories (2010)
Full orchestra (2.2.2(2. also bcl).2|4.2.2+btrb.1|timp.2 perc|strings)
Duration: c. 12 mins.Aboreal Memories is a lyrical, single-movement work for large orchestra. The music juxtaposes two main ideas that are motivically relatedyet texturally differientiated. These two ideas are additionally contrasted by slow-moving connective material that articulates the main pitch-class segments, based on augmented triads (the Ur-chord), from which all the motives are derived. The music unfolds in a tripart structure with concluding coda, ending on a soft 12-tone cluster in the strings, articulating the definitive arrangement of the Ur-chord. The work was written for David Hoose and the Boston University Symphony Orchestra.
Foss Epigram (2010)
Flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, 2 percussion, 2 violins, viola, cello and bass
Duration: c. 5 mins.Written for, and premiered by, Theodore Antoniou and Alea III, the piece was part of a joint commissioning project for a multi- movement work by former students of Lukas Foss (19222009) for a memorial concert. The work involves a motive based on the opening phrase of the Horst Wessel Lied, a Nazi anthem that Foss heard in Berlin as a youth, and later quoted in his work Curriculum Vitae with Time-Bomb.
The Wind Sall Blaw for Evermair (2008)
Flute, bassoon, harp and piano
Duration: c. 10 mins.Written for pianist, Shiela Kibbe, and harpist, Barbara Poeschl-Edrich, the quartet explores the sonic resources of this unique ensemble. The title is the closing line of an anonymous Scots ballad, The Twa Corbies. In the poem, the narrator overhears two ravens discussing their next meala slain knight, abandoned by his hawk, hound and even, lover. The contradictory themes of loss juxtaposed with the continuity of life, are echoed in the divergent musical material of the work.
Gloaming in perpetuum (2007)
Duration: c. 10 mins.The title of the quintet, Gloaming in perpetuum, is taken from the second line of a seasonal haiku on winter, written by the composer. The works completion coincided with the death of the composers mother, Alta, to whom it is dedicated. The original intent of the line, expressing the endless quality of twilight experienced in winter, can also be understood as a metaphor for our memories, where lost loved-ones live on in the half-light of remembrance.
Written for the Boston-based, Arcadian Winds, the single-movement work is divided into three main sections of a linear, lyrical, quality, interspersed with two interruptions, set in a more angular, disjunct fashion. As the music progresses, silence takes on a more pronounced importance. The work ends on a single, plaintive, note in the oboes upper register.leaden skies threaten
gloaming in perpetuum
dull light, without heat
Thus Winter Falls (2006)
Text: James Thomson
Duration: c. 11 mins.Based on selections from the poem Winter, by the Scots poet, James Thomson, Thus Winter Falls is a three-movement work for SATB chorus. (Haydns oratorio, The Seasons, also sets sections of the same poem, in a multiply translated version assembled by the Viennese patron and diplomat, Baron Gottfried van Swieten.) This setting reflects the bleak character of the original text in passages describing the transition from late afternoon to early evening in winter, (When from the Pallid Sky, lines 118129), the deleterious effect of the onset of winter on ones psyche, (In Sable Cincture, lines 5462), and wonder in the magical results of winters effect on the elements, (From Pole to Pole, lines 742753).
Summer Mosaics (2004)
Duration: c. 8 mins.Exploring a post-minimal texture of a driving rhythmic pulse, combined with complex jazz and rock-influenced cross-rhythms and cinematographic cross-cuts, Summer Mosaics develops a series of short motives through statement, disintegration and recombination. The main motivic cell, derived from the first of Schuberts Sechs Moments Musicaux, consists of the interval of a descending minor third (GE), set against the same pitches in an ascending statement (EG). All subsequent contrasting material in the work evolves from this simple motive. Summer Mosaics was written for saxophonist Richard A. Schwartz and the 2004 Boston University Tanglewood Institute.
Sangis off Wyntir (2004)
Three songs for mezzo-soprano, flute, viola and harp
Text: William Dunbar
Duration: c. 8 mins.Sangis off Wyntir sets three stanzas from the poem, Meditatioun in Wyntir, by the late-15th century Scots poet, William Dunbar, in the famous Scots Makkars dialect. The stanzas are set to a different, traditional Scots folk tune in each of three separate movements. The first movement employs the Gaelic lament, Bheir mo shoraidh thar ghunnaidh, which in the original, tells the story of bitter loss over a lovers death. Three laments of the late-18th century renown fiddler/composer, Niel Gow, interleave to form the second movement. The text is set to the Lamentation for James Moray, Esq. of Abercarney, layered with the Lament for his Second Wife in the flute, and the Lament for the Death of his Brother Donald in the viola, in different tempos and meters, all over a calm, yet relentless ostinato in the harp. The third and final movement treats the popular 18th-century Macphersons Rant, including at one point, the refrain in triple canon in heterophony between the voice, flute and viola, against the harp quietly intoning the verse. The work ends with the return of hope at the promise of the reappearance of Summer, with a fusion of motives from the rant, woven with a strathspey and reel of the 19th-century composer, Alexander Walker. Written for the Chicago-based ensemble, Pinotage, the settings exploit the similarity of the ensembles instrumentation with the traditional celtic folk-ensemble.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Act IIIFinale (2003)
Monodrama for baritone and orchestra
Text: Emerson J. Purkapile
Duration: c. 30 mins.The finale of Frank Lloyd Wright, a projected three-act opera based on the artistic life of the great American twentieth-century architect, explores the dual themes of reflection and resignation. The scene takes place at a college school of architecture commencement ceremony. Almost completely devoid of physical action, the drama of the scene unfolds on a psychological plane. The octogenarian Wright muses on the current state of architecture, and the future that awaits his young audience. In doing so, he reflects on his own journey in the field, recalling his personal need to break with the stranglehold of derivative neo-Classicism that reigned supreme as he began his career. More fundamentally, he expresses his lifelong quest to free architecture from the confining principles of post-and-lintel construction, basing a new indigenous American architecture on the inspiration he found in nature.
Mirroring the eleven-part subdivision of the libretto, the overall structure of the scene creates a large arch shape, comprised of various historical forms, recitatives and interludes, interrelated in a symmetrical pattern. The introduction acts as a prelude, during which Wright enters, processing to the podium where he begins his remarks. The odd-numbered sections act as connective tissue, separating the more reflective, even-numbered sections, consisting of a sonata, rondo, da capo aria, cavatina and passacaglia.
The scene revolves around the central da capo aria, set in a sardonic neo-Classical style, in a quasi-fantasy episode, where Wright, struggling to regain his composure after an almost complete breakdown, launches into a diatribe against the architectural world in which he was ensconced at the start of his career. His energies largely spent, the remainder of the scene involves an increasing output of introspective and largely fragmentary personal reminiscences, concluding with Wrights acceptance of his failing faculties, and eventual death. For Wright, the cantilever, as seen in the broad horizontal projections of tree limbs and overhanging outcroppings of natural stone formations, formed the foundation of his new architectural paradigm. Utilizing the cantilever, he produced works with gravity-defying projections which float in space. With Wright recalling this powerful image of the fusion of technology and art, the work concludes.
Light and Shadow (2002)
Song cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra
Text: Hugh MacDiarmid
Duration: c. 10 mins.The three sections of the work, all with text by the Scots poet Hugh MacDiarmid, form a seamless whole. Drawn from MacDiarmids vast output of poetry, the cycle takes its name from the title of the first poem in the setting. Combined with an eye towards a commonality of idea rather than a conventional narrative thrust, these three poems nevertheless form a powerful, highly-evocative thread of the poets literary leitmotives, filled with vivid visual imagery of nature, time, space and stars. The setting of the first poem treats both the vocal part and accompaniment in an expository, quasi-recitative-like manner. The second setting continues to develop the motivic material, with the voice undertaking a more expansive, lyrical tack. The final setting, structured as a passacaglia, continues the motivic development, treating the voice in a fluid, rhapsodic manner. Having continuously progressed upward from the low rumblings at the beginning of the third section, the passacaglia chords end the work in the highest register, disintegrating into splintered shards of bell-like sounds, uniting an earlier motive associated with stars, with the previously somber passacaglia chords—Oblivion and Eternity together.
Clarinet Trio (2001)
Eb clarinet, A clarinet and bass-clarinet
Duration: c. 5 mins.Written for the Chicago Clarinet Trio, this work explores the sonic possibilities of the combination of an Eb, A and bass clarinet, as well as personal impressions of the musical personalities of the players for which it was writtenJulie DeRoche, Larry Combs and John Bruce Yeh. The work opens on a sonority built on the written low E of each of the three transposing instruments, resulting in the pitches C#DG. Derived from this trichord, octatonic scales and a twelve-tone set form the basis of the harmonic and melodic structures of the work. Built around brief solo passages for each of the instruments, the work is framed by an expository introduction and short coda, which briefly restates the opening material. The work progresses through a series of metric modulations of increasing speed from beginning to end, concluding in a flurry of boisterous counterpoint.
Duration: c. 6 mins.Taking the six partitas and sonatas of Bach as a point of departure, Preludio continuously develops a small group of motivic cells, processed in various rhythmic and melodic guises, creating the overall shape of the single-movement work. While certainly playable on the modern violin, the work was written with the Baroque violin in mind, maintaining the rather narrow range typical of the solo violin music of that period. The considerable number of double stops are principally concerned with presenting multiple lines in a contrapuntal texture, while the less frequent quadruple stops carry a decidedly harmonic implication. The drone-like motive employing an open string combined with a second voice that moves above and below the drone, manifests another aspect of the simultaneous use of multiple strings.
Tie Dye Revisited (2000)
Duration: c. 5 mins.This electronic work derives its title and original source material from a cut on Robert Plants 1990 solo album, MANIC NIRVANA, titled Tie Dye on the Highway, which itself opens with a quote from 60s hippie icon, Wavy Gravy. A beat poet and court jester of the counter-culture generation, Wavy Gravy is best known as the Master-of-Ceremonies at the Woodstock festival in 1969, (and to a younger demographic, as a flavor of Ben and Jerrys ice cream.) Plant quotes the famous announcement: Good morningwhat we had in mind was breakfast in bed for 400,000! Subjected to a phase vocoder procedure in the software package CSound, this quote-within-a-quote results in an analysis file that allows for further manipulationsimultaneously and independentlyof both frequency and duration. (Before software like CSound, increasing the speed of a sound clip necessarily increased its frequency as well. Think Alvin and the Chipmunks.) The independent manipulation of both of these parameters yields an enormous quantity of disparate sounds from which this piece develops. Peace, love, dove, baby!
String Quartet No. 1, pale reflections… (1999)
Duration: c. 7 mins.Evocative rather than descriptive, the programmatic titles of the three movements of this string quartet were added after the works completion. While rigorously organized, the work strives for a spontaneity and directness of musical expression associated with works based on the application of a less-structured musical language, constantly reinterpreting a small core of material in, metaphorically, different light. The brief and aphoristic first movement alternates between long sinuous lines and fleeting pizzicato gestures. The second movement further develops this material, juxtaposing it in expansive aural plains that transition from dense counterpoint to sparse isolation, ending on a thick repeated double-stop chord in the upper voices. Offset in time from the cello, each restatement of the chord comes closer in time to the cello, until eventually becoming one. The final movement bathes the material in the effervescence of shimmering ponticello tremolos and harmonics.
The Exquisite Corpse (1999)
Collaborative work with members of the Chicago Composers Consortium
Alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, horn, two percussion and cello
Duration: c. 7 mins.The Exquisite Corpse musically adapts the surrealist/aleatoric game of cadavre exquis, where a phrase of text, or more likely, a partial segment of a drawing, is passed between participants, with only a small fragment of their contribution showing. Each subsequent player continues the drawing (or text) before passing their partially exposed segment on to the next player, who in turn continues the process until all the participants have contributed to the work.
For this piece of music, each member of the consortium, in sequence, wrote a minute of music, continuing what was written by the previous composer. Only the last two or three measures of each section was revealed to each subsequent composer. In addition, any technical information necessary for those measures was includedsuch as whether the cello was to be played pizzicato, whether the alto flute was in need of a break, or whether one of the percussionists had their hands full. After each composer finished their section, the piece made a return trip in reverse order, this time consisting of half-minute sections. Finally, the individual segments of the manuscript were assembled to form the whole.
Demon Dreams of Electric Fairies (1997)
Guitar, bass, piano, vocals, drums
Text: John H. Wallace
Duration: c. 8 mins.Written for a Chicago Composers Consortium concert with guest ensemble Nozzle, Demon Dreams of Electric Fairies imbraces the sound-world of Frank Zappa, with all of its diverse influences. Juxtaposed against a driving, distortion-ridden heavy-metal backdrop, the work incorporates stylized, asymmetrical rhythmic riffs with a dark text reminiscent of the sound of Ozzy Osbourne and the seminal heavy-metal band, Black Sabbath.
Music for Winds, Percussion and Piano (1994)
Flute, alto flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet,
bassoon, contrabassoon, two horns, four percussion and piano
Duration: c. 15 mins.The three movements of this work run directly into each other with no breaks, providing the architectural structure within which the music unfolds. The music itself plays on the contrast between dense blocks of kinetic energy and sparse, static textures, gradually revealing their interrelationship as related objects located at various points on a continuum. The areas of greatest density yield their energy in brief sonic paroxysms that unravel in time at speeds of transition proportional to the intensity of their output. The gradual unfolding of the stasis material kaleidoscopically refracts the chromatic spectra of the individual pitches, subsuming what came before in an ever-changing progression of aural color. The serial aspects of pitch succession, registration and rhythm are manipulated to produce melodic and harmonic structures of a recognizable motivic nature. The work is dedicated to DePaul Wind Ensemble conductor, Donald DeRoche, who conducted the ensemble in the premiere.
Piano Quintet (1991)
String quartet and piano
Duration: c. 20 mins.The harmonic/melodic structure, as well as the respective internal structure of the three movements, is based on the well-known BACH motif that Webern used in the Streichquartett, Op. 28. The texture is highly contrapuntalthough bearing a more immediate resemblance to the choral motets and masses of Palestrina than the contrapuntal music of Bach himself. The rhythmic content of the music is highly restrained, employing palindromic structures in large blocks of fixed registration. The music is soft throughout, focusing the listeners attention on the smallest level of detail, magnifying small contrasts to a high level of importance. The first movement consists of densely textured contrapuntal sections, juxtaposing blocks for full ensemble with rhapsodic interruptions of block chords by solo piano, fusing the material together by the end of the movement. The second movement utilizes pizzicato strings throughout, creating a much-needed contrast to the heavier outer movements. The light texture of the movement is interrupted, again by solo piano, with sections of a sustained bell-like quality. The final movement further develops material from the previous movements, melding the dense counterpoint and block chordal ideas of the first movement with the bell-like material of the second movement.
Large orchestra (3.2+Eng hn.3.2+cbn|4.3.2+btrb.1|4 perc|piano|strings)
Duration: c. 7 mins.A single-movement work for large orchestra, Symphonia was one of three winners of the Civic Orchestra of Chicagos 1990 Illinois Composers Reading Sessions, coordinated by John Corigliano, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Composer-in-Residence, and conducted by Michael Morgan. Emerging out of a low rumbling in the orchestra, the work treats a small cadre of motivic cells through an ever-changing sequence of developmental episodes until reaching a point of maximum density and complexity. From this apex, the music gently devolves, eventually moving through a gossamer web of shimmering upper strings, to return to the quiet obscurity of the opening sounds.