Compositions

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Ascent (2014)

2016-06-25 21.04.52 copy

A footpath in Ober-Ramstadt (Hessen, Germany)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ascent
has its origins in my first visit to Darmstadt. When I last stayed there in 2011 (see below), my host Michael Veit recommended the Banff Centre to me. A few years later, I was there as a resident composing a trio with Darmstadt in mind.

Performers in this recording of Ascent are:

Makiko Sano, violin
Michael Veit, cello
Wiltrud Veit, piano

Visit my youtube page for a recording.

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To Finish the Moment (2013) at Boston’s Old South Church


Photo courtesy of Simon Yue

“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”
—excerpt from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1844 essay Experience

John Lysacker mentions in his book Emerson and Self-Culture that Emerson asks us in Experience “to focus on the present, to keep to a mid-world between bloodless abstraction and false concreteness.” The essay addresses and attempts to remedy what Emerson scholar Joel Porte calls life’s “existential nausea.” Emerson asserts that the “intellectual tasting of life will not supersede muscular activity.”

The sense of immediacy in my music is a jolt to that existential nausea. However, another narrative is that of a spirited discussion among friends whose words incessantly interrupt and overlap. They validate, redefine, refute, refine, and attack one another’s ideas.

The Freisinger Chamber Orchestra
Peter Freisinger, Conductor
21 September 2013, The Old South Church, Boston

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Crowd Scene (2004, 2010)


photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I began Crowd Scene in 1996 as music to accompany a ten-minute section of Robert Wiene’s German Expressionist silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). The project was discontinued after a short time, and in 2004 I again picked up the score to complete the bulk of it, making further revisions in 2010.  No longer constrained by the film’s parameters, I refreshed my perspective, mostly abandoning the original programmatic component while musically maintaining a sense of urgency. I think that the result—a work of only about five minutes instead of the originally intended ten—nonetheless captures the spirit of the film quite effectively.

This 2011 recording of Crowd Scene was released by Darling’s Acoustical Delight, a division of Darling Publications, Cologne. The title of the CD is “…ohne zu wissen warum!?” (“…without knowing why”) and is performed by the following members of Ensemble Soli fan tutti (of the Staatsorchester in Darmstadt, Germany):

Danielle Schwarz, flute
Michael Schmidt, clarinet
Saskia Hiersche, violin
Alev Akcos, cello
Björn Lehmann, piano

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The Bawdy Dogs (2009)


photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Members of the American Creators Ensemble, Beta Collide, and the Fireworks Ensemble; Scott Ordway, Conductor

The Bawdy Dogs is based on my poem Lascivious ’79. The poem describes the lusty behavior of high school upperclassmen through the eyes of an underclassman, all in 1979!

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To Fill the Hour (2009)

The Triptych Ensemble; David Vickerman, Conductor

Work calls for the taking up of tools, followed by a slow, chugging groove.

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Affection situates a Greek chorus around two main characters—the trumpet and trombone—commenting, caressing, and cajoling.

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Friend (2008)

Kate Rogers, Viola
Aaron Rosenberg, Piano

Friend is a two-part song-without-words in an American folk idiom. It is my projection of the memories and dreams that fill aching hearts; the reverie of those who couldn’t fix it, and so had to stand it.

Standing Lullaby is the second movement.

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Trail Days (2006)

Kanae Komugi, Flute
Blake McGee, Clarinet
Helena Kopchick and Alexander Reid, Bassoons
Tim Clarke and Dylan Girard, Trumpets
Matthew Ertz and Louis Olenick, Trombones
Jerry Hui, Conductor

From Ramon Adams’ 1945 Western Words: A Dictionary of the Range, Cow Camp and Trail “The days when long trails were thoroughfares for great herds of cattle. Such a spectacle, as a business, will never be seen in the world again.”

My Trail Days pays homage to the spirit of the American West as I perceive it through present-day filters. The primary melodic motif, both intentionally hokey and heartwarming, carries the music across one trail day – from an expansive sunrise, through a day of cattle herding, to a time of rest – in about four minutes.

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Misty Valley Chickens (2005)


Collin Wilson, Soprano Saxophone
Benjamin Wheeler, Double Bass

The Misty Valley is a hidden place, and its chickens enjoy long, full lives, without confine of coop or threat of hatchet. Lively banter, frivolity and schoolyard games fill the days of the young ones. Passion, romance and derring-do occupy the adolescents. And at the end of a long day, a bright moon illuminates the dewy dreamscape where chickens doze side by side on the sun-warmed earth.

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Three Rumi Love Songs (2005)

Kirsten Arbogast, Mezzo-Soprano
Benjamin Krause, Piano

I.
This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:

 

as pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight

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II.
Your eyes, when they really see
a rose or an anemone, flood the
wheeling universe with tears.

 

Wine that stands a thousand years
in a jar tastes less mad
than love only one year old.

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III.
I could not have known
what love is if I had never

felt this longing. Anything
done to excess becomes

 

boring, except this overflow
that moves me toward you.

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Translation by Coleman Barks.

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Animus Semotus (Isolated Spirit) (2004)

Aaron Rosenberg, Piano

The harmonic and melodic motifs of seconds and thirds, and their inversions, saturate the work. These motivic creatures drift aimlessly throughout the hazy ether of their confined universe. Morose and perplexed, they carry the primordial notion of an escape whose impossibility they can only lament.

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Two Indiscretions (2003)

Crystal Zimmerman, Piano

I. Waltzing Alone is a private dance of the interpretive sort—leaping, spinning, and swooning, all with the utmost of (dis)grace.

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II. The Vapors mingles earnestness with ennui. Meek protests emanate from the haze.

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