From Ivory Depths
for mixed chorus
Plush Earth in Four Pieces
for violin and piano
Games of Belief
Real Voices & Imagined Clatter
for percussion quartet
for string quartet
Smoke and Distance
for voice and piano
Blue Skin of the Sea
for percussion and cello
Eyelids are Islands
Volti, conducted by Robert Geary, St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA, May 13, 2016
from ivory depths
Commissioned by Volti as selected composer for the Choral Arts Lab
White and distant, absorbed in itself,
endlessly the sky covers and uncovers,
moves and remains.
From ivory depths
words rising shed their blackness,
blossom and penetrate.
The sky veils her stars
then bares them.
-from "Monday or Tuesday" (1921) by Virginia Woolf
Daniel Lebhardt, Young Concert Arists New York Series
March 1, 2016, Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY
games of belief
Commissioned by Young Concert Artists
Winner of 2016 BMI Student Composer Award
I have always been mesmerized by its oscillating, lilting quality of Schumann’s Kinderzenen Op. 15. His simple figurations and textures, used to evoke childhood innocence, one feature I paid homage to in Games of Belief.
My piece starts by confronting an acoustical reality of the piano: every key is connected to a long metal string that contains all harmonic partials of the fundamental note. By isolating these overtones, the performer essentially creates a series of arpeggios, a familiar trope to so much of piano music. This concept of arpeggiation, of leaping up and down the keys, became a parameter that I freely manipulated by condensing and stretching intervals. Games of Belief is a loose set of variations over series of chords that expand outward form the opening cluster. Even as the texture changes dramatically, these chords serve as anchors for the listener. At the end of the piece, a descending melodic line guides our return to the acoustic overtones of the opening. The music is constantly striving– sometimes violently– and expanding in range, but at its center is a lyrical core.
FLUX Quartet, St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art, Aug. 8, 2014
Written for the FLUX Quartet, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival 2014
During the very cold winter of 2014, I was struck with a patient mood one afternoon and made a drawing that consists entirely of careful crosshatching using a very frayed pen. Viewed from a distance, the lines evoke a frenetic energy, not unlike the intricate layers of earth and ice that is characteristic of a gorge cliffside in Ithaca. Up close, however, this energy transforms into something steady and linear— the fragile lines now intersect boldly to form squares. This dramatic form is closely echoed in Escape-Landscape, where the listener 'escapes' the overall 'landscape' simply by going deeply into the sound object, beyond its shimmering surface.
Michael Compitello, Carriage House Hayloft, Ithaca, NY, Februrary 1, 2015
blue skin of the sea
Winner of 2015 BMI Student Composer Award
Commissioned in consortium by Michael Compitello, Gwendolyn Burgett, Ji Hye Jung, Ayano Kataoka, Katelyn King, Ian Rosenbaum, Leah Scholes, Jeff Stern, and Daniel Tones
Blue Skin of the Sea is also the title of a book by Graham Salisbury, which is a series of coming-of-age stories set in Hawaii. In Salibury's writing, the Pacific Ocean is embodied, almost to the point of being another character. Just like the skin on our bodies, the sea is flexible, wrinkles with time, and is protective of what it surrounds.
Every type of surface, be it our skin, the ocean, or the wood of the marimba, contains intricate and unique patterns that tell a story. These wrinkles and patterns are actually imperfections that float on top of the object. The personality of these tiny gradations and how they can combine into larger textures is translated musically in my work. I also expressed this idea in a very literal sense; instead of maintaining a safe distance from the instrument with traditional mallet playing, I felt more compelled to explore physical and sonic breadth of individual marimba bars. Thus, all of the extended techniques that are used are simply an extension of the concept of horizontal, rather than vertical movement. Over the five movements, I chose particular mallets to create a timbral transformation from soft/ resonant to dry/ brittle and back again.
Festival Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Chris Kim
Barnes Hall Cornell University April 12, 2014
eyelids are islands
Written for the Festival Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Chris Kim
The initial idea for Eyelids are Islands came from two works by visual artist Giuseppe Penone entitled Palpebra sinistra and Palpebra destra (left and right eyelid). His works were part of an Arte Povera exhibit in the Kröller-Müller Museum during my visit to The Netherlands in February 2013. These works, shown as a diptych, covered an entire sidewall of the gallery, but its physical scale was marked by utmost simplicity, consisting only of tessellations of a beautiful black charcoal pattern on drawing paper. Upon closer inspection, I learned that the patterns were all impressions of the skin on Penone’s own eyelids. Thus in my piece, the types of dialogue occurring within the ensemble are informed by the dichotomies within our own bodies, the left and right sides, the internal and external.
Xak Bjerken and Vesselin Gellev, Cornell University Barnes Hall Auditorium, April 21, 2014
plush earth in four pieces
Written for Xak Bjerken and Vesselin Gellev
Winner of Rapee Sagarik Prize, Thailand International Composition Festival
“The day, a compunctious Sunday after a week of blizzards, had been part jewel, part mud.”
This evocative opening of the short story “The Vane Sisters” by Vladimir Nabokov is the entire poetic compass of Plush Earth in Four Pieces. The “Part” movements (I & III) are more abstract— simply a “part” for the duo to play— but they also depict a coming “apart” of the material over the course of their short durations. “Jewel” reminisces on theblizzards; “Mud” begins there but anticipates evaporation of all the meltwater. Although the four movements are distinct in character, they share many musical objects and gestures, exploring various aspects within Nabokov’s “compunctious Sunday”. I translated the vivid imagery of a spring thaw to a single transformation that occurs over the four movements: sharp, pointed articulations melt away into a sound world that is fluid and almost languid.
Brant Roberts, Wesley Fowler, Aaron Gochberg, and Katie Eikem
nief-norf summer festival, June 15, 2016
real voices and imagined clatter
Written for So Percussion residency at Cornell University
Timpani are resonant and thud like heartbeats; their flexible range of pitches can perform sighs as well as large groans. Of all the percussion instruments, they are the most like our human bodies in this regard.
Real Voices and Imagined Clatter begins with an initial exploration of the ringing, metallic, and dry qualities of the timpani sound-world. The drums eventually call forth human voices when the performers begin to listen carefully to their sound. This act of vocalisation is ultimately reciprocal. The players in turn draw out a sustained, bittersweet wailing from a single timpano at the very end of the work. In this way, although there are four performers, this piece serves as a dialogue between eight individual and expressive bodies on stage.
Sharon Harms, soprano, with pianist Andrew Zhou, Cornell University Barnes Hall Auditorium, March 16, 2016
smoke and distance
Written for 2013 Tanglewood Music Center vocal composition workshop
The blue smoke leaps
Like swirling clouds of birds vanishing.
So my love leaps forth toward you,
Vanishes and is renewed.
-from "Images" by Richard Aldington, 1920
Our meeting was like an upward swish of a rocket
In the blue night.
I do not know when it burst;
But now I stand gaping
In a glory of falling stars.
-from "Pyrotechnics" by Amy Lowell, 1919
I. The Tongue is but a Clapper
The tongue is but a clapper. Simplicity itself.
II. How— Hush!
III. Simplicity Itself
One rose leaf, falling from an enormous height, like a little parachute dropped from an invisible balloon. Turns, flutters... It won't reach us.
Written for the adventurous duo New Morse Code, Hush maps the concept of speech and song onto the instrumental combination of percussion and cello. Taking excerpts from Virginia Woolf's short story "The String Quartet," the performers convey the busy-ness of speech and conversation contrasted with the simplicity of song. The metaphor lends itself to extended roles for both performers-- unpitched (un-singing) percussion renders spoken words, while the cantabile cello sound dovetails into vocal singing. The middle movement reminds listeners of the worth in silences, which emerge when we care to hush.
Written for hornist Michael Walker
While composing Glass Echoes, I imagined the sounds of the solo horn reflecting and refracting off of an imaginary glass prism, acting much like light. Several extended techniques of the instrument are explored. Pitch bends offer an organic and singing quality to the melodic line, while enharmonic fingerings allow similar a nuance in repeated notes. The technique of half-stopping adds the illusion of depth to the performance space, as if the sound were coming from farther away. All of these different sounds contribute to the image that light reacts in varied and unpredictable ways through a glass prism.