English horn and piano
Duration: 7 minutesBuy this music
Premiere: April 13, 2007, Karen Birch, English horn; St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Composed in early March 2007, this work captures my feeling of the waning weeks of winter. This familiar in-between season is when the snow falls one day but may melt the next. The clear melody lines and the tranquil harmony that bookend the piece reflect this mood. A brief interlude of activity anticipates the warmer season ahead. I was fortunate to be able to write this piece during a busy period of work; the serene sounds had a wonderful calming effect.
Duration: 1 minutes
Premiere: July 9, 2001, Rita Sloan, piano; Aspen Music Festival
This brief work was written at the request of the Aspen Music Festival and School, where David Zinman is music director. A gala celebration is planned for his 65th birthday, and I was happy to be asked to contribute this gift to him. It was inspired by a story he told which involved both the Ravel and Mozart K. 503 piano concertos. My short work is thus two variations on “Happy Birthday;” one in the style of Mozart, the other, Ravel.
This work was broadcast nationwide on July 10, 2001, on National Public Radio's “Performance Today.”
Escapade No. 3
Duration: 9 minutes
Premiere: April 7, 1998, Sergio Ruiz, Houston, Texas
there are two essential motivic elements that generate the musical material. Contained in the opening bar, the first element is the sounding of simultaneous bitonal major chords. The second element is the combination of two melodic intervals, the fourth and the second. It is easy to lose track of these key figures in the dynamic and powerful opening section, in which nearly the full range of the piano is used, but they provide the structural backbone and impetus for the composition of the main body of the piece.
Using influences from the classical solo piano repertory, as well as jazz and popular tidbits allowed me to expand my current musical vocabulary while writing this piece. In this sense the piece is an escapade in the true sense of the word, an escape from traditional confines. However, the music certainly conjures up an escapade as it is commonly perceived, at times embarking on a reckless adventure.
Duration: 9 minutesBuy this music
Premiere: June 10, 1999, Hartford City Winds; Hartford, Connecticut
In the summer of 1998 I had the pleasure of hearing my wind works performed by the City Winds woodwind quintet of Hartford. As composer-in-residence of the Evelyn Preston Foundation summer concert series, I enjoyed my involvement with the ensemble and the interaction with the audience. The series was a success. When Elana Hoffman, Artistic Director of City Winds, asked me to write a new work for their 1999 series, I happily obliged.Six Miniatures
is just that, a collection of six short pieces. As I had just finished work on dance music when I started writing the Miniatures, some of the movements have a decidedly dance-like quality about them. In fact, the opening movement is entitled “Dance”. The next three movements, “Musings”, “Intermezzo”, and “Reflections”, are designed as a subset of the entire work. Musically, they are unified through the use of a tone row and its various permutations. The fifth movement, “Pas de deux”, is particularly special to me. It is an arrangement of the duet section of my dance piece, You’re It!,
which was premiered at Lincoln Center in January 1999. The final movement, “Rondo-Finale”, recalls the spirit of the first movement with a brisk tempo and a gleeful tune. Imitative counterpoint in the flute, oboe, and clarinet drive the work to its conclusion.
Violin, viola, cello
Duration: 13 minutesBuy this music
Premiere: April 10, 2000, Samuel Fischer, Jonathan Brown, Raman Ramakrishnan; Paul Recital Hall, The Juilliard School, New York
This non-programmatic, contemplative work was written in the first months of 2000. After the cello quietly opens the work with haunting harmonics, the other players join in presenting the first sonic portrait of the introduction. This opening portrait, concluding with the cello plucking the open strings, serves to elucidate the central tone row of the first large section. The row’s most recognizable characteristic is the alternation of perfect fifths and ascending chromatic steps. The open fifths of the row were useful in writing idiomatically for the strings.
After a foreshadowing of the slow second section, the introduction concludes with a trill in the violin and harmonics in the viola. The rest of this section is a brisk allegro as the writing begins to take on an agitated character. This agitated frustration results in a climax with stratospheric writing for all the instruments. This material attempts to reassert itself following the climax, but it is finally subdued as the meditative second section ensues. This section, recalling material from the introduction, is designed to portray wistfulness and reflection through the open, sonorous harmonies and drone techniques.
The only truly tonal moment in the piece comes after an intense, passionate harmonic progression leading to a plaintive yet restful cadence in G major. The cello harmonics which began the work are superimposed on this G major chord. The chord finally dies away, as the mysterious, serial introduction is recapitulated in the coda. The eerie end to this abstract work is nevertheless dramatic, exhibiting a sense of longing, or even loss.
Tribute and Fantasy
Duration: 5 minutes
Premiere: May 13, 2000, Monica Yan, piano; Westport, Connecticut
This piece is a commission from the Renée B. Fisher Foundation for the 2000 Piano Competition. With 2000 being the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of composer Aaron Copland, I found it appropriate to write a tribute to him with this piano composition. The form of the piece is ABA, slow-fast-slow, a form that Copland favored when writing many of his works. There are no direct quotes from Copland, but the outer sections of Tribute and Fantasy certainly pay homage to the American prairie-sounds that Copland invented and used so expertly. The fast part of the composition is a rollicking section with syncopation and rhythmic by-play as the themes and motives work their way through the fabric. The unifying motive of a unison expanding to a third (particularly at the pitch level of E) is principally featured in the structure of the composition.
Baritone voice and marimba
Duration: 17 minutes
Premiere: Spring 2007: Doug Smith, voice and marimba; Tucson, AZ
Doug Smith commissioned me to write this piece for his unique talent: extraordinary marimba playing and gifted singing ability -- performed simultaneously. While we are accustomed to commonly seeing this in the pop world, usually with piano or guitar, in the concert world it is somewhat of a novelty, especially with marimba. But I was up for the challenge and knew that Doug was very intent on the success of this piece.
After deciding on using haiku as text, I settled on twelve traditional poems (translated into English from Japanese). I arranged them seasonally, so that the piece more or less follows a yearly cycle, from winter to spring, summer, fall and winter again.
A note about the third movement, “New Year’s Day”: At the time the poem was composed, the Japanese New Year followed the same lunar calendar as the Chinese, i.e., the new year marked the beginning of spring. In modern times the new year is celebrated on January 1.
Oboe, horn, piano, contrabass
Duration: 6 minutes
Premiere: January 20, 1999, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York
This piece is a collaboration with choreographer Kimberly Craigie. It afforded me the unique and special opportunity to draw inspiration from an art form that is not only visual, but also kinetic and dramatic.
Immediately upon seeing some of Kimberly’s early phrases, I set to work trying to capture the essence of her ideas in music. The piece is about childhood, and as our work evolved we focused on four sections. The first section is what may be best termed a “recess” scene: children with boundless energy, skipping, playing freely. As most of the children are playing, there is one rather lonely boy who feels left out of the games. As everyone else skips away, he is left alone, confused. In this section the other children are more independent. Our lonely boy, sensing the loneliness of a nearby girl, gingerly approaches her. They become friends, portrayed by a lovely and touching pas de deux. As the other children join in the fun, the piece ends with a happy finale.