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Fading Light for woodwind quintet (2009)
Tara Byrdsong, Flute Noah Tucker, Oboe Kaci Schick, Clarinet
Kristin Gates, Horn Austin Way, Bassoon
Fading Light began as a memorial to my grandmother who died in early 2009. As her health
declined, she began to gradually lose her mental faculties as well as her ability to carry on
meaningful conversations. She would often babble incoherently or begin a lucid thought only
to trail off incoherently. This piece is not intended as a programmatic work. Instead, its premise
is an inability to hold a single idea for an extended period. There are frequent interruptions and
tangents but all the musical material is through composed and developed. The music searches
for a sense of resolution but is foiled by its own internal motion.
Nearer... for flute, clarinet, cello, piano (2009)
Nearer. . . was written in June 2009 as the inaugural commission by Quadrivium. The word
“nearer” takes a double meaning in this work. It refers to the hymn “Nearer My God to Thee,”
which forms the basis of the musical material, as well as the foiled attempts to perform an
unadulterated version of the melody.
The lone and level sands for piano trio (2009)
Lauren Wells, violin Mark Stauffer, cello Kari Johnson, piano
A desolate reimagining of the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem “Ozymandias.”
Silent Sphere for amplified flute and piano (2008)
Rebecca Ashe, flute Xu Zhou, piano
This piece is about the transformation of astronauts from engineers to artists. It begins in
a mechanical, cramped environment and opens into an organic, spacious vista. Astronauts
spend many years preparing for a mission to space in a cramped vehicle only to be shown a
view of unparalleled beauty. As numerous astronauts have reported, their training did not
prepare them for the grand spectacle of the Earth seen from space. Charles Walker, American
space shuttle astronaut, reported:
“My first view- a panorama of brilliant deep blue ocean, shot with shades of green and gray and
white- was of atolls and clouds. Close to the window I could see that this Pacific scene in
motion was rimmed by the great curved limb of the Earth. It had a thin halo of blue held close,
and beyond, black space. I held my breath but something was missing- I felt strangely unfulfilled.
Here was a tremendous visual spectacle, but viewed in silence. There was no grand musical
accompaniment; no triumphant, inspired sonata or symphony. Each one of us must write the
music of this sphere for ourselves.”
Written for and premiered by Rebecca Ashe.
Rachel Dances for saxophone sextet (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass) (2006)
Thailand Saxophone Ensemble
Shyen Lee, saxophone professor at Mahidol University, asked me to write a piece for the
Thailand Saxophone Ensemble that uses all the saxophone types in their arsenal, from
sopranino to bass. The genesis of the piece comes from Shyen Lee’s daughter, Rachel.
While attending a wedding, I had the opportunity to watch his precocious young daughter,
Rachel, spinning exuberantly about the dance floor to the music of a jazz band. This
image, an unbalanced, frenetic, jazzy spinning became the inspiration for the piece.
The saxophones trade jazzy, screaming licks and the music grows ever wilder while Rachel
Prelude and Fugue after Bach for unaccompanied Bb clarinet or alto saxophone (2006)
Cheryl Melfi, clarinet
I have always been enamored with the music of Bach. Bach’s fugues and cello suites excite
me as wonderfully intricate, dense pieces. Bach loves to superimpose multiple lines on one to
create a compound melody. While listening to Bach’s music, a question dawned on me: Is it
possible to adapt these styles to an instrument capable of playing only one note at a time?
The Prelude of Bach’s G Major cello suite opens with a G major arpeggio that becomes the
basis of my Prelude. I use the intervals of the arpeggio freely to build sequences of rising
pitches, and intervals not from the arpeggio to create falling lines. My Fugue is built using
the same interval selection as the Prelude but features compound lines with much greater
density. The original clarinet version was written for Cheryl Melfi and the alto saxophone
version is for Shyen Lee.
Fantasy in Black for clarinet choir (2006)
Mahidol University Clarinet Ensemble with Cheryl Melfi, solo clarinet
This is a short arrangement of the folk tune “Black is the Color.” It is scored for solo Bb
clarinet and 4-part Bb clarinet choir. Written for and premiered by Cheryl Melfi and the Mahidol
University Clarinet Ensemble.
Sin-ka-lip' for brass trio, piano, and narrator (2005)
Joseph Bowman, Trumpet Leslie Hart, Horn Supapach Santitammarak, Trombone
Eri Higashide, Piano Daniel Eichenbaum, Narrator
This is a retelling of a famous Coyote story. The text is from the Bison Books edition of
Mourning Dove’s Coyote Stories. Commissioned and premiered by Mark Lammers for
Fun and Games for woodwind quintet (2003)
In 2003, I suffered a bout of a rare mental condition known as Composerus Seriousitis.
Symptoms of this disorder include an intense desire to write deep, meaningful music, an over-
whelming urge to distance oneself from any music that is less than the “High Art,” and an innate
need to “suffer” for one’s Art. In an effort to exorcise my mental condition, I set out to write Fun
and Games as a way to recapture the sheer joy of writing a piece that poked fun at itself and
never once threatened to be “High Art.”