for bass-baritone and piano
This setting of the Edgar Allen Poe's "Lenore" portrays the two mysterious and contrasting characters, Pious One and Guy de Vere, as they quarrel over how to best lament sweet Lenore's untimely death. In keeping with the dark and evocative text, the music is spiritual, infinite, and phantasmagorical in nature.ca.
for mezzo-soprano and piano
I. Katy Cruel
A version of this song was popular in the American Revolutionary period. The song depict a woman in a contradictory terms, sometimes defiantly knowing who she is while also admitting she is a reviled non-entity. It is a bit of nonsense song, but we can tell that Katy was wild and frenetic nature, but she also bore some sadness in her life. The music reels with her unbridled spirit.
II. Fare Thee Well
This song was first discovered by famed musicologist and folklorist John Lomax in 1909. He came across an African American woman named Dink washing clothes on the back of the Brazos River near College Station, Texas. He was told by the locals that she loved to sing, and after some coaxing by Lomax’s wife, Bess (Brown) Lomax, she sang this haunting folk song for the recording device. My setting contextualizes her song of melancholy, imbuing it with a harmonic language and a slow rhythmic pace that not only conveys the unrelenting heat and humidity that surrounds her as she works and sings, but also the oppressive and doleful thoughts of lost love that plague her mind.
III. Slack Your Rope
Also called “The Maid Freed from the Gallows,” this song has been in the folksong repertoire for centuries, and its origin is not known. The story here is of a young maiden convicted of some crime and sentenced to hang. All that is required is gold to pay her debts (or to bribe the hangman) so that she can be set free, but her father, mother, and others close to her will not pay. Finally, here comes her lover. Will he pay for deliverance?
for soprano and piano
Now blue October, smoky in the sun,
Must end the long, sweet summer of the heart.
The last brief visit of the birds is done;
They sing the autumn songs before they part.
Listen, how lovely - there’s the thrush we heard
When June was small with roses, and the bending
Blossom of branches covered nest and bird,
Singing the summer in, summer unending-
Give me your hand once more before the night,
See how the meadows darken with the frost,
How fades the green that was the summer’s light.
Beauty is only altered, never lost,
And love, before the cold November rain,
Will make its summer in the heart again.
for mixed choir (sssaaatttbbb)
Tota pulchra is a composition for a cappella choir in five major sections and sets one of the most beautiful Marian antiphon texts in the liturgy. Comprised of several large descending skips, the motive that sets the first two words of the text cycles strategically throughout the piece and contributes to the work's structure, always reminding us of the poem's essence. My attraction to this text is due in part to its imagery of Mary's radiance (your face shines like the sun) and redolence (amidst the fragrance of your perfumes). Through intricate counterpoint and colorful shifting sonorities, the composition mirrors these images, providing a sonic picture of shimmering light and emanating perfume.
for mixed choir (satb), percussion, and two pianos
The set of seven verses of the Latin text Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109) is one of the most powerful messianic scriptures found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Each verse delivers a variety of imagery and emotions including the reflective depiction of a communicating Godhead of verse one; the calm assuring promise of God void of emotion of verse four; and the confused milieu of judgement day in verses five and six. Such a text gives a composer setting this Psalm text an incredible opportunity to paint a wide variety of powerful moods.
for mixed choir (sssaaatttbbb)
After I read the final "movement" of John Gould Fletcher's poem Blue Symphony I was compelled to write a choral work that conveyed the poem's serenity sensuality and equilibrated imagery that Fletcher suspends much like a Calder mobile. This colorful piece for a cappella choir is a nostaligic aural dream full of memories and a yearning for transcendence.
for mixed choir (satb)
American poet, Witter Bynner (1881-1968), was never tied to any one poetic movement and forged professional and personal relationships with many of the leading poets of his time, including Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell and D.H. Lawrence. Although he was against what he viewed as the pretentiousness of the imagist poets, Brynner had a great affinity to Asian literature, a primary influence on such luminary imagist poets as Lowell and John Gould Fletcher. Bynner's "Driftwood" captures some of the brevity and poignancy found in Chinese poetry, and relates a Buddhist message of universalism: fragments of wood, driven nails, fingers of builders are no less real than the “burning violets” of the fire that consumes them. The imagery of wood and nails also subtely denotes a Christian overtone. As I composed this work, I paid special attention to three essential elements found in Bynner's poem: the passage of time, fragmentation and color.
for mixed choir (satb)
This is a setting of one of William Cowper's most tender hymn texts that depicts a soul in conversation with the Divine Lord. My setting is coloristic with many "overtone ladders" that convey a heart reaching up desperately for that "unchanging love, higher than the heights above."
for mixed choir (satb)
A setting of the hymn text by William Cowper in a intricate contrapuntal style that implore's God's healing. The final meditative and tranquil setting of "waiting to feel Thy touch" brings us to a state of bliss in our patient faith.
A work in an eight-part divided choir arrangement that allows for a full exploration of light and color. I treat the choir as an orchestral ensemble, allowing me to “orchestrate” the voices as well as develop intricate counterpoint for this beautiful text.
for mixed choir (satb) and piano
A setting for mixed choir and piano of Psalm 8:3-4 and a text by Christina Rossetti.
When I behold Thy heavens, even the works of Thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained,
What is mankind, that Thou art mindful of them?
and the Sons and Daughters of men that Thou carest for them?
Lord, purge our eyes to see
Within the seed a tree,
Within the glowing egg a bird,
Within the shroud a butterfly:
Till taught by such, we see
Beyond all creatures Thee,
And hearken for Thy tender word,
And hear it, "Fear not: it is I."
for mens vocal sextet
I composed this piece in memory of Thomas Binkley (1932-1995).
The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way.
Our theme Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth's green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine.
I bring The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return.
At work, I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.
"The Summer Ends," by Wendell Berry, from Sabbaths (North Point Press)
for mixed choir (satb)
Appropriate for both church and concert settings, this intimate work reminds us that our time here is short.
Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be quick to love and make haste to be kind.And may the blessing of the One who made us, and the One who loves us, and the One who travels with us, be with you and those you love this day and always. Amen.
Adapted from Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)
for women's choir (ssaa)
for bass trombone and piano
A fantasy provides an open playground for a composer to step away from the usual forms and styles and write freely, in an almost improvisatory fashion, and this piece is very much a rendering of my mental abstractions. In six broad sections, the work often requires a bel canto (“beautiful singing”) style of playing. No mutes or extended techniques are required; just long- breathed lyrical playing of soaring, shapely melodies set against a piano accompaniment that is often composed in opposition to the solo instrument’s style: syncopated, repetitive and sequential. Jazz harmonies and quick tonal modulations prevail throughout the piece, especially in the fast sections.
for tenor trombone and piano
for euphonium and piano
for bass trombone solo
A short, rhythmic and energetic piece that showcases this beautiful instrument.
for solo oboe
I composed this piece in a modernist style (old fashioned now!) that demonstrates the tall range of the oboe, its multiphonic possibilities, laser-precise characteristics of articulation, lyricism, and agility. The three terms constituting my title are related to clocks. "Offset" is the difference between the instantaneous absolute values between two clocks, "skew" is the difference between the rate of speed the clocks run, and "drift" is the rate of change of the skew value. The piece plays with these ideas through my use of rhythm and meter: think of various wheels turning at different rates of speed, each one consisting of a set of cogs spaced differently than those of other wheels. My piece was composed with two governing meters, each own possessing its own tempo, and atop these metric grids I laid down phrases of music that run at different rates of speed, implying new meters through the complex rhythms I composed. Sometimes my phrases wind down in speed, sometimes they wind up, and sometimes they "drift" into new tempos. Clock concepts also govern my use of scales in the piece. Three separate scales govern pitch in the piece, and each scale rotates into play depending on how high or low in registration (think spring tension) a particular phrase is composed.
for solo cello
This is a virtuosic piece that showcases the cello's expansive range of colors and registration while challenging the player's technical capabilities.
for solo piano
These four movements for solo piano are tones poems based upon mystic texts by 13th c. Cistercian nun, Mechtild of Magdeburg. Rather than creating a musical narrative of the poetry, I focused on my response to these words, and often my responses surprised me. As I connected with the imagery evoked in the poems, I found that my internal responses were vigorous and passionate, as opposed to serene as the title of the work might imply. Prayers and Meditations is about what burns behind the quietude of prayerfulness.
for solo piano
In my formative years as a young classical musician, it was the mystifying and eccentric virtuosi who first seized my attention and helped generate in me a perfervid desire to keep listening and learning. I also learned that the unreasonableness, indelicate behavior and personal disasters that defined the lives of many of these past masters were a part of the art - oft forgivable when remembering their astonishing talents. Coined by the French playwright, novelist and movie director Jean Cocteau, monstre sacré literally means “holy terror” and describes that unconventional, strange or even vile artist who is so revered by the public that in spite of the maestro’s most horrific personal habits he or she seems always forgiven.! My piece for solo piano is a tribute to these “monsters.”!!
Entrée et intrus is our introduction to the prodigy: an overwhelming individual who pretentiously and repeatedly interrupts the party’s conversation with calls of attention to her brilliance and authority. In the style of a regal French overture, the music is heraldic, explosive, and even unseemly as the monstre!breaks the continuity of our lives, our suppositions and mundanities.!!
For the monstre sacré in classical music, the works of J. S. Bach are often the repertoire paid special attention (we think of Glenn Gould, for example).
The fast-paced second movement, Jeux et théorie: connexion libre avec Bach, caricatures the music of the baroque composer with its strict counterpoint and motor rhythms, but the themes are freely associated with each other, abruptly taking the music in a variety of tonal directions.! I composed the movement as if I challenged the monstre to choose gigue motives from several Bach suites and make them all work together extempore and in perfect whimsy.
Amour parfait is a romantic piece performed by the artist... for the artist. Some of the themes and the accompaniment figures are constructed as palindromes as if the monstre was holding a mirror up to himself and falling in love over and over again in sweet conceit.
The final movement, Rondeau et sortie: le monstre danse, is a celebration of this holy terror as the artist makes a final exit.! As the piece began so it ends with panache and sovereignty.
for solo guitar
This virtuosic piece for solo guitar takes its inspiration and form from the first and third sections of Rainer Maria Rilke's poem by the same name. Rilke's poem depicts the biblical scene of David "soothing" the soul of King Saul with his harp (I Samuel 16) and highlights the paradoxes and internal conflicts between them.
for flute and piano
Ever since I was introduced to the poetry and other writings of Wendell Berry when I was a young man, I immediately felt a deep affinity to his words and thoughts that tightly weave together personal faith and conservationism. This piece for flute and piano is a musical rendering of some of these ideas taken from a variety of Berry's poems, particularly those from his Sabbaths series, dating as far back as 1986. I borrow short titles and phrases from those poems and create "tone poetry" from them. Starting with the inherent differences in the natures of the flute and the piano, I construct sound worlds within these five movements that express the plight of our contemporary world, especially its incessant wars and ecological disasters, all rendered with impunity. In this piece of music, you will hear dominance overwhelming fragility, discord upending concord, and devastation replacing cultivation, but just as Berry reminds us, there is redemption and justice awaiting.
May we be as a song sung within the tree, though beside us the river of oil flows, burning...
from The Sabbath Poems: 1989, VI by Wendell Berry
for large instrumental chamber group (fl, ob, sop sax/alto sax, percussion, piano, elec. guitar, strings)
"Overcrank" is a term from the early motion picture industry and refers to a filming technique whereby the camera operator hand-cranked a scene at a faster rate than normal. When the film was then projected at standard speed it produced slow motion on the screen. Like a furiously cranked camera, this piece runs the ensemble at a high a high rate of speed - so fast that sometimes we end up in slow motion.
for alto sax, tenor sax, piano, and double bass
No Bars Held combines jazz rhythms and harmonies with Renaissance counterpoint in a nonstop flow. The players should cop an attitude of a jazz combo in performance and never let go of the pulse of the piece.
8:15 [Contact me to listen to a MIDI playback]
for piano duet
Reflecting the spiritual implications of Rainer Maria Rilke's poem "I live my life in growing orbits," Orbits gives the listener a constant sense of travel and spaciousness as we “move out over the things of this world.”
for clarinet, cello, and piano
Composed without reference to a program or extra-musical concept, this piece of absolute music was an exercise in what I love the most about chamber music: evolving relationships and good counterpoint. As my first trio composition of this configuration, I focused on all the ways these players could interact with each other, often changing each player’s role in the piece from a soloist to the subordinate to the equal partner. Within the context of these relationships, important themes are developed and some are even protracted across the movements. I consciously draw upon good principles of rhetoric when I compose, and I believe this piece provides one of the best examples of this approach.
for string quartet
We go out in the darkness; we speak but in memories takes its inspiration from John Gould Fletcher's poem, Memory: The Walk on the Beach. The title of my composition is taken from the second to last line of the poetic work reproduced in full below. As a response to some personal events in my life while I was traveling abroad, I wanted to write a string quartet that explored a sense of loss and of nostalgia. Before beginning the composition, I turned to poetry, as is my habit, to focus my creative intentions. I found in this poem elegant and poignant images of love, loss and nostalgia all if which affected me deeply. We go out in the darkness; we speak but in memories is not merely a narrative musical reading of the poem. I identified certain rhetorical elements at work in Fletcher's poem (e.g. thematic returns, thematic elaboration and abbreviation, etc.) and used similar devices in my music composition so that the response by the listener might be similar to that of the reader of the poem. As we read the words: images are built up, transformed, revisited, juxtaposed with other imagery, and it is only at the very end do we find the summary effect of the work. My approach to this composition, particularly in my treatment of themes, is similar to the way Fletcher composed this literary work.
I composed this piece as a hocket study, essentially treating the four harps as one instrument. This makes for a giant sound of beautiful complexity and color.
for full orchestra
Thus I Create the Dance is a symphonic poem, a musical analog of John Gould Fletcher’s poem, XXXI from “Irradiations: Sand and Spray.” When I first read the poem, I was struck by the way it captured my imagination, taking me through a dance driven by a strong force of will, anger, and elation. The first movement is an introduction to the dance - a warm up - to the second movement, which takes its form and pace directly from the dramatic progression of Fletcher’s poem:
My stiff-spread arms
Break into sudden gesture;
My feet seize upon the rhythm; My hands drag it upwards: Thus I create the dance.
I drink of the red bowl of the sunlight: I swim through seas of rain:
I dig my toes into the earth:
I taste the smack of the wind:
The temples of the gods are forgotten or in ruins:
Professors are still arguing about the past and the future:
I am sick of reading marginal notes on life,
I am weary of following false banners:
I desire nothing more intensely or completely than this present; There is nothing about me you are more likely to notice than my
Let me therefore rejoice silently,
A golden butterfly glancing against an unflecked wall.
(from "Irradiations: Sand and Spray," The University of Arkansas Press, 1988; used by permission)
A dramatic cantata in six parts on the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
for tenor solo, SATB choir, and chamber orchestra.
Imprisoned by the Nazis and eventually executed by hanging on April 9, 1945 for his involvement in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer left this world with the grace and peace of a man who acted decisively upon his Christian faith. This dramatic cantata sets the poetic texts Dietrich composed while awaiting trial in the Tegel military prison. Altogether, his words set in this cantata depict an abstract but powerful expression of faith by a man lonely and desperate for justice yet absolutely confident and at peace with God's ultimate goodness and righteousness. In six-movements we hear Bonhoeffer describe his own terrifying predicament as well as that of his "fellow sufferers," while his mind resolutely awaits "that midnight/ In whose fearfully streaming brilliance/ The evil perish for anguish/ And the good overcome with joy." In the final movement, we eventually hear a high note held long in the cello section signaling Dietrich's execution, but what follows is music of hope and joy that set's his words to the faithful: "flourish Earth... be free."
Text from Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
for full orchestra
As I searched for this work's point of departure, I found a remarkable poem by Sherry Fairchok, a Pennsylvania native, entitled "Ode to Coal." In her poem she evokes imagery of "an ancient frozen lake, a black stone palace, a mountain of buried night," relating a sentiment of loss, as the mines had looted from the mountains something gloriously prehistoric. Reverie focuses on the idea of mining - extracting something we wish to keep, discarding material we do not want, all the while moving forward. This notion of mining guided many of my melodic and harmonic decisions during the course of Reverie's composition, and as the piece unfolds in performance, we are moved through densities of sound, darkest at the center of our journey. Two folk tunes from the Pennsylvania mining regions are woven throughout the composition: "The Avondale Mine Disaster" and the hymn tune "Dunlap's Creek." These tunes are often clouded and obscured; but then just as the mining stories of tragedy and faith have been clarified so as to be told and remembered by others, the melodies also become rarified and ascend to a place of reverance in the music.
for wind ensemble
Fast Track is a celebratory piece for wind ensemble, and the title is an apt description of the work as a whole. The piece begings with a brass flourish that provides us entrée into a relentless and fast-paced race through several discrete sections of music, each separated by transitions or passageways. Many of the themes featured throughoutFanfares are derived from a distinctive galloping motive that propels us through much of the race. Exactly at the middle of the track, we find ourselves at a “pit stop,” and with the pulse still revving high, the percussion group and trombones perform a long chorale set against a running engine of cannons in the woodwinds. Now somewhat refreshed, we run through the track again, only this time more quickly. We exit the fast track as we began - with a fanfare to the finish line.
8:00 [Contact me to listen to a MIDI playback]
for full orchestra
Syncopations is all at once a fanfare and a dance for orchestra, and as the title indicates, nearly every theme has characteristics which thwart a regular flow of rhythm. The music sounds “off beat,” and this is what drives feet to dance. Lots of percussion, “pop tunes,”and balanced phrases also help get the orchestra moving. The word“syncopation” derives from the Latin term syncopare, “to swoon,”and this idea helped me shape the final bewildering measures of music-dreamy and strange with “seagull” effects in the cello section, a simple harp progression, and glassy wood winds overlaying a set of sandpaper blocks that keep the rhythmic pulse going until the end. What better way to end the dance than to fall into a swoon?
for soprano and large chamber ensemble (fl, cl, baritone sax, drum set, elec. guitar, piano, vln, viola, cello, and 2-channel track)
This is a setting of Czeslaw Milosz's poem by the same name and explores the spiritual reality of angels in a modern world. Instead of defining these spiritual beings by traditional and fanciful means (e.g. "white dresses" "wings"), Milosz makes a more elegant and profound argument for their existence: that they may be found in our live's most fleeting moments and ephemeral circumstances; we can even hear them as inner voices. If we pay attention to these angels, their "unearthly" messages are sage, profound, and "girded with the lightning."
6:00 [Listen/Score] [Live Video Rec.]
Accompanying click and playback tracks may be found under the Downloads tab.
two-channel electronic playback (Omnisphere, and Arturia software synthesizers in Pro Tools)
Seventeen cues composed in 5.0 surround sound for Pepperdine University's 2018 spring production of Euripides' play in a modern translation by Ben Power.
Composed for the Spring 2018 Pepperdine University Theatre Department’s stage production of Euripedes’ Medea, I set three choral Greek odes found in the play with a new translation by Ben Power. The electronic sounds in the accompaniment track depicts an ambient and dark sound world with some throwbacks to Vangelis and some current synth- pop sounds à la Röyksopp.