Two new pieces were premiered this spring: back in March, cellist Dan Shomper gave the premiere of Vox Animarum, and in April, Colin Hill and the percussion ensemble at Tennessee Tech University premiered Aqua Vitae, for percussion quartet.
Both of these pieces were written over my sabbatical last fall, and in each work I’m trying something entirely new to my compositional vocabulary: in the cello piece, I worked with Dan on bow pressure techniques that widen the timbral spectrum to include quite a bit of noise in the cello’s tone. In the percussion quartet, I decided to work with a collection of junk instruments (bits of metal and wood) alongside traditional percussion instruments like bass drums, toms, marimbas, and vibraphone. Aqua Vitae, as you might guess from the title, was written as an homage to the centuries-old whiskey making process. You can read more about both pieces via these links: Vox Animarum, for solo cello, Aqua Vitae, for percussion quartet.
Spektral Quartet asked some of their recent collaborators for reading recommendations! Check it out: I was happy to be included.
I’m very excited that Wendy Richman will be reviving Highway Music this winter, in a newly revised version that will have its premiere on the New Music Gathering in Baltimore this January. This piece, for a singing violist + electronics, was commissioned by Strathmore Music Center and premiered by Wendy there in 2011. Wendy will be pairing my piece with Jason Eckardt’s to be held… for a short set on the Intrumental+ segment of the program.
I’ve got a few projects in the works that are slowly taking shape over the next few weeks: a set of Scarlatti-inspired piano pieces, and some new percussion music. Details to be announced shortly.
New Morse Code premiered Transit last spring down here in Washington, DC. Here’s a link to a really nice video from them shredding in the beautiful Washington College concert hall.
And, last but certainly not least, I’m now a tenured professor at CUA, and after seven years of teaching I’m on my first sabbatical this semester. Plans for the fall away include writing, more writing, and going on runs with Lev (because he’s finally big enough for a jogging stroller!).
This year’s concert season went out with a bang: May 17th saw two premieres on the same day in DC (Atlantic Reed Consort doing Brightness Catching, and Inscape Chamber Orchestra playing my new version of What I Decided to Keep), which came on the heels of New Morse Code premiering Transit at the beginning of April. I hope to post recordings of Brightness Catching and Transit shortly. What I Decided to Keep, released on Inscape’s American Aggregate last fall, is available most places music is sold (iTunes, Amazon, etc). That album also got a nice write up in the April edition of Gramaphone, which you can check out by clicking here.
I’m really excited to share a live recording of Sounding Dawn, my new piece for double bass and electronics commissioned by Ira Gold. Ira and I premiered the piece on a tour this fall that included performances at the University of Louisville, University of Michigan, Oberlin College, and Cleveland Institute of Music. The piece was inspired by our shared love of running, particularly those that are occasionally taken as the sun comes up (…occasionally). I think Ira did a fantastic job with this – the various timbral contortions I put him through aren’t easy – and I’m looking forward to playing it again with him in the future. Check out the recording here.
Coming up this winter, Chicago’s Spektral Quartet will be playing Passage through the city, a piece written for them in 2012, at venues in Chicago (Jan. 9th and 10th), Grand Rapids, MI (Feb. 8th), and right here in Washington, DC (Feb. 12th). Spektral has been making a name for themselves over the last few seasons with incredible playing on a truly diverse array of projects (check out their Mobile Miniatures project!). Info/tickets links are on my performances page: come and check them out if you’re in the area of any of those concerts (I’ll be at the DC show).
My last bit of news for 2014 is that I just put the finishing touches on a new piece for DC’s own Atlantic Reed Consort: Brightness Catching, written for the unique combination of Oboe, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Bassoon, and Bass Clarinet. Be on the lookout for a premiere this coming spring.
It is finally here! Inscape Chamber Orchestra’s new album American Aggregate, the follow-up to their grammy-nominated Sprung Rhythm, was officially released on August 26th. Working with Inscape and the folks at Sono Luminus was an amazing experience: we are all incredibly proud of how it sounds, and I feel lucky to be in the same company with composers Nathan Lincoln-DeCusatis, Armando Bayolo, Joseph Hallman, Dan Visconti, Julia Adolphe, and Gregory Spears. This is a very special disc, in that it is formatted for multi-channel Pure Audio Blu-Ray playback. For those of you with a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup, prepare to be blown away! For those of us with a vanilla stereo playback setup, trust me, it sounds awesome. What I decided to keep, in a new arrangement commissioned by Inscape, is an homage to Bela Bartok’s 5th String Quartet. Using elements from jazz, funk, and prog rock, What I decided to keep follows a rhetorical logic similar to Bartok’s celebrated work. The piece is dedicated to Martin Bresnick, my composition teacher that first introduced me to Bartok’s quartet, whose example I try to follow in working with my own students at CUA. Check out a promo clip of What I decided to keep here. Buy the album at places like iTunes and Amazon.
Back at the end of March, Stephen Story and the Carnegie Mellon University Wind Ensemble gave the premiere of Lift. Lift is only my second work for wind ensemble, and the first one that was conceived and written specifically for this instrumentation. (Bounce, premiered last November by David Vickerman and the winds from TCNJ, is an arrangement of an earlier orchestra piece.) It was a really great experience to work with these players, and also a lot of fun to be back at my undergraduate stomping grounds in Pittsburgh, PA. Read more about the piece and take a listen here.
As I take a step back from teaching for the summer, things for next season are starting to come into sharper focus. Upcoming projects for next year will include a new piece for bass and electronics for Ira Gold, a bassist with the National Symphony and Peabody faculty member, and a new work for Hannah Collins and Mike Compitello, otherwise known as the amazing cello and percussion duo New Morse Code.
Next week I’ll be gearing up for a recording session with Inscape Chamber Orchestra. They’ll be recording What I decided to keep, in a new arrangement specifically for them. You can check out the original version here, premiered by David Searle and the Catholic University Chamber Orchestra last year.
I’ve also just posted recordings of two performances from the past few months: take a listen to Her Exit, written for and performed by DC’s Great Noise Ensemble, here, and Bounce, in a new arrangement for large wind ensemble, performed here by David Vickerman and the wind ensemble from the College of New Jersey.
Go here to check out the Spektral Quartet tearing through Passage Through the City, premiered this past summer out in Chicago at The Hideout. It was absolutely amazing working with these guys: I love the energy they brought to my piece, and I’m looking forward to hearing it again this season in DC.
On November 8th, Bounce will be premiered in its new incarnation as a piece for large wind ensemble. David Vickerman and the winds from The College of New Jersey are going to rock: the program is quite an ambitious foray into newer repertoire for winds (Schwanter’s In Evening’s Stillness and Mackey’s Asphalt Cocktail are also on the program!). Have a listen to some excerpts from the original orchestra version of Bounce here. I’ll be visiting the TCNJ campus the week before to work with the group in rehearsal, and to be a guest on the College’s brown bag series to talk about the process of converting orchestra to wind ensemble.
After a relaxing year away in New England, I’m very excited for my first DC premiere since returning to the area. With a little help from my friends the Great Noise Ensemble, Her Exit will be premiered along with 12 other new works at the Atlas Theatre on Saturday, September 21st at 8pm. Tickets here. Each composer involved in the project was asked to write a piece in response to a particular track on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album: my track was She’s Leaving Home.
When I started thinking about this project, the perspective of the lyrics in She’s Leaving Home really stuck out at me: the story is delivered by an omniscient outsider, seemingly gazing down at the characters as their lives play out. After finding out that the song was written about a real person and an actual sequence of events that Paul McCartney read about in the newspaper, I thought it would be interesting to try to write my piece solely from the perspective of the pregnant teenage runaway. In Her Exit, I tried to create a musical world that’s the polar opposite of the sweet and delicate She’s Leaving Home, akin to looking at a photographic negative image of the Beatles’ presentation of the story. Hope to see you there.