What I Decided to Keep

fl, ob/en hn, cl/bass cl, bsn, hn, tpt, tbn, pno, 2 vln, vla, vc, db
also available as: fl, cl, bass cl, bsn, hn, tpt, tbn, pno, 4 vln, 4 vc, 2 db
14 – 15 minutes
excerpt performed here by Inscape Chamber Orchestra on American Aggregate


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As a composer with one foot in academia, I work at a far less frantic pace during the summer: with my teaching obligations in mothballs until September, I’ve got so much more time to consider compositional issues that I just don’t have the mental space to hang out with for the other 9 months. In addition to considering my output while a resident of DC for the past four years, I also found myself reflecting back on my time at Yale: specifically, the year I studied with Martin Bresnick. At the time, I had one of my most formidable cases of writers block. I had such little music to show in my lessons, that Martin and I may have in fact spent more time talking about other people’s music. Remembering those lessons, I came back to one composer and piece in particular: Béla Bartók’s 5th string quartet. What I Decided to Keep owes a great debt to this piece, in its linear succesion of events, and use of certain musical materials.

Truth be told, very little is a direct quote from ol’ Béla, but I’d like to think he and I share a similar affinity for musics not typically heard in a concert hall (in my case, funk and prog rock). The piece itself is dedicated with admiration and affection to Martin, who was consistently patient with my compositional hesitance that year. As I reflect back on my four years so far at Catholic University, I can also see that many of the ways I try to create a positive environment for my own students owes much to Martin’s example.

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