Aqua Vitae

percussion quartet
ca. 10 minutes
commissioned by a consortium of percussion ensembles led by Colin Hill and Tennessee Tech University.



I first met percussionist Colin Hill when he was a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, conducting their percussion group in my ensemble piece Push. I of course could not resist touring a few of my favorite bourbon distilleries while spending time around Lexington and Louisville. Thinking back on that trip while beginning this new piece, I developed a timbral palette that was inspired by the bourbon distillation and aging process: copper pipes and other ringing metals, water, and wood all found their way into my choices of instruments. Even the chemistry of distillation proved to be useful fodder: the presentation and exchange of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen atoms at various stages in bourbon making helped me to generate pitches, harmonies, and chord sequences. Aqua Vitae, Latin for water of life, was a term broadly applied across the Roman Empire to any locally produced distilled spirit. Much like one telling a story while imbibing, I make no claims to presenting a straightforward narrative. My piece is intended merely as a meditation on this centuries-old tradition.

Aqua Vitae was commissioned by a consortium of colleges and universities. The commission was organized under the direction of Colin Hill and Tennessee Tech University, with consortium members:

Centre College – Dr. Brandon Arvay
Eastern Kentucky University – Dr. Jason Koontz
Eastman School of Music – Michael Burritt
George Mason University – John Kilkenny
Lindenwood University – Dr. Jeffrey Barudin
Mahidol University – Kyle Acuncius
Mars Hill University – Dr. Brian Tinkel
Northwestern State University of Louisiana – Oliver Molina
Stephen F. Austin State University – Dr. Brad Meyer, sponsored by the Beta Chapter of Phi Boota Roota
University of Alabama – Dr. Tim Feeney
University of Houston – Dr. Blake Wilkins
University of Kentucky – James B. Campbell
Xavier University – Dr. Brady Harrison

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