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 keephere. 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.
Almost 1 year ago I had a short residency in Chicago at High Concept Labs, an interdisciplinary arts space on the north side of town. While in the city, I got started on a collaboration with the Spektral Quartet, a young string quartet that’s quickly established itself as one of Chicago’s premiere new music groups. The fruit of these labors will be unveiled on Saturday, June 29th at the Hideout (across the street from HCL). For a preview of what to expect, head over to the Spektral Quartet’s blog to check out a conversation about the project between myself and violinist Austin Wulliman. Tickets can be purchased here; more info on this special end-of-season event is on the Spektral’s website here. This is going to be a really great show at a fantastic venue: along with my piece, they’ll be playing some Haydn, Verdi, Liza White, and Ben Hjertmann, with premieres by Alex Temple and Castillo Trigueros. Hope to see you there.
I had a great time earlier this month hanging out in Lexington, Kentucky with Colin Hill, James Campbell, and the University of Kentucky percussion ensemble. Colin conducted my piece Push, for 12 percussionists. Check out this video of the performance: the opening ambient textures are beautifully shaped, and I love the energy in the faster music towards the end.
Over the weekend of April 19th I’ll be in DC, spending some time at the Levine School as their 2013 Composition Masterclass guest. In addition to meetings with their students, Pictures on Silence will be performing my piece Plunge, for alto sax, harp, and electronics (written for them back in 2010). The performance is Friday evening at 7pm on Levine’s NW DC campus; the masterclass takes place the following morning. Both events are free and open to the public. Sponsored by the awesome folks at The Randy Hostetler Living Room Music Fund and The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund.
Such sphinxes as these obey no one but their master, my new vocal octet and longest title to date, was premiered last week by the inimitable Brad Wells and Roomful of Teeth. Click here to listen to the performance and read more about the piece. Special thanks to the Beinecke Library at Yale University, who, along with hosting the concert, put the Voynich Manuscript on display as part of their current manuscript exhibition.
I just finished a new piece for Roomful of Teeth, an amazing vocal octet led by conductor Brad Wells. Inspired by the Voynich Manuscript, my piece makes use of several of the non-Western vocal production techniques that the group specializes in (yodeling, throat singing, and overtone singing). What follows is a lengthy program note: hopefully it will inspire a few readers to come check out the premiere in New Haven in a few weeks! Pics of the Voynich Manuscript courtesy of the Beinecke Library at Yale. Continue reading →