Drifts is a set of five short pieces for string quartet, written for the JACK quartet in the winter of 2016/2017. The first of the five pieces, Florescences, was originally written for Quatuor Bozzini in 2011 and has been lightly revised and treated as the departing point for Drifts. While these five pieces were envisioned as a set and are ideally played together, each one can may be played seperately as a stand-alone piece.
These pieces explore the idea of “tonal drift,” which is the result of modulation in a just intonation context. In 12-tone equal temperament, a series of modulations by a just major third will cycle back to the initial key after three modulations. However,
the same number of modulations by the just major third will result in landing roughly a quarter-tone below the initial tonal center, having drifted away from an equal temperament tonic.
Drifts takes several approaches to tonal drift, with each piece focusing in on a different type of cadential movement to create the sense of modulation. The first movement, Florescences, works with a standard tonal V-I classical cadence, modulating to the just minor seventh repeatedly. The second movement, Phrygia, reinterprets the basic idea of a Phrygian cadence, with various small just intervals
heard in place of the usual semitone movement of the flat second to the tonic. The third movement, Organum, draws upon early polyphony, focusing on parallel fourths and creating a sense of cadence through movement to the octave in first species counterpoint. The fourth movement, Floria, plays with florid two-part counterpoint, functioning as a kind of fast movement in the overall form of Drifts and also relying upon the octave as a way to suggest a tonal center. The fifth and final movement, Ars Nova, reworks cadences from the Ars Nova period.
soprano, flute, clarinet, percussion, and violin
Amalgam focuses on orchestration, or more precisely, the mixture and unification of the instrumental forces into one unit. This idea of amalgamation through orchestration is approached in two ways. The first approach aims at fusion, building up a complex form of unison playing, matching frequencies, rhythms, and timbres to create a unified monophonic texture. This extended unison is developed
throughout the first large section of the piece.
The second half of the piece explores heterophonic textures: a unison line created by the combination of different elements from by different instruments. Instead of true unison and monophony, fusion through connected and contrasting instrumental lines is the goal.
baritone, trumpet, trombone, and bass clarinet
The second volume of Ouaricon Songs was written for Loadbang Ensemble and is scored for baritone, trumpet,
trombone, and bass clarinet. The first volume was written for string quartet and baritone.
The word, Ouaricon, comes from the name of a river on a 1715 French map of the Eastern Canada and may be
the origin of the Oregon County, and later State, name. I invoke the word here to suggest a possible alternate
history of the North American land mass by recombining, remixing, and extrapolating from traditions of art and
Incantation is dedicated to the Architek Percussion Quartet of Montreal and was written during the Fall of 2014.
The title, Incantation, comes from musicologist Tomlinson’s, Music and Renaissance Magic, which looks at the importance of music as a magical force in ritual through examining the treatise of renaissance scholars/magi. While my music is often conceptualized along the lines of imaginary musical tradition, literary inspiration, or some sort of technical inquiry, this piece searches no further than the sounds of the instruments and the musical ideas it contains. Instead, this piece considers a musical performance as casting a spell: a musical incantation.
baritone and string quartet
Ouaricon Songs, vol 1, for baritone and string quartet, explores American folk music through historical recordings from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Before I began writing this piece, I listened through many of these folk recordings from the early 20th century in search of oddities and unusual characteristics in the singing. After selecting several pieces of audio from the archives, I made detailed transcriptions, taking note of the precise tuning and timbral qualities found therein. Indeed, I discovered that often the singing was "out of tune" according to what is considered standard tuning today.
The idea of using historical folk materials stems from an interest in alternate histories and imagined traditions. The title of this work refers to a French map from 1859 showing the river of Ouaricon leading to a large geographic area in what is today the Western United States. This word may have been the origin of the Oregon, although this is not for certain. The familiar folk music sources have been made strange in this piece by the way I altered, embellished, and mixed them together, exposing a new and unusual angle that may evoke what music may have been like in an imaginary land of Ouaricon.
soprano, mezzo, counter-tenor, tenor, baritone, bass
Motorman Sextet is a work for six vocalists and was written for ekmeles vocal ensemble and is dedicated to Jeff Gavett.
This vocal sextet sets the text of 11 chapters in 9 movements from David Ohle’s classic cult science fiction novel Motorman. This piece is part of a larger work that will eventually set the entire novel. The particular chapters used in Motorman Sextet are all descriptions of past events from the point-of-view of the central character, Moldenke, which together have a generally nostalgic mood.
"El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan" is a suite of six songs for string quartet, written for the JACK quartet in the Fall/Winter of 2012-2013. The titles of the songs are:
I - Altercation
II - Pedals
III - Strumming
IV - Following
VI -- Coils
The title of the work comes from a short story by Borges, which describes a conception of time where all possible outcomes of any given situation realized and co-exist. This idea speaks to alternate histories and the concept of multi-dimensionality or "many-worlds". In this string quartet I have begun to imagine an alternate history of music, perhaps forking off somewhere in ancient times. In approaching this idea, I considered how musical development is influenced by perception and cognition and is built upon through notation and exposure to novel ideas and outside influences.
Stranger Dance (2011)
prepared piano, bass clarinet, and flute
Stranger Dance contrasts two basic musical ideas. The first idea is based on a recording of a moan that has been slowed down to become thirty times longer than the original. A few seconds of this slowed down moan was used as a model (perhaps even a theme) for the music in a purely subjective and imprecise way — something closer to inspiration than transcription or transposition. This first section of the work explores this moan idea, through a duo between the flute and saxophone. The influences of the moan on the
music itself result in the choice of pitches and use of slow glissandi as well as the lack of any steady pulse and abrupt changes in the texture.
The second section features a prepared piano solo with the flute and clarinet performing an accompaniment of mainly multiphonics. The musical idea in this section is based upon rhythmic variations that function in reference to an ever-present rhythmic cycle. This idea is loosely based on rhythmic cadences (tihai) from Indian classical music. The preparations in the piano allow for complex rhythms and inharmonic timbres to sound from the performance of white-note runs in the octave above middle C.
The third and final section of the work presents a synthesis of the first two sections, giving the overall form: A - B - A+B.
solo violin with percussion quartet
This violin concerto is dedicated to violinist, Mira Benjamin.
The title, Faith in Numbers, is taken from a popular science documentary by James Burke of the same name, which shows how technology emerges from seemingly unconnected events in history. This title doesn’t refer to faith in a religious sense, but to signify a complete trust in something or someone. I chose this title for my composition because of the utilization of the same basic proportions in all structural levels. By doing this, the reiteration of simple numbers and ratios, applied to different aspects of the composition, combine to form a complex whole.