cello & piano (2012) commissioned by Duo Isold
This work was first performed by Duo Isold on August 14, 2012. The concert took place
at the Listasafn Sigurjóns Ólafssonar in Reykjavik, Iceland.
My work on 'Illusions' began in the spring of 2012 when I began collaborating with Duo Isold (Gudny Jonasdottir and Elisabeth Streichert). In August of that year, I transcribed the cello version for double bass as part of my Master of Music Research Thesis at the Royal Academy of Music. This piece was particularly special for me to transcribe because the double bass has been my instrument since I was a child. My initial intention was to develop a work that imitated the counterpoint of the great baroque masters but styled with my own harmonic language.
The first movement begins with a hazy texture from the whole-tone lines and the significant use of piano pedal.
The second movement stands in contrast with its poly-modal melodies that build to an extremely dense climax. The third movement is the most contemplative movement of the piece and seems to embody a variety of emotions from somber to joyous. The final movement juxtaposes the third with its brisk tempo and chromatic arpeggios throughout.
I decided to name the piece Illusions because at times the music seems to be deceptive in its appearance by mixing a plethora of old and modern ideas while never fully revealing its historical context.
The Death of Perception
for orchestra (2012)
The writing of The Death of Perception began in the summer of 2012 when I began to follow the U.S. political system as they prepared for Presidential elections this November. Regardless of party, I became utterly disturbed at the lack of transparency and the continuous deception being touted by our elected officials to American citizens. Furthermore, it seems that the citizens remain steadfast in their political ideology rather than perceptive of differing opinions. This aversion to common sense and the continual resistance of any form of constructive debate left me with ill feelings for this great country, which was based on solid values. The disparity derived from this bipartisan system lead me to imagine a time not long ago when truth and transparency where commonplace. The Death of Perception is a tribute to this lost ideal. The work begins with a solo trumpet, which acts as a rallying call. This leads directly into a large orchestral tutti that feels both anxious and terrifying. After this opening section, the work begins to take a metaphorical journey towards the ideals previously mentioned. The pinnacle moment occurs with a triumphant orchestra tutti where the majority of the orchestra performs a rhythmic ostinato while the brass blare the melody. The piece gradually works its way back to reality by recalling material from the opening. To conclude the piece, the original trumpet melody, which is prominent throughout the work, is heard in the muted French Horns. This ending feels bittersweetand allows the listener to recall the unfortunate reality existing in the present.
III. Elegaic & Misterioso
2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet and bassoon (2012)
When beginning this work for a speed writing assignment at the Royal Academy of Music, I was struck by the sense of urgency required to complete the task. In order to accomplish the score in such a short period of time, my first instinct was just to write. With the amount of material required I had little time to contemplate many of the decisions that a composer can usually dwell on for days. After being immersed in the score, I began to realize that the musical material being develop was much more personal than other works I have written. The fact that this music poured out of me made me contemplate the juxtaposition between personal expression and personal statement. Much of my music is specially crafted to express some idea or story. This piece was different. The speed at which I wrote left me unable to develop any since of program to support my work. This changed the focus of my composition to pure self-expression. It is because of this that I decided to title my work Self Portrait. I believe that the different characters and moods draw an authentic analogy to who I am as a person.
The Fame of Fasting longer
four flutes doubling piccolo & 5 dancers (2012)
in collaboration with Roehampton University & the choreographer Stacie Bee
The Fame of Fasting longer was a collaboration between myself, choreographer Stacie Bee and modern dancers from Roehampton University. When Stacie and I first began discussing ideas for our project, we came across Franz Kafka’s parable 'A Hunger Artist'. Since Kafka maintains elusive metaphors and depictions in his writing, we decided that this work would be suitable for abstract interpretation common in music and modern dance. Since music and dance both occur in time, Ms. Bee and I decided to develop a structure that could shape the music and the dance. With this carefully constructed form, we were able to work independently for a substantial part of our project without inhibiting our creative goals. The choice of ensemble was determined through the commissioning body and posed many challenges. In developing counterpoint that functioned idiomatically for four flutes, I gave careful consideration to the register in order for the balance to be suitable. In the end, I think that our collaborative endeavor successfully depicts the monotony, struggle, anxiety and crisis that represent the very heart of artistic creation.
Prelude and Disintegration
accordion & E flat Clarinet (2012) Commissioned by Duo Kadans
My work on Prelude and Disintegration began in December 2011 when I was asked to write a piece for Duo Kadaῆs (Rozenn Le Trionnaire and Servane Le Moller). Having never written for accordion, I was immediately struck by the numerous possibilities that are achievable on this versatile instrument. When developing the concept for this piece, I was aware of my desire to produce two juxtaposing sections in order for me to explore different moods. The Prelude is a two-minute statement of rich harmony in a quasi-recitative style. The counterpoint seems to be of a familiar mode but always resolves in unexpected ways. In contrast to the beginning, the Disintegrationsection begins in a rather playful manner with the clarinet bouncing around its range in a lyrical fashion. The accordion reinforces the clarinet by offering steady harmonic support. As the movement progresses, it becomes evident that the dialogue between the instruments is deteriorating. Clusters begin to enter the accordion part and the harmonic language of the clarinet begins to morph. To me, both instruments are engaged in a narrative that is trying to find a conclusion but seems unable to do so. As the discord builds, the instruments scramble to find a way to conclude and eventually do so... even if it is in a rather unexpected manner.
piano cadenza's for Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 (2012)
Commissioned by Elisabeth Streichert & Thibault Back
Writing cadenzas for a Mozart piano concerto was a wonderful project that has been unlike any I have done.
When first being approached by Thibault Back and Elisabeth Streichert, they expressed their interest in having a modern cadenza incorporated into this classical piece in order to challenge the audience’s perceptions of musical tradition. The difficult part about writing the cadenzas was trying to remain authentic to my own voice while maintaining the musical material of Mozart. In both cadenzas, I begin in a rather traditional fashion and gradually become more avant-garde. This allowed the cadenzas to remain familiar to the rest of the work. By deciding to undertake this project, I learned not only a lot about Mozart, but also how my music can complement the great master’s who we owe so much of our musical tradition to.
chamber orchestra (2012) Commissioned by Ensemble 111
Almost Spring was a work commissioned by Thibault Back for his Ensemble 111. His group specializes in performing concertos from the classical and baroque periods. During our conversations about the piece, we discussed how a work that paralleled a classical form would make a great addition to one of his concert programmes. The structure of my piece is loosely based on the form of Vivaldi’s Winter. While the harmonies and rhythms maintain a modern approach, the overall structure feels routed in the past. It was a joy to develop such an interesting work for a wonderful ensemble.
piano solo (2011) Commissioned by the Spitalfields Winter Festival
My work on Dream Weavers began after accepting a commission for a site-specific piano work for the Spitalfields Winter Festival. The location happened to be a Georgian House that was built in 1726. The first inhabitants of the house were part of the silk weaving trade that was flourishing in Spitalfields in early 18th century England. When first visiting the house, I was struck by a sense of mystery that seemed to be embodied in the historic building. I could not help but imagine myself relocated to the past by seeing the exquisite craftsmanship of the structure. In writing the piece, I decided to make liberal use of the piano pedal in an attempt to capture the mysterious elements of the house. The octatonic lines in the piano flow up and down, as I would imagine silk to be manipulated on a loom. It is my hope that this work dutifully portrays the historic beauty of this treasured part of English heritage.
TO BE QUIET
eight part choir (2011) For the BBC Singers
When deciding to write this piece, I was struck by what seemed to be an escalating rise of turmoil throughout the world. America was refusing to raise their debt ceiling, which would purportedly lead to global collapse, just as violence and rioting broke out in London. This coincided with an awful famine in East Africa that killed hundreds of thousands of people while civil war was being fought in Libya. In times of such strife, I find it increasingly difficult to find meaning in a world that continues to be elusive in its import. This is when I turned to Franz Kafka for advice and stumbled on a quotation that seemed to shed light on our quest for understanding. What captured my attention in the quotation was its assumption that true meaning in life lays right in front of us even though we stay oblivious to it, preferring to search for some grandiose answer. The idea that small revelations will reveal themselves if we are astute enough to watch inspired some sense of hope in me. In setting the text to music, I tried to maintain the delicate character inherent in the quote. I am offering this work as a humanist prayer for those less fortunate.