Large Ensemble Works
Finally... Larger than home Symphonie Pastorale Character Sketches "Out of crooked crooked timber..."
Citlaltepetl Portrait Shapes of Wind Point Royal
Chamber and Solo Works
Bennachie For whom... Circus Imrpovisations 1-3
Scrum Banging on Cans Four Mile Creek String Quartet No. 1 Rhapsody for Two
Soliloquy Marsden Hartley Songs
In lake'ch Kuxan suum The best medicine... November Sycamore Leaf
Love Song Thema: Omaggio Remnants 18700 Boys in the Attic
Electroacoustic with Instrument Works
Degrees of Separation "Grandchild of Tree" Geographic Bells
"...and every island and mountain were moved from their place..."
Polyglot Trio for Three Dance Suite
Commissioned for Bobby Watson by Steven Davis and the UMKC Wind Symphony
Finally… was the subject header on the email from Bobby Watson that included, as an attachment, the theme for the piece you are about to hear. The plot was hatched between Steve Davis, Joe Parisi, Bobby and I at Harlings one night while listening to the Clint Ashlock Big Band in Kansas City. There may have been a few drinks involved…I don’t remember… but I do remember agreeing to this piece only under the condition that Bobby make the theme. I wanted to feature Bobby in a way that involved him from the get-go. And so, the genesis of Finally… is from the man himself-a cat whose playing blew me away from the first time I heard him…it still makes my heart pound. He is simply one of the great masters. I’ve seen him help greenhorns, hangin on for dear life, find things they didn’t know they had, and take the rest of us with them. An evening with Bobby is a bit like an opera or a tie ball game with no time left and the field goal kicker in place. There is a dramatic flow that peaks way beyond what you could have imagined when it all started. That’s a bit of what I’ve done here: ease you into his sound, give him space to roam and then put him out in front of this “big band” for a wild ride.
3 Bb Clarinets
Bb Bass Clarinet
3 Bassoons (3rd on contrabassoon)
4 Saxophones (2 altos, tenor and baritone)
4 Bb Trumpets
4 Horns in F
2 Tenor Trombones
Amplified Double Bass
5 Tom Toms
(including large floor tom)
Large Suspended Cymbal
Larger than home is a line from the poetry of Nathan Bartel. The music here is a transliteration of the last two movements of my epic 13 movement electroacoustic suite, In lake’ch (or: “I am another yourself” in Mayan). This simple line, and the act of composing out the imagery that it inspired was perhaps one of the single most important moments in my life: it was a time of synthesizing the physical with the spiritual with the emotional with the intellectual. Home is the biggest place I know. It is where I am from, even if not in a literal sense, but is a place (physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychological...) where perhaps we feel the most comfort. It is the place we are constantly drawn back too. It is where we want to be, and where wounds heal, hearts grow and nothing is as important as just BEING. It is where spirit, mind and body come together in a tranquility that connects all parts of ourselves and we become aware. So what could possibly be larger than this? Well, the general answer is...everything. More specifically, there is energy around us that connects us with the past and the future, and expands our notion of home far beyond ourselves. When our inner world becomes one with our outer world, we expand to a place much Larger than home.
I put numerous other projects
aside, to begin composing Symphonie Pastoral in October of 1999.
long time I was familiar with Handel’s Messiah, which I sung as a child
and still listen to during the holiday season every year. The
and simplicity of the Pifa, or pastoral symphonie in the first part
13), always reminds me of the most important things about the music I
a simple immediacy yet with a deeper sense of beauty and
I chose, as a result, to bring Handel’s simple little interlude into my
work as a gesture of respect, and also as a point of departure, both
and musically. You will hear the Pifa in its [almost] original
two thirds of the way through, in a bow of respect, and all of the
material is generated from this simple 11 bar tune. As with much
my music lately, I seek to make more complex structures out of
uncomplicated things. Here, I have simply tried to stretch the
Pifa far beyond its original intent, as if looking at each beautiful
through amagnifying glass.
Initially the piano etudes were a representation of emotional responses to the life zones (divided by elevation) in Colorado. In the Chamber Orchestra version these responses have been expanded to incorporate more general characterizations of these "life zones" in the Colorado landscape. Distantly Rising Ramparts refers to the mountains as seen from a distance in the rolling eastern plains. The Colorado interior, within the heart of the Rockies, contains thousands of Ridges, Valleys, and Parks, (open meadows ranging from a hundred square feet to many square miles) in an endless labyrinth lending relief and variety to the flatter plains in the east and mesas in the west. As one travels higher, thick conifer forests give way to thinning aspen groves and bristlecone pines until one reaches the Krummholz communities of plants and flag trees stretching even beyond tree line. The Krummholz (German for elfin timbre) form, with other plant life, small Islands Beneath the Sky. That these plants survive, battered by wind blown ice crystals in the winter and freezing temperatures even in the summer, is almost beyond comprehension. Above these, smaller plants continue to grow even to the Edge of the Earth, where the highest summits reach for the troposphere in peaceful setting of quiet.
I was immediately struck by the phrase from Immanual Kant’s idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht (1784): "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing can ever be made." My hope was (and is) that humanity pass from its adolescence marked with violence, trauma, and moody tantrums into a more stable adulthood of diplomacy, compassion, and kindness. Sound mass becomes a metaphor for the unhewn timber out of which I try to mill something straight. In the end, straightness becomes a matter of relativity balanced between the pessimism of Kant’s view and my hopeless romantic optimism.
Citlaltepetl was composed after a trip
to Mexico and an ascent of the mountain in 1992. The many emotional,
physical, and psychological pressures which happen at high elevations
provide the impetus behind many of the musical gestures in the work.
The lack of oxygen combined with the physical exertion required to
climb at that elevation
often lead to distortions in perception. Everything around you
yourself) appears to be in slow motion, as if time is suspended and the
of nature do not exist. There is also a sensation of great heaviness, a
result of the exertion, which is contradicted by the "lightness" of the
air. These (and many other) sensations where at the forefront of my
while composing Citlaltepetl. as remembrances of the event, and
musically into textures or fabrics of sound interspersed with moments
||A grammar of harmony
||The invisible island
||The golden alphabet
||Miracles fell like drops of healing rain
||A road to awe
||The inner cosmos
Kuxan suum, Mayan for “Road to
the sky,” is about healing and reconciliation, and follows In lake’ch
as the second in a series of CDs focusing on spirituality and
transformation. Each of the 11 movements has a different lens through
which it looks at the healing imperative at a time and place where our
thoughts, and their resulting actions, have brought us to the brink of
our own extinction. And yet, there are hopeful signs of transforming
the limitations of our logic, which somehow seeks to reassure even as
it destroys us. Ours is the plight of spirituality. The solution: a
steerage that takes us a few degrees off course into new territory not
subject to the laws that govern us from the past: laws and limitations
that we have self-created. Physics, mathematics, psychology, neurology,
music, metaphysics (to name just a few disciplines), all point towards
a similar notion: that our existence is a creation of our own minds,
and that minds cast adrift without spiritual moorage run aground on the
devices of their own creation.
I cannot help but think it is time for us to forget our history: the past that binds us to repeating the same mistakes in the mirage of a dry desert. Perhaps a new grammar of harmony can free us to forget the Verduns of our past and avert their re-enactments. The invisible island...that is the circular pattern of life and energy…of the family of light...knows without being taught, Tikkun olam, or “repairing the earth.” The Cheyenne and Arapaho have done this at the Sand Creek and Washita Massacre sites. Their healing runs restoring not only the health of the land, but cultivating cultural and social healing: an invitation to examine how we interact with others in past and present. Perhaps in this music, a Nij Dhar of sorts...a vibration between our universal creator energy and our seeker, we may find a golden alphabet…a life language of love and compassion...of care and consideration...of peace and tranquility and of transcendent energy and harmony in the unity of all things.
Looking back upon this time our children’s children will know that we lived in a time when miracles fell from the sky like drops of healing rain: lessons that our follies are easily fixed, our path easily corrected. Many teachers among us already show the way to an ancestral blue, a blue that once knew the oneness of our universe and yearns to be returned. The road to awe leads not to the sky...nor a heaven out there, but to our own inner cosmos, where everything, including ourselves is made, and where our spirit knows the tools of it’s own restoration. Now is the time to quiet our ways, look inward and create healing and love, and watch the results as the earth and its inhabitants shift and blossom before our very eyes.
Special Thanks to: The Cheyenne Singers for Jesus he’ama tsehoo’éstse (from Tsese-Ma’heone-Nemeototse: Cheyenne Spiritual Songs), Gretchen Krivoshia for the didjeridu recordings, JoDee Davis for the trombone samples and Gao Renyang for the dizi sounds and to everyone at IMEB in Bourges, France, who were most gracious with their assistance and use of their studios.
Kuxan suum was commissioned by, and realized in the studios of the Institute International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges, with the exception of movement 2, Verdun which was commissioned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO.
For JD, JY and JPPO whose brotherhood has inspired me for many years.
lake’ch (2007) 13 Movements: 57’35”
“i am another yourself”
||Prologue: The Pangaea||7’01”|
||& the hole gazed back...||4’47”|
||Orange dust: ancient chemical knowledge||5’23”|
slightly shimmering heap
||Interlude: House of air, Interiors||4’39”|
||A quailing prairie||2’53”|
||Veiled dead zones||5’06”|
||Slick green stones||3’34”|
||Epilogue: Larger than home||4’30”|
terminus of blue
lake’ch (Mayan for “i am another yourself”)
is a 13 movement work about the environment...it is about human
evolution from a base existence of materialism toward a higher horizon
of spiritualism nurtured by resonant light. It is about peace and
optimism... It asks each of us to look inward...to evaluate our
relationships with the earth...ourselves...each other...while gazing
out to a far beyond...a creation story: not the ones gone by, but
rather the one of our bright and potent future...an unfolding of an
intelligence far beyond our known...an ancient cosmology. It is music
about the coming-of-age of our planet and a growing consciousness that
resonates inward to our own individual alignment with enlightenment and
outwards toward a universe where all connects...bathed in higher
energy...nourished by harmonic convergence. It is a personal
oscillation through omniscient reverberation...
The movement titles are from the poetry of Nathan Bartel and a manuscript called The Pangaea, where my inspiration first began. Nine poems titled “The Interior” (or perhaps one in 9 segments), knitted by Mayan numerology, provoked my imagination to roam and race: hearing words, and seeing sounds. These sounds, analogous to the texts, traverse a distance from recognized and obvious to eclipsed: engaged for their beauty or emotional content, or for their cellular sonic imprint...their spatial, spiritual resonance. Transformation of sounds encourages an excursion into the hinterlands of each individual imagination that chooses to travel here. There is no attempt to fuse a narrative, but rather to create a space where each listener can trek at will and pursue the pathways of their own instinct perhaps even bumping into another yourself along the way.
Special thanks to Nathan Bartel for beautiful, immense poetry; to Francis Dhomont, Bernard Parmegiani and Michele Chion for their profound and poetic music (given homage here), to Gary Dibenedetto for source material from his sound sculpture and to Marjorie Sa’adda for helping breath life into the first and last movements. Very special thanks to Michael Knight and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation without whose generosity and vision this work would never have been born!
for JM, CY & ZL
The Best Medicine I know for
what ails ya is laughter and music. On my sojourn to a 3 month
residency at the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, I found much
medicine alone the way-visiting friend and their pets. I composed
this piece in the first three days of the residency to get the creative
juices flowing, and was cured of something I too often suffer from:
overbearing seriousness... I’m reminded of the C.M. Coolidge paining
“Friend in Need” where a surly looking boxer smoking a cigar is pawing
an ace of clubs under the table to his buddy while 5 other unsuspecting
canids survey their cards while playing poker. Perhaps the most
striking thing about this painting is the Jackson Pollack-esque
painting on the wall behind the 7 card-playing mutts. Who’dve ever
suspected that dogs appreciate contemporary art? So, here’s to passing
aces under the table and having a little fun with canine friends Jesse,
Sandy and Dusty and a token feline, Ashley...oh, and also some human
Electroacoustic work with optional video
"Thema" began with a 1’ 45" vocal improvisation recorded in
This recording served as the basis for a composition in which I
improvisational methods of working with sound material in the studio.
of the final work resulted from recorded performance passes
mixes of previously processed material. The result was a
satisfying balance of improvisational instincts with compositional
in an attempt to preserve the human presence and energy often lost in
works. Like Berio’s work, variations stem from this theme but in a
rather than a linear manner. Sections of the theme are
throughout followed by variations which encompass the rest of the theme
that starting point. As a result, It ends with the last portion
the theme heard after numerous variations. Thema: Omaggio was
the 2002 EMS Prize, Stockholm, Sweden.
wood, wind, water, earth (2001) combines the real qualities of the materials the instruments are made out of, with corresponding sounds in the recorded electroacoustic part comprised of a virtual percussion ensemble. The acoustic part of the work is a dalliance in the sounds of the title, with an attempt to focus on the ability of traditional Chinese instruments to either mimic or suggest moving forces of nature. The virtual portion, while also envisioning some similar elements, is more suggestive of human intervention and interaction with the natural world. Shapes emerge suggestive of nature, but are juxtaposed with less natural, metallic sound worlds. These ideas stem from both the terrain (and all the wood, wind, water, and earth along the way), and the experience of hiking to the Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen, Colorado.
wood, wind, water, earth was
commissioned for Music From China as part of the national series of
works from Meet
The Composer Commissioning Music/USA, which is made possible by
support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Helen F. Whitaker
Fund, The Chatherine Filene Shouse Foundation, and the Target
As a carpenter often working on pitched rooftops, I learned quickly that the "laws of gravity" were strictly enforced! One of the things I like the most about technology (especially computer technology), however is that it allows us to stretch, manipulate, and even contradict these physical "laws" (limitations?). The pushing of limitations through technology has lead (I hope), if not to a richer life, at least to a new and deeper understanding of it. Even though the bass clarinet is governed by the "laws of physics", through simple embouchure techniques, the player can warp the established "normal" sound into something quite alien (electronic?). With the addition of the computer to the mix, the physics governing the instrument can be further stretched and contradicted. Throughout Unnatural Selection the "natural" spectrum of the instrument is manipulated in ways not humanly or physically possible. These manipulations can only be produced in a virtual alchemy where electrons mix with acoustic vibrations to produce a world where hammers don’t fall off of roof tops any more.
Unnatural Selection was commissioned by newEar (Kansas City, Missouri), for Tom Aber.
Tribute to Aerosmith: "My knobs go to 11."
When I listen to music of cultures different from my own, I am drawn to similarities rather than disparities. When I first heard the erhu, some of the sonic qualities and techniques reminded me of Texas swing fiddle (from Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys or Roy Benson and Asleep at the Wheel), the bluegrass fiddle (the Flying Dog Bluegrass Band or Alison Krause and Union Station), the Irish Fiddle (of Natalie MacMaster), and even the Western classical fiddle of Tchaikovsky and Brahms. Some of the sound worlds in Fantasie imitate "reality" while others suggest imagined bandstands with virtual players. This work, hence, is a fantasia of styles and sound worlds from a variety of sources, all brought together in the computer, with the erhu as the catalyst in a virtual fantasie of fiddling!
I have long loved the simplicity and clarity of the four-part hymns I used to sing in church as a child. I view these hymns now as a foundation upon which highly complex structures can be build. I have often been perplexed, however, by the range of emotions expressed in many of these hymns. On the one hand, hymns like “Far Far Away From My Loving Father,” portray a heartfelt loving and forgiving image based on the prodigal child story. On the other hand, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” contains violent war imagery and language. The opposed polarity of these two types of hymns can be striking when they appear side by side in a worship service. I have come to realize that both kindness and violence seem to be equal parts of our human nature. Church Keys is the ground on which these halves of myself, kindness and confrontation, struggle to coexist.
The idea for a cactus and tape work came about when I heard a performance of John Cage’s Child of Tree. I was immediately taken with the sound of the cactus in particular. Taken from its natural environment and placed in the confined and groomed existence of a pot, amplified with a contact microphone, the cactus took on a completely new and interesting character, however paradoxical. Without the amplification its subtle and poignant resonances go largely unnoticed. The relationship between natural objects and their unnatural extension is the metaphor which inspired Grandchild of Tree. I am deeply indebted to Nathan Davis for his amazing cactus technique and samples!
“...and every island and mountain were moved from their place...”(Revelation 6:21) was conceived and composed while contemplating the “turn of the millinium.” Living in New Zealand at the time, I realized that those in the South Pacific would be the first to experience the sunrise on January 1st, 2000. As a result, the image of that sunrise, and all of its accompying expectations, became the focus of the work.“....and every island and mountain were moved from their place....” (1998) was realized in EMS 1 at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, while on a Fulbright Fellowship.
When specified, the trumpet
should face into the open piano with the lid up, and the piano turned
so as not to face directly into the audience. Contact microphones
used under the piano where possible and the sustain pedal on the piano
should be fixed down throughout the work. Amplification of the
should pick up the trumpet as well, but not directly. If standing
microphones are used, they should be placed under the piano.
should be additional amplification for the direct trumpet sound in
muted passages as needed. Where sound is diffused, the performer
should keep in mind the idea of facing the rising sun, and diffuse
accordingly. The piano, tape, and resonant trumpet should be
mixed together, rather than separated (i.e., the amplified piano
resonances should be mixed through the entire hall, not just the front
In Geographic Bells there are representations of many kinds of bell sounds expressed in many different sound shapes. Each one may or may not elicit different connotations or scenes, depending on ones experiences with bells. Lest this be just a rehashing of one of the oldest methods of sound synthesis, however, these bells also have geographic references. The significance lies in the names assigned to various geographic points around Aspen Colorado (where the work was composed) which elicit, either directly, the image of a bell (Maroon Bells, Bell Mountain, and Silver Bells Campground), or indirectly (Cathedral Lake and Cathedral Peak), settings in which bells are used even to this day. Castle Peak is reminiscent of medieval bells, while Independence Pass and Independence Mountain elicit the American Revolution and the famous Liberty Bell. The Hunter/Frying Pan Wilderness, Frying Pan Lakes, Frying Pan River, Homestake Creek and Homestake Lake all recall imagery of the pioneer homestead call to plates by a large steel triangle-included rather loosely here in the category of bells. Whether or not the explorers and founders (who named many of the sites) of the Aspen area heard bells literally, or imaginatively, causing the many geographic bell name designations has yet to be discovered (I'm sure there are anthropo-etymological astrologers working on it as we speak). Perhaps it is this resonance with the cosmic ether which spawned and through the years has continued to support one of the nations largest music festivals.
Or perhaps not?
Parallax is an astronomical term used to refer to an apparent change of position or direction of an object when viewed from two or more points not on a line with the object. In Parallax 1 I was interested in presenting the object ("Violin") from a range of views which all converge from different planes on the live violinist. Some of the sound worlds are mechanical while others seem organically grown from a simple bouncing bow spun into large orchestral textures. The work was written for Australian violinist and conductor Joanna Drimatis without who's samples the work would not have been possible. The composer also gratefully acknowledges the dedication of Andrew Perea to the final version of the work.
Parallax is an astronomical term
used to refer to an apparent change of position or direction of an
object when viewed from two or more points not on a line with the
object. In Parallax 2 "Apparitions," my goal was to incorporate the
acoustic cello into the world of the tape. The work originated from 45
minutes of improvisations by cellist Craig Hultgren, which inspired
aspects of the formal structure as well as specific technical ideas.
Many of his extended techniques imbue the cello with an "electronic"
sound, and as a result, my compositional
ideas stem from his innovative use of abstract sound worlds created
the cello. Emphasis throughout the work is placed upon the unclear
distinctions created between the tape and the live instrument. The
first part of the
work focuses on these ambiguities ("ghosts" of the cello) but in the
the cello finds its own voice within the sound world of the tape.
This work looks at the trumpet from the inside out and is put together from many sorts of remnants. First, are the bits left over from a previous piece for trumpet and tape; sonic carpet scraps from a work which would not support any of the material found here. There are the sonic remnants from my days as a jazz trumpeter; nerve impulses, left in my bones, which I can still feel under the right circumstances. And finally, there are the remnants of sound from the trumpet itself; molecules which continue to bounce in the tubes long after the lips have left the mouthpiece.
Remnants is made entirely of
trumpet samples provided by Jack Sutte, and was composed at Victoria
University, Wellington, New Zealand, while on a Fulbright
18700 was written in response to a trip
to Mexico in 1992 to climb Pico de Orizaba, an extinct volcano rising
18,700 feet above sea level. Many of the sound masses of the work are
extensions of emotional, psychological, and physical effects and events
at high elevations. Truck size sections of the inner crater breaking
and falling to the bottom reverberating out over the rim; the pounding
of the heart and the labor of breathing and stepping one foot in front
(and usually above) the other; throbbing veins; the light-headedness in
with the heaviness of exertion, are all snapshots in my memory of the
of the mountain. Motion, change and progress seemed to change slowly
evolve over a timeless landscape of white glacier and endless blue sky.
These are the perceptions which I attempted to capture in 18700. The
exists as a multi-media work for photographs and music using multiple
projectors, as well as for tape alone.
This piece was co-created by composer Paul Rudy and choreographer Shannon Bradford in order to explore the idea of expressing and perceiving multiple languages, or POLYGLOT. From conception, the music and the movement evolved interdependently from the notion of collage and the desire to express meaning in multiple layers. Paramount to the process has been improvisation to generate movement and freedom for individual performers to explore the resulting material. Performance of the work is the carefully crafted result of these explorations in the sound and movement world.
Trio for three was written at the Aspen Music Festival in 1994. I was interested in exploring base human nature and self-preservation instincts, and the contradiction that to change the outside world, one must seek to change inwardly first. Each of three voices (movement, sound, and light) interact in varying degrees of confrontation throughout the work, until in the end, they begin to combine their efforts to the benefit of each other.
Dance Suite from Water Into Light (1995) consists of four works extracted from the incidental music written for a play by Wesley Middleton (Austin, Texas). The middle two pieces (Lydia and Lynn) embody the two main characters of the play, and are surrounded by the prologue and epilogue which consist of both of these themes combined with additional material from the music used in the play.