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

Vocal Works
 Soliloquy   Marsden Hartley Songs

Electroacoustic Works

 Parallax 1 "Violin"    Parallax 2 "Apparitions"
Polyglot   Trio for Three    Dance Suite

Back to works list

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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 Flutes
2 Oboes
English Horn
Eb Clarinet
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
Bass Trombone
2 Euphoniums
2 Tubas
Amplified Double Bass
5 Percussion

Percussion  1

Percussion  2/3
Temple Blocks
Snare Drum
5 Tom Toms
(including large floor tom)

Percussion  4/5

Tubular Bells
Large Suspended Cymbal
Ride Cymbal
Splash Cymbal
Tam Tam
Base Drum

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Larger than home

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.

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Symphonie Pastorale

I put numerous other projects aside, to begin composing Symphonie Pastoral in October of 1999.  For a 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 beauty and simplicity of the Pifa, or pastoral symphonie in the first part (no. 13), always reminds me of the most important things about the music I like: a simple immediacy yet with a deeper sense of beauty and connectedness.  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 psychologically, and musically.  You will hear the Pifa in its [almost] original form two thirds of the way through, in a bow of respect, and all of the other material is generated from this simple 11 bar tune.  As with much of my music lately, I seek to make more complex structures out of relatively uncomplicated things.  Here, I have simply tried to stretch the Handel Pifa far beyond its original intent, as if looking at each beautiful moment through amagnifying glass.

Duration: 17' 

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Character Sketches

Character Sketches From the High Country (1995) stem from the Colorado Etudes for solo piano written in 1992. In the original piano version there were five etudes, one for each elevation life zone in the central Rockies. These have been recast into four Character Sketches for Chamber Orchestra. 

I. Distantly Rising Ramparts
II. Ridges, Valleys, and Parks
III. Islands Beneath the Sky
IV. The Edge of Earth (and Sky)

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.  


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"Out of crooked timber..."

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. 

Duration 9'

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Citlaltepetl (Nahuatl for The Star Mountain), also known as Pico de Orizaba, is an extinct volcano rising 18,700 ft. above the central Mexican plateau. To the Aztecs, the mountain was a source of awe for it's connection with the legend of Quetzalcoatl (Aztec god of learning and priesthood), who was consumed in the crater by divine fire, assumed human form, and sailed across the ocean to return one day in the future. The name is derived from these spiritual associations along with the physical appearance of the alpine glaciers on it's slopes which glisten in the early morning and late day sun. 

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 (including yourself) appears to be in slow motion, as if time is suspended and the laws of nature do not exist. There is also a sensation of great heaviness, a direct result of the exertion, which is contradicted by the "lightness" of the thin air. These (and many other) sensations where at the forefront of my thinking while composing Citlaltepetl. as remembrances of the event, and translate musically into textures or fabrics of sound interspersed with moments of "reality." 

North and South Maroon

Portrait was commissioned for the Northeastern State University Wind Ensemble (Tahlequah Oklahoma), and was composed in Wellington, New Zealand while on a Fulbright Fellowship. Towards completion of the work, I began to search in earnest for an appropriate title to sum up not only the work itself, but the process of evolution that the material had gone through since conception. I realized that while composing, I had repeatedly referred to a mental image or snapshot of the Maroon Bells in central Colorado. This mental picture of Colorado's most photographed mountains became the reference point for many of my compositional ideas. The image includes Crater Lake at the base of the mountains which, on a calm day, perfectly mirrors the rocky summits, while only a slight breeze causes an impressionistic melting of lines, shapes, and colors. I soon discovered, that not only does the theme of Portrait outline the shape of the reflected mountains, but also, much of the manipulation of material occurs in a mirroring fashion. While I never intended to "compose my mental image," the image, none-the-less, became the model for many of the decisions required during the compositional process.

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Point Royal

~Commissioned by Irwin and Rita Blitt and the UMKC Conservatory for Crescendo 2004~

22 miles on a bike above 9000 ft to Point Royal on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon…Rain threatens and lightening as a constant predator…  Sights inspire poetry and awe, adrenaline and fear…an intense need to go on!  Solitude as faithful companion…atmosphere squeezing lungs…the cold nature of nature up against skin, seeping into bone.  A warning sign:

Bird nest in the road
how did it get there and why?
no survivors found…

Finally, the destination, threats abound over gaping canyon…getting wet, and wetter! Now the ride back…

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Shapes of Wind

Shapes of Wind is based on " I Will Sing of My Redeemer," a simple hymn which I remember singing in church as a child. The hymn, as raw material, takes on many shapes, changing direction and speed much like the wind in the natural environment. The treatment of material metaphorically represents physical and spiritual changes one experiences throughout life, and seeks to synthesize all of my past and present musical experiences. Shapes of Wind is in two large sections and begins with fragments of the tune as if remembered through the hazy distance of time. In the first half, these fragments are treated as individual building blocks for contrasting textural and rhythmic constructions which focus on the development of timbre. These textural and timbral abstractions of the tune coalesce into the hymn, set in the original harmonization at the middle of the work. The second half focuses on transforming the hymn from a naive simple musical object into a more informed contemporary musical fabric related to the abstract material of the first half. 

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Rock Hard

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Bennachie (Gaelic, pronounced Ben-ahee,) is a mountain range in the northeast of Scotland where I hiked it’s most prominent peak Mither Tap  with my close friend Pete Stollery. On that same trip, I climbed Ben Nevis (the highest point in the UK). Traveling through the highlands of Scotland reminded me of the alpine tundra I’ve spent considerable time on in the Colorado Rockies. Bennachie is about both of these places, Scotland and the Rockies, and the freedom I feel when toiling up mountains and at high elevations. The vistas on top of a summit are always similar: wide open 360 degree views that both remind how big the world is, and at the same time, how small (and isolated in short time spans) we are as humans. There are significant differences in vegetation and the individuality of each mountain-there is always something special to bring home from each in terms of memories and sensations. I’ve tried to capture those sensations here, both from the mountains themselves and from the exhilaration of climbing out of trees and onto the tundra.

Improvisations 1-3

~ Written for the American Composers’ Invitational of the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition ~

Program Note

For years, I have enjoyed spending hours at the piano improvising.  These sessions opened my ears and taught me that there is no sound the piano can produce that is not resonant and beautiful.  This richness of resonance in any combination of notes, thick/thin, wide/narrow, fast/slow, short/long…is unique to the piano.  For some time, I have also been interested in the intersection of composition and improvisation.  Improvisations 1-3 is the result of a many years of trying to bring these two loves together.  The process for this work began with my own improvisations on a midi piano, gathering material much like I would in the studio.  From that source material, the composition unfolded in a process through shaping bits and chunks of music much like I would an electroacoustic work.  The result is a thoroughly composed composition which maintains some of the playful spontaneity of the original improvisations, and capitalizes on what the piano does best: sing its amazing sounds.  Special thanks to Ben Broening for use of his Disklavier!

Performance Note

It is far more important that Improvisations 1-3 be played in a relaxed, improvised sounding style.  All sections can be played with considerable freedom, and the tempos marked are merely targets, not absolutes.

Duration: ca. 9’

For Whom...

~Commissioned for 8th Blackbird by the 3rd Practice Electroacoustic Music Festival

For whom…brings together three works under a single subject of impossible love, both beautiful and ugly in its power.  The source of inspiration comes from Hemingway’s For whom the bell tolls, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermore, and Delibe’s Lakme.  It is about a woman who looses her mind over a social position and a marriage she can not mentally and emotionally survive (Lucia) and two men, both soldiers, torn by the unexpected love of their lives and a duty that they are bound to uphold.  Gerald stumbles upon Lakme in India (Delibes), and Roberto upon Maria in Spain (Hemingway).  All three stories are tied to tragic civil unrest and war, a clashing of two cultures, and the impossibility of finding passionate love in the most unexpected places.  Robert Jordan and Lakme both find a way to experience this love to the fullest even while sacrificing their lives.  Lucia does not… All three remind us of the potential beauty and tragedy of love.  Source material includes bells (including the Tibetan Singing Bowl often used in healing) and samples from Lucia’s Mad Scene and Lakme’s Bell Song.  Special thanks to Rebecca Sherburn (soprano) and Robert Olsen (conductor) and the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra for the opera excerpts.

Entertainment in 9 movements

~Commissioned by the American Composer's Forum Jerome Composer Commissioning Program for Calliope (Shannon Wettstein and Elizabeth McNutt)

   I.    Parade
  II.    Gladiators
 III.    Animals
 IV.    High Wire
  V.    Side Show
 VI.    Clowns
VII.    Speed
VIII.    Big Top
  IX.    Calliope

The modern day circus has it’s root in ancient Greece, Rome and China. Olympic games and contests date to 8th Century BC in Greece and the first parades and pageants associated with gaming and contests originated in 4th Century Rome (I. Grand Parade).  Battle reenactments and contests to the death were a prominent part of the blood thirsty Roman entertainment industry until outlawed by Constantine in AD 326 (II. Gladiator Race).  Animal farms for entertainment sake originated in 12th Century BC China and animal training dates back to ancient Egypt (III. Animal Show).  Chinese contortionists and human tricksters (originating after killing was outlawed in the Coliseum) predate the contortion artists, trick riders and trapeze artist (Italian "Funambuli" of the Renaissance) reinvigorated in 18th Century England which are still part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus today (IV. High Wire).  Side shows, or "freak shows" originated in the Medicine Shows of Medieval Europe (as early as 1133, Smithfield, London) which included juggling acts, acrobatics and sword swallowing (V. Side Show).  In a related way, clowns evolved out of the improvisational spirit of the post bloodbath Roman games, as well as the 16th Century Italian "comedia del arte" and also had a connection to the religious based Medicine shows of Medieval Europe with the devil as comedian or trickster (VI. Clowns). The most contemporary extension of this ancient entertainment industry is the amusement park with rides, games, theme base characters, and roller coasters which allow attendees to experience the speed and agility previously only attainable by trained professionals (VII. Speed).  The modern day circus combines all of these elements into a single show, sometimes with three rings of entertainment happening simultaneously (VIII. Big Top).  Music has always been associated with the circus, and so the finale of this musical tour is based around the late 19th century unassuming (perhaps even nostalgic), imperfectly tuned tin whistle organ used to gain peoples attention and gather them around the next attraction (IX. Calliope).  


The Four Corners area of the United States (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona) will always be a special place for me, because of the power of it’s beauty, simplicity, color, shape, smell, sound and feel. In the summer of 2003 I was reading Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire” while traveling through the very places that he was writing about in this area. Wilderness experiences (often in solitude) are those which I had always thought could not be adequately expressed in words, yet Abbey finds a way to penetrate the beauty and power of (and nature of personal experience with) this unique place.  His text snapshots have the ability to transport a reader back to sights, smells, emotions, places, and even personal experiences through the poetry of his own understanding.  Soliloquy is based on one of the most eloquent of these passages, not only because of its beautiful descriptive ability to capture the essence of a place, but also for metaphors and parallels with my own personal life at the time of reading (and composing). 

Text from Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

The wind will not stop.  
Gusts of sand swirl before me, stinging my face. 
But there is still too much to see and marvel at,
the world very much alive in the bright light and wind,
exultant with the fever of spring, the delight of morning. 
Strolling on,
it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert,
by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna:
life not crowded upon life as in other places
but scattered abroad in sparseness and simplicity,
with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree,
each stem of grass,
so that the living organism stands out bold and brave
and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. 
The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. 
Love flowers best in openness and freedom.

Text used by permission of Clarke Abbey

Marsden Hartley Songs

Fisherman’s Last Supper is about human love for the ocean despite its dangers, and loss in its depth.  It was commissioned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for a concert in conjunction with an exhibition of Marsden Hartley’s paintings in 2003/4.

For wine, they drank the ocean
for bread, they ate their own despairs
counsel from the moon was theirs
for the foolish contention

Murder is not a pretty thing
yet seas do raucous everything
to make it pretty-
for the foolish or brave,
a way seas have.

Bach for Breakfast

The polyphonic music of Bach has always sounded somewhat mechanical, and that is the aspect I have tried to capture in this song.  The text by Hartley, whimsical on one level, reverent on another and yet slightly cynical contributes to robotic almost detached quality of the music here. 

B is for Bach
And all his sons,
Who wrote square music for nave and loft,
For arch and for aisle,
For all the lost, forsaken things
No other sound will save

Bach for the blest,
Who seeks no more his peace,
But finds in this sure, square music
Sound made logical solace for the swelling earth, and climbing sky

Sound that gives such decent reason
Why a sound should be form in form,
Logic over taking night,
Setting the senses in a row, perfecting the orderly march.

I never heard a stone peal forth,
I never heard a bell go crashing toward the day,
The incandescent news to tell,
Until the Bach’s brought word
The very shape of things to praise.

Text used by permission, Yale University Press

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Shoulder to shoulder
Pushing, shoving, inching the pack
Brute force against brute force
Opposed wills, muscles
Spring tight
Balanced energy

Chain reaction 
Survival of the fittest!

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Banging on Cans

As a kid, I used to make drum sets out of plastic ice cream containers, tin cans, or any other objects that would make an interesting sound.  Each percussionist in this work as a result has their very own set of five cans in amongst the more refined instruments from the orchestral tradition.  Some of the rhythms are reminiscent of my marching band days after I gave up homemade drum sets for a shiny trumpet.  I can still hear some of the cadences we used to march up and down the streets of my home town to for hours each day in the summer. There are many refined moments in this work, but there are also times when the child in me couldn’t resist the days when I would simply sit around and bang on cans! 

Four Mile Creek
Four Mile Creek runs quietly past a small chapel in the mountains on the west side of Pikes Peak in Colorado. The rhapsodic nature of my composition seeks to imitate the ebb and flow of the creek which, in places runs fast and narrow while in others spreads out into deep pools of calm slow water. In either case the creek always seems to contain a gathering energy as it is hurled by gravity down to the plains below.

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String Quartet No. 1

String Quartet No. 1 is about a journey into the dark tunnel of an unknown experience, and emerging changed, from the other side. Like any journey, there are landmarks along the way some expected and others not. The three movements express these various landmarks characterized by blind energy and frustration in the first movement, to resignation and introspection in the second, and completed by resolve in the third. The musical material alternates between many guises and reflects these emotional states through change in character and altered contexts. As with humans, the music changes orientation based on the experiences which surrounds it.

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Rhapsody for Two

Rhapsody for Two (1998) was written for Douglas Beilman and Joanna Hood to be performed at the 1999 New Zealand Festival of Chamber Music.  The work reflects the spontaneous energy of those it was written for, and is intended to portray a musical conversation which swings through various temperaments.

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Kuxan suum (2008) 54
("Road to the sky")
11 Tracks
**Commissioned  by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Track 2 "Verdun)
and IMEB, Bourges, France

A grammar of harmony
Verdun 5’30”
The invisible island
Tikkun Olam
Sand Creek
Nij Dhar
The golden alphabet
Miracles fell like drops of healing rain
Ancestral blue
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.

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In lake’ch (2007) 13 Movements: 57’35”
“i am another yourself”
13 Movements

Prologue: The Pangaea 7’01”
& the hole gazed back... 4’47”
Carnivorous plants 4’14”
Orange dust: ancient chemical knowledge    5’23”
Pandemic 4’40”
A slightly shimmering heap
Interlude: House of air, Interiors 4’39”
A quailing prairie 2’53”
Veiled dead zones 5’06”
Hidden catalyst 
Slick green stones 3’34”
Epilogue: Larger than home 4’30”
...a terminus of blue 

In 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

Duration: 57’35”

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The best medicine...
(2007) for JD

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 ones too!

Duration: 7’34”

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November Sycamore Leaf
Electroacoustic work with optional video

In December of 2003, a friend sent me a Christmas Card with a photograph called November Sycamore Leaf by Missouri Photographer John Hess.  The moment I slid the card out of the envelope sound literally exploded in my head.  The bright orange leaf leapt off the card and into my sonic imagination, and as my eyes dug into the details of the image, the music made itself heard before my very eyes.  Two years later, in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains with no running water but a fantastic view and quietness, the concentration of the photograph bore itself out in the composition of the music, and November Sycamore Leaf came to life over a three day period. I composed a video based on the single photograph of Hess in December of 2006. The video, like the music, explores the intricate structure of the leaf, and my perception of the leaf as it unfolded on first seeing. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."  (Thoreau)

Duration: 8'56"

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Love Song

Love Song (2003) is about the desert.  Wind, water, gravity, light and time are powerful forces that have shaped the desert, and serve as potent symbols for me.  Wind (breath) and water are physical needs humans cannot live without, while gravity and time (experience and maturity) are the emotional and psychological components that shape individual lives.  Light bridges the physical, emotional and spiritual in its life-sustaining energy and power. Sensations inspired by the desert are complex and difficult to describe, so it was with delight that I read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire while travelling through the Utah desert in 2003.  His poetic descriptions are poignant, eloquent, and as beautiful as the places he paints with words. Love Song is a journey to re-claim light, beauty and love out of the dark, weathered places we sometimes finding ourselves without knowing how we got there. I am forever indebted to Abbey for the courage to speak his heart, and to Kim Erndt for her voice and ideas.

Text used by permission of Clarke Abbey

Duration: 15'34"

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Thema: Omaggio
after Berio (April, 2002)

"Thema" began with a 1’ 45" vocal improvisation recorded in the studio.  This recording served as the basis for a composition in which I explored improvisational methods of working with sound material in the studio. Much of the final work resulted from recorded performance passes manipulating mixes of previously processed material.  The result was a completely satisfying balance of improvisational instincts with compositional craft in an attempt to preserve the human presence and energy often lost in fixed works. Like Berio’s work, variations stem from this theme but in a recursive rather than a linear manner.  Sections of the theme are interspersed throughout followed by variations which encompass the rest of the theme from that starting point.  As a result, It ends with the last portion of the theme heard after numerous variations.  Thema: Omaggio was awarded the 2002 EMS Prize, Stockholm, Sweden.

Duration: 8’53"

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Commissioned by the New York University New Music Ensemble
(2003, version 1: 25'; v. 2 and 3 13')

The concept for Pods stems from slowly unfolding sound, as if watching plants through time lapse photography, first growing, then flowering, and finally going to seed.   The sound world fully explores a continuum between total free improvisation and completely notated music.  The growth cycle develops out of a genesis prompted by the results of a computer improvised drone.  The drone, which slowly unfolds over the entire 25’ duration, gradually changes spectrally, dynamically and texturally.  The ensemble subtly interacts with the recorded computer improvisation blurring the relationship between which part initiates change.  Pods of textural sounds are created through these interactions with the pre-recorded part: sometimes through guided choice by the score, and at other times, through complete freedom of the performer.  In the end, the seed pods are cast to the wind to disburse, and repeat the cycle again in the coming Spring. 

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Wood Wind Water Earth

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 generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, The Chatherine Filene Shouse Foundation, and the Target Foundation.

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Vastly Shrinking Space
cello and fixed media

Commissioned by Madeleine Shapiro and newEar, 2006

Life is crazy...filled with stimulation junkies, short attention spans and bombardments of sensory overload. Vastly Shrinking Space is about finding equilibrium between the wildness of a mechanized culture and a calm that comes from discovering peace inside ones own spiritual place. The interior world calls out, asking for attention: to be nurtured in the face of these assaults. The body keeps count of a spirit struggling for air...as the exterior world arouses claustrophobia...closes in on physical space...internal personal space expands to compensate. “God” is not out there, but in here...harmony is in the balance.

Duration: 14’30”

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Unnatural Selection

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.

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Boys in the Attic

Tribute to Aerosmith: "My knobs go to 11."

Duration: 2'

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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!

Duration: 13’

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Church Keys

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.

Duration: 11'

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Degrees of Separation "Grandchild of Tree"

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!

Duration: 10'

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"...and every island and mountain were moved from their place..."

“...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.

Performance Notes

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 should be used under the piano where possible and the sustain pedal on the piano should be fixed down throughout the work.  Amplification of the piano should pick up the trumpet as well, but not directly.  If standing microphones are used, they should be placed under the piano.  There should be additional amplification for the direct trumpet sound in softer muted passages as needed.  Where sound is diffused, the performer (mixer) 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 stereo pair).

Duration: 11'

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Geographic Bells

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?

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Parallax 1 "Violin"

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 2 "Apparitions"
Fine Lines for Cello and Tape

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 through 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 end 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 Fellowship. 

Duration: 12'37"

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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 direct extensions of emotional, psychological, and physical effects and events at high elevations. Truck size sections of the inner crater breaking away 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 of (and usually above) the other; throbbing veins; the light-headedness in paradox with the heaviness of exertion, are all snapshots in my memory of the ascent of the mountain. Motion, change and progress seemed to change slowly and evolve over a timeless landscape of white glacier and endless blue sky. These are the perceptions which I attempted to capture in 18700. The work exists as a multi-media work for photographs and music using multiple slide projectors, as well as for tape alone.

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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.

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Trio for Three

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.

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Dance Suite from Water Into Light

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.

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modified 8/12/05

created by Paul Rudy, May 1998