Piano Quartet #2
Before Sensation Returns*
*Content Note: This piece uses text that contains profanity and the mention of mental illness and suicidal ideation.
sunder - The musical phrases that present themselves throughout sunder are built upon fragments of melodic ideas rather than their full realizations. The work utilizes these fragments to recontextualize the musical ideas in various contexts and to drive their development throughout the composition. sunder presents related melodic phrases, fractured in this way, presented first by the keyboards and then by an assortment of membranophones and found objects that are chosen by the performers. Each of the segments are connected through brief interludes utilizing different subsets of the available instruments (membranophones, non-resonant sounds, and resonant sounds) before reaching the final melodic section. The ending section, at first closely related to the opening of the work, slowly begins to incorporate all the sonic elements of the ensemble as it builds to the raucous final statement and release. sunder was composed for and premiered by the Portland Percussion group.
Piano Quartet #2 - At the outset of the piece, blocks of rhythm emerge and dissolve as the performers negotiate and re-negotiate pulse, meter, and beat, through writhing glissandi in the strings, punctuated with piano calls. The volume increases with insistence, toward a breaking point, only to recede slowly. This is the predominant mechanism of the piece: present, build, then retreat; the gambits are varied - a jangling piano overtakes the writhing strings, a high-pitch violin passage becomes increasingly aggressive and subsumed by bouncing, insistent eighth notes, the whole ensembles subjected to “heavy messing”, only for the string glissando figures from the beginning to slowly temper the ferocity. A reluctant farewell unwinds over the last two minutes of the piece, leaving us in an alien, suspended in a world of sul ponticello strings with furtive memories from the piano. For such a transition of energia to dunamis, potential to actuality, C.S. Peirce suggests the term tychism, later explicated by his friend William James as the “suggestion [that] order results from chance-coming.” Heard here is one performance of myriad possible performances; in the carefully designed-aleatory of the quartet, we find repeatedly motion towards play, as the piece moves from a misty, sepulchral opening to a playful dance, finding rest after its exertions.
mutterbug is an open-instrumentation, open-ensemble exploration of submersed and glancing thoughts within the stream of consciousness of the performance space; a mythosystem of mumbling daydreams.
An EP – extended play – is a term used to refer to a pop music recording that contains more music than a single, but less than a full studio album or LP (long play). Originally used to describe vinyl records, it is now used to describe mid-length Compact Discs as well as digital music downloads. The three movements that make up this work have a driving energy and a sense of immediacy that is often found in popular music, as well as a total length that is ideal for an EP as it was originally conceived (about 12-15 minutes of music). Titled using slang for different kinds of pop tunes – Single, Ballad and B-side – the three movements share a number of musical ideas and run continuously without pauses. EP was commissioned by the SOLI Chamber Ensemble in San Antonio, TX.
Before Sensation Returns - When percussionist Cameron Leach asked me to write a theatrical solo piece for him, we had a conversation and we discovered a mutual interest in the topic of the negative aspects of how boys and men are socialized. I went to my local bookstore in search of a text that explored these themes, and happened upon Eat the Apple, a memoir about the Iraq War by Matt Young, a Marine Corps combat veteran. I devoured the first chapter while standing in the bookstore aisle, and I knew immediately that this was the text I needed. The excerpts I selected depict how Young made the choice to enlist the day after a drunken car accident, believing that military service would provide him with direction, but finding that the problems he hoped to escape were only intensified by the experience. The music alternates between frenetic and meditative as the percussionist tells his story, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with icy detachment. The instrumentation is mostly hard-edged, emphasizing the noisy ratchet, the snare drum with its military connotations, and a chain encircling the performance space. But there are also moments of vulnerability, underscored by gong-like metal bowls, tuned wooden bars, and soft cymbal scrapes. The percussionist must alternate quickly between different types of material while enduring various physical demands: wrestling with a chain, marching, singing the typical running cadence known as a Jody chant. I’m grateful to Matt Young and his publisher Bloomsbury for granting me permission to use the text.