On December 16, I announced my plan to listen and briefly record my responses to the music of the composers who follow me on Twitter. This post is the tenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Daniel Zajicek, Charles Halka, Dennis Tobenski, Thom Norman, and Greg Simon.
Daniel is a composer and visual artist who was a colleague of mine at Rice University. From Daniel’s website, I listened to Punk Truck Love, for bass clarinet and electronics, and Awake, for laptop ensemble; and, from his SoundCloud page, I listened to And the stallion put on my pants and began to sing, for fixed media.
These pieces suggest Daniels seeks drama in his music. This is most direct in Awake, which is a live performance piece aimed to be theatrical, but the other works, with their scrupulously created sound worlds, are similarly dramatic.
Charles and I overlapped for a couple years while I was at Rice University. From Charles’ website, I listened to Scherzo, for orchestra, Rupture, for string quartet, and To the Brim, for solo violin.
Based on these works, Charles’ music appears to be extraordinarily economical. Using texture and color, primarily, Charles invents a wide range of characters out of a single musical germ. Rupture expresses this quality most extremely, for it only really explores differences in texture. Though Scherzo and To the Brim or relatively less rigorous, all three works possess impressive cohesion thanks to Charles’ economy of means.
Dennis is a composer and vocalist based in New York. From Dennis’ SoundCloud page, I listened to “Lament” from the song cycle And He’ll Be Mine, and Only Air, for soprano and orchestra.
Dennis writes very well for voice, an apparent byproduct of his experience as a vocalist. Moreover, these works demonstrate Dennis’ facility at situating a vocal line in varied instrumental contexts. Both pieces feature clear, but lush, accompaniments that enhance the conveyance of the soloist’s line. And, in Only Air, a sizeable work, orchestration also plays an important part of the work’s overall form.
Thom is a composer based in Glasgow, Scotland. From Thom’s website, I listened to Ochre and Red on Red, for chamber orchestra, Schlafen, Schlafen, for voice and piano, and Thing we can’t tell each other, for cello and piano.
These pieces predominantly feature abstract ideas, but, underneath this surface, it appears Thom’s musical language is rooted in a traditional understanding of harmony and melody. In Ochre and Red on Red, this dynamic shapes the work’s overall form. At first, the piece struggles with transient, complex texture and ideas until more conventionally lyrical material breaks through at the work’s end.
Greg is composer and jazz trumpeter, and a colleague of mine at the University of Michigan. From Greg’s website, I listened to Blues in Red, for two tenor saxophones, Estadio, for solo viola, and Foolish Fire, for wind ensemble.
Blues in Red and Foolish Fire possess a rhythmic vitality that seems drawn from Greg’s performance background. To be clear, although Blues in Red skirts the edges of wholesale jazz allusions, neither of these works wholly trades on that genre’s tropes. Estadio is very different: a forceful and lyrical soliloquy for viola, which takes advantage of the instrument’s full expressive potential.