The home stretch of 2017!

2017 has already been an exciting year for me, and it will close with a bang! The year began with the continuation of my new teaching positions at Western Michigan University, and Madonna University, where I began adjunct appointments in the fall of 2016. Last month, I started my second year of teaching theory, composition, orchestration, and music technology at both schools, and I have had a wonderful experience working with a diverse array of students.

This year has also been full of exciting performances and world premieres. In January, my and conductor Kevin Fitzgerald’s concert presenting organization ÆPEX Contemporary Performance gave a performance at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI, which featured my string trio, Moments, in addition to works by Lisa Coons, Kelly Moran, Baldwin Giang, and Pierre Boulez. In March, my and conductor Yaniv Segal’s  Sonata for Orchestra in C minor, a historically-informed orchestration of Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor that we completed collaboratively, received its premiere performance by the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra under Yaniv’s baton. And, in April, mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violist Michael Hall premiered my song cycle Folio 2 at an ÆPEX Contemporary Performance concert in Ann Arbor, MI, which also featured my first song cycle for viola and voice, Folio 1, as well as works by Mara Gibson, Tony Manfredonia, Jessica Rudman, and other composers.This summer, I enjoyed the honor of teaching music composition and music theory at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Camp in northern Michigan. Here, in August, Cleveland-based pianist Shuai Wang performed my solo work For Piano at a faculty composition recital.

Also wonderfully exciting was my participation at the end of July in composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s new Creative Academy for Music. Gabriela, who is one of the most widely revered and in-demand composers in the country, hand-picked eighteen emerging American composers whom she personally invited to inaugurate her Academy over the course of this year. I was thrilled and humbled to be asked to be one of these composers, and joined my colleagues in late July at Gabriela’s mountainside farm in Boonville, CA to workshop new pieces for marimba duo with internationally-celebrated percussionists Chris Froh and Mayumi Hama.

Chris and Mayumi will premiere my marimba duo, Noa, and my colleagues’ works, at Sacramento State University’s Festival for New American music on November 8. On November 11, Yaniv Segal will conduct the second performance of our Sonata for Orchestra in C minor with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. In the spring of 2019, Yaniv will also lead a recording of this work and others with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which will be released by NAXOS later in the year. Finally, from November 17-20, I will be in residency at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where I will do guest presentations with the composition and music theory departments.

Please continue to visit this site for more updates on my music, research, and teaching!


“Folio 1” Recordings!

This past June, I had the pleasure of traveling out to Kansas City, MO to hear mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violist Michael Hall premiere Folio 1, a new song-cycle they commissioned from me in January 2016. Folio 1 sets texts by poets Lauren Clark (whom I set in Bound, my 2015 song-cycle for Megan Ihnen and members of Latitude 49) and Hannah Ensor, as well as an anonymous source.


As you will hear, Megan and Michael gave Folio 1 a stunning premiere performance, which took place as part of Michael’s guest artist recital at the 2016 UMKC Composer Workshop. I could not have been more excited for the chance to work with Megan again, and to make Michael’s collaborative acquaintance. Moreover, I could be more grateful to composer Mara Gibson, who organizes UMKC’s annual Composer Workshop and whose gracious hosting made Folio 1’s premiere possible.


I’ve embedded recordings of Folio 1‘s six movements below, along with short program notes about each movement’s text and music.


Folio 1


I. I pulled a string out of my throat (Lauren Clark)

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The text for this movement comes from Lauren’s unpublished manuscript LACUUS, which she very generously shared with me for this project. Although Folio 1 is not a strictly narrative song-cycle, this movement reflects the same narrative perspective as movements III, IV, and V.


II. In Memory Of Reuben Shapley, Esq. (Anonymous)

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I found this movement’s text on a memorial plaque hanging on the wall of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, NH while I was visiting the city for the 2014 PARMA Music Festival. These words moved me deeply, and I immediately copied them down with the hopes that, some day, I would have the chance to set them to music.


III. I want to go home (Lauren Clark)

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This movement’s text also comes from Lauren’s unpublished manuscript LACUUS. I composed “I want to go home” using a personal iteration of Arvo Pärt’s tintinnbulation technique, which helped me capturethe sparce and austere beauty of Lauren’s words.’


IV. Listening to guitar (Lauren Clark)

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Again, this movement draws its text from LACUUS. While composing “Listening to guitar”, I found Lauren’s words to be sultry and sensual, which I aimed to convey with a deliberately oblique reference to the style and sexuality of mid-century jazz ballads along the lines of Chet Baker’s ‘My Funny Valentine’ or Johnny Hartman’s ‘They Say It’s Wonderful’.


V. I wake up on an airplane (Lauren Clark)

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This is the final movement that sets text from LACUUS. The alarm and alertness of Lauren’s narrator is embodied in the relative extremity of this movement’s rhythmic intensity, as compared with the rest of the cycle.


VI. Eat the fries (Hannah Ensor)

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I commissioned the poem set in “Eat the fries” from Hannah in the summer of 2014. Her text is intrinsically sarcastic and cleverly presented, and I aspired to capture these characteristics in my music. The message of this song may seem targeted at our nation’s current political situation, but, believe me, I lack the foresight to have made that coincidence intentional.


“Bound V” To Be Featured At The 2016 SXSW Festival!

I’m very pleased to announce that the premiere recording of “Bound V”, the final movement of my 2015 song cycle Bound, has been selected for CarpeDM Seize Des Moines’ “Music Mix: Volume III” and will be promoted at the upcoming South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive and Music Festival in Austin, TX!


Mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen – who premiered Bound, along with Christopher Sies, Andy Hall, Jacobsen Woollen, and Jason Paige of Latitude49, in March 2015 – took the lead in making this opportunity come to fruition. So, in addition to my tremendous excitement, I am extremely grateful to Megan for her friendship and commitment to this piece.


Bound received its second performance, with the same players, at the New Music Detroit‘s Strange And Beautiful Music VIII marathon concert last September. Last April, this same recording of “Bound V” was selected as a featured track on’s Spring 2015 Mixtape.


This summer, Megan will join forces with Chicago-based violist Michael Hall to premiere a new set of works for voice and viola. Like Bound, this new piece will set the poetry of Lauren Clark, along with poems by Arizona-based poet Hannah Ensor and other texts.


The world premiere performance of this new work will take place during the UMKC Summer Composition Workshop, where Megan and Michael will serve as guest artists, and subsequent performances are in the works for next Fall.


If you are at SXSW, you’ll be able to hear “Bound V” at the Des Moines Embassy from March 11-19. If you’re not headed to Austin this weekend or next week, you can listen to “Bound V” on the CarpeDM Seize Des Moines “Music Mix: Volume III” here. And, a full-length recording of Bound‘s premiere performance is available here.

“Bound” at New Music Detroit’s Strange and Beautiful Music Marathon

I am very excited to announce that my song cycle Bound has been programmed on New Music Detroit‘s ‘Strange and Beautiful Music’ marathon concert on September 19, 2015.


Bound was premiered in March by mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, along with percussionist Chris Sies, clarinetist Jason Paige, saxophonist Andy Hall, and cellist Jake Woollen of the midwest-based chamber music ensemble Latitude49. You can listen to a recording of Bound‘s premiere performance here, on my SoundCloud page.


The upcoming performance of Bound will be part of Latitude49’s set this year’s New Music Detroit marathon, an annual event Latitude49 has played upon before. In 2013, the group played my piece, a five-note chord, seen from the porch of a curious mind… (a Latitude49 commission), on New Music Detroit’s ‘Strange and Beautiful Music VI’ program. You can listen to a recording of Latitude49 playing, a five-note chord, seen from the porch of a curious mind…, here, on my SoundCloud page.


New Music Detroit’s ‘Strange and Beautiful Music’ concerts are among the most highly-anticipated events in Southeast Michigan’s contemporary music scene. Last year, the concerts relocated from Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Art to the versatile chamber space at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, which also houses the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Support Latitude49’s Indiegogo campaign!

Latitude 49, one of my longest and most ardent collaborators, has just launched an Indigogo campaign to fund the completion of their debut album and commission a substantial new work from award-winning composer Gabriella Smith.


The group’s album will include a new recording of my work A Five-Note Chord, seen from the porch of a curious mind, which they commissioned and premiered in the spring of  2013. You can listen to the recording of the work’s premiere performance below:

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I also collaborated with members of Latitude 49, and mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, this March to premiere my composition dissertation, Bound. You find a recording of that performance on my SoundCloud page.


In my time knowing and working with Latitude 49, I have always found them to be among the most skilled, professional, affable, and insightful performers of new music I have ever come across. Their enthusiasm for and commitment to living composers cannot be overstated, and I can hardly think of a group of musicians more deserving of the support of the contemporary music community. Please consider supporting Latitude 49’s campaign!

One Year, Seven Premieres

It was about 2 AM on the morning of March 14 – while I was fervently finishing the program notes for my doctoral composition recital – when it struck me that I have had a few premieres in the last twelve months. That recital included two itself – Late, for solo guitar, and Bound, for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble – but these simply continued a trend dating back to last May. I was very much taken aback early that morning when I realized Late and Bound would be the fifth and sixth world premieres in the preceding twelve months – last Tuesday, I enjoyed the seventh in that period. So, understanding how incredibly special this kind of run is, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on these pieces and present them to you in the order they were made public.


Escapement (prepared piano)

Premiered in May 2014 by Jeannette Fang in Ann Arbor, MI

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Jeannette not only premiered Escapement, she also commissioned it for her final dissertation recital at the University of Michigan. Driven by her passion for adventurous repertoire and collaboration, Jeannette approached me, David Biedenbender, Roger Zare, and Jeremy Crosmer for new works for prepared piano. Escapement‘s title, form, and sound world are based on my experiences as a part-time piano technician at the University of Michigan. I even recorded myself while at work to capture the special kind of unintentional music that emerges during a tuning. The piece’s preparation is also influenced by the craft of piano technology, as I decided to use only two felt temperament strips to mute the instrument’s middle register from the C below Middle C to the C above it.


When you spend time working on a piano, you begin to understand how every part of the instrument collaborates to produce and shape its sound. I wrote Escapement to explore this sound, the soul of the instrument, in a raw, unvarnished way. For this reason, I avoid clear melodies, meter, or rhythmic formulations for most, if not all, of Escapement. I aspire that the ambiguity of Escapement‘s language helps to draw people into the sound of the instrument, which, at least at first, seems restrained and vulnerable on account of the felt’s dampening effect. Sound is probably my greatest fascination as a composer, and I think Escapement is my greatest achievement in exploring timbre and texture.


Even though Escapement is not even a year old, Jeannette has already played it several times across the country including at the inaugural New Music Gathering in San Francisco last January. There, she and I preceded the performance by presenting our insights on creating daring, evocative, and piano/pianist-friendly preparations.


For Piano (solo piano)

Premiered in May 2014 by Dalton Yu in New Haven, CT

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The Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, CT commissioned this piece from me for their annual competition for Middle School and High School-level pianists. I was asked to write for the Middle School division, and I feel I should point out the young man who premiered the piece was only fourteen years old. The above recording is from my aforementioned March 14 recital where Jeanette Fang played For Piano along with Escapement and some other of my piano music.


Having not grown up a pianist, I am always self-conscious when I write for piano. I try my best to mask my lack of experience by painstakingly considering how my ideas are. For Piano started out of this carefulness: because they commissioned me for the middle school division of their piano competition, the Neighborhood Music School gave me very clear, instructions as to what the work’s technical limitations and personality should be. To this end, I was told not to write any harmonic intervals larger than a major sixth and that a faster, more technique-driven piece would probably be easier for the pianists to interpret than something slow and atmospheric. I was happy to oblige, and conceived of For Piano as a kind of toccata. I worked hard to make sure all the licks fit my hands well (after all, if I can play a line slowly, a real pianist should have no trouble, right?), and, to my surprise, was actually encouraged by the Neighborhood Music School’s composer-in-residence to make the piece more difficult.


Dalton, the fourteen-year-old pianist who premiered For Piano last May, did an incredible job with the piece, and showed me that it is really a wild piece. Jeannette, too, played For Piano with a thrilling intensity that surprised me. However, I have learned to love and savor the lessons the performers I work with can teach me about my pieces. Indeed, For Piano is one case where I have come to know the piece’s true nature through the gifted interpretations of the people who have played it.


Mechanismus (stereo electronics)

Premiered in August 2015 in Portsmouth, NH

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Mechanismus remains my latest work for electronics, although I do not expect it to be my last. The work has unexciting origins, as I wrote it for my final project in the advanced electronic music seminar I took last year. Technically, Mechanismus was premiered in that class’s final meeting, almost exactly a year ago from the time I am writing this post. However, it did not receive a public playing until the following August, at the PARMA Festival in Portsmouth, NH.


I had a lot of fun composing Mechanismus, although I’m not sure any other piece of mine has required as much discipline on my part. I tried to make Mechanismus as “from scratch” as possible, which meant I made myself draw on one sample for most of the piece’s sounds, and did not allow myself to use quantization to keep the piece’s tempo and rhythms precise. Therefore, I measured every single sound individually, and composed the piece like a mosaic, connecting segments of audio lasting no longer than an eighth of second into lengthy phrases. This process was, perhaps, overcomplicated, but it enabled me to have complete control over Mechanismus‘s form and flow.


Mechanismus draws very obviously on a number of styles of synth pop music. The predominant, raw synthesizer sounds, which I samples from a 30-year-old toy Muppets keyboard, are an homage to early Kraftwerk. On the other hand, Mechanismus‘s pace, its eventual ‘beat drop’ figuration, and certain of the work’s melodies and harmonic progressions are meant to suggest more recent trends.


Chant-Fanfare (brass ensemble)

Premiered by the UWSP Wind Ensemble in March 2015 in Stevens-Point, WI

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Chant-Fanfare is the first piece I have composed for any kind of wind ensemble since I was in high school. Jonathan Caldwell, the director of bands at University of Wisconsin at Stevens-Point, asked me to write the piece last July for the final concert of his first season at UWSP. As the title suggests, the piece is a fanfare that opens with a contrapuntal fantasy on the Gregorian Chant, “Puer Natus Est Nobis”.


To further respect its reference to early Catholic music, Chant-Fanfare is scored for three antiphonal choirs of brass instruments: one group of four horns, and two sextets each with two trumpets, two trombones, euphonium and tuba. At the premiere, Jonathan placed the sextets on either side of the hall, with the horns center stage. I thought this setup showcased the piece’s antiphonal characteristics beautifully. With this said, I look forward to the possibility that future performances of Chant-Fanfare might further experiment with the work’s considerations.


In addition to premiering Chant-Fanfare, Jonathan arranged for me to conduct a brief residency with UWSP’s composition department, which I enjoyed greatly. Charles Rodchester Young, the chair of the UWSP composition department, was a wonderful host, and I was quite impressed with the composition students I met.


Late (solo guitar)

Premiered by Jordan Knudson in March 2015 in Ypsilanti, MI

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Of the seven works I have had premiered in the last twelve months, Late is the oldest. The earliest draft of the piece probably dates to the summer of 2012, but my collaboration with Jordan is even older. We met at the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2011 and, after hitting it off, vowed to work together. Jordan was as huge part of bringing this piece to fruition, because my instincts in writing for guitar were not always the wisest.


No other piece of mine has undergone as much revision as Late, but I am very thankful for the opportunity to perfect the work’s delicate and meditative character. Late is episodic, and does not convey a grand or dramatic structure, opting, instead, to present a series of refractions of the same saturnine material. The drone motif that dominates Late‘s opening section is the work’s heart and spine, and rhythm, overall, plays a very important role in the overall evolution of the piece’s basic ideas. With the exception of one section, Late’s melodies tend to be obstuse, which means Jordan deserves a great deal of credit for his lyrical performance. His expert playing clarified an otherwise translucent network of melodic lines, which, in Jordan hands, are stunning.


In particular, Jordan was an invaluable coach to my writing for classical guitar, which proved a challenge. Electric guitar was the first instrument I wrote music on, and, because of that, I probably took my knowledge of guitar writing for granted. Luckily, Jordan was patient with my early drafts, and I am extremely pleased with the fruits of our collaborative labor.


Bound (for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble)

Premiered in March 2015 by Megan Ihnen and Latitude49 in Ypsilanti, MI

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Bound is my composition dissertation, and bringing it to life was easily the most fulfilling musical experience I have had. Work-shopping Bound with Megan Ihnen and Chris Sies, Andy Hall, Jake Woollen, and Jason Paige of Latitude49 was as endlessly thrilling as their premiere performance. Bound is a song cycle that sets the poetry of Lauren Clark, an award-winning poet who has been a terrific friend and colleague of mine over the last few years.


Bound deals with themes of love and loss, and explores the kind of trauma the causes and results from the dissolution of our most important relationships. The music draws on a small battery of motives to produce a vibrant, narrative landscape that is  austere, yearning, and, above all, dramatic. The voice is at times lyrical and percussive, taking center stage to tell Bound‘s story. It is hard to express the profound satisfaction I felt working with Megan and Latitude49, and I am excited for the next time they perform bound


In addition to Megan, whose insightful connection to the work’s text made her premiere performance a true tour-de-force, Chris Sies was an enormous influence on Bound. His guidance with the percussion part, both as I was writing Bound and in rehearsal, proved crucial to the premiere’s success. Obviously, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to rely on these incredible artists, surely I profited immensely from their talents and generosity.


Responsoria (string quartet)

Premiered in April 2015 by Davis West, Jenny Wang, Chisato Suga, and Daniel Poceta in Ann Arbor, MI

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Responsoria is my most recent piece, and the last in the magnificent seven premieres I am sharing in this post. I wrote it for a collaborative project the University of Michigan composition department conducted with the chamber music program. And, almost unbelievably, Responsoria is my first work for this storied instrumentation.


The piece responds and references Carlo Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsorias, which captivated me last winter, around the time I was composing this work. In particular, Responsoria’s main motive is drawn from Gesualdo’s “Triste Anima Mea”, the second of the long set of litugical works written to celebrate Maundy Thursday. My Responsoria juxtaposes two worlds of material, one frenetic and thorny, the other spacious, contrapuntal, and yearning.  The overall form more closely resembles the aged precedents of Gesualdo’s choral works or Purcell’s Fantasias for viol ensemble  than the climactic and tumultuous quartets of the Romantic period.


Responsoria‘s premiere was very exciting for me because I did not hear the quartet play the piece until the afternoon of the performance. I was lucky to have so gifted a set of players, because their unsupervised rehearsals had been extremely productive and extremely perspicacious. They needed very little coaching to pull off a deeply impressive premiere later that evening, for which I am very grateful.


Special Acknowledgment:


I would be remiss not to thank Nelson T. Gast, a colleague of mine here in the University of Michigan Composition Department, who engineered the recordings of Bound, Late, and Responsoria.







“Bound V” on the icareifyoulisten Spring 2015 mixtape!

I am very pleased to announce that Bound V – the final movement of my song cycle, Bound– is included in’s Spring 2015 mixtape!


The selected recording is from Bound’s thrilling premiere performance, and features internationally-renowned mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, along with Chris Sies, Andy Hall, Jake Woollen, and Jason Paige of the accomplished chamber ensemble Latitude49. Nelson T. Gast is responsible for masterfully engineering the recording of Bound V you will find on the mixtape.


You can listen to the entirety of Bound here. I commissioned the work’s text from award-winning poet Lauren Clark. More information on Megan Ihnen, who shined in the debut performance of Bound, is available at her website. And, you can learn more about Latitude49, and their mission to engage diverse audiences with dynamic concert experiences that give a voice to today’s leading composers, at their website.

Icareifyoulisten is an award-winning blog dedicated to discussing and illuminating issues and events at the heart of contemporary music. Again, you can download the Spring 2015 mixtape here.


Three World Premieres in the Next Three Weeks!

I’m very excited to share information on a flurry of performances of my music happening over the next three weeks!


First, on March 6, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Wind Ensemble will premiere Chant-Fanfare, an energetic concert-opening work for antiphonal brass based on the “Puer Natus” chant melody. The performance takes place at 7:30 PM in Michelson Hall of the Noel Fine Arts Center on UWSP’s campus. Please visit UWSP’s performance website for more information.


The following weekend, First Presbyterian Church in Ypsilanti, MI will host a recital of my chamber music. The performance is at noon on Saturday, March 14 and features performances by a handful of my most talented and accomplished friends. Organist Colin Knapp, who is music director at First Presbyterian Church, will open the concert with the Michigan premiere of Contemplation on “Tercentenary”, commissioned by First Congregational Church in Ridgefield, CT for its three-hundred-year anniversary in 2013. Pianist Jeanette Fang will reprise her command-performance of Escapement from this year’s New Music Gathering, and will also play Four Little Pieces and For Piano, a 2014 commission by the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, CT.


The recital’s program also includes two world premieres. Chicago-based classical guitarist Jordan Knudson will premiere Late, a collaboration that has been nearly four years in the making. Finally, the keystone of the concert will be the world premiere of my composition dissertation, Bound, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble that sets poetry I commissioned from award-winning poet Lauren Clark. Renowned mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen will join members of the highly-esteemed new music group Latitude 49 to debut my latest composition in what will surely be a tour-de-force performance.

“Escapement” at University of Central Missouri

The tremendous and inimitable Jeannette Fang is performing two piano recitals at the end of the week at the University of Central Missouri. These performances feature my work Escapement, for prepared piano, along with works by Ligeti, Chopin, and Jeannette’s and my former University of Michigan colleague, David Biedenbender.


The concerts are on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 PM in UCM’s Hart Recital Hall. More information about the performances is available here.

“Escapement” at the Inaugural New Music Gathering

Pianist Jeannette Fang will perform “Escapement” at the inaugural New Music Gathering as part of a presentation she and I will give on writing excitingly, safely, and practically for prepared piano.


Our presentation/performance will take place on Friday, January 16, 2014 with more details to follow.


You can listen to Jeannette’s premiere performance of “Escapement” here.