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.


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

Listen on SoundCloud


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.







Mapping My Musical Twittverse: Week 25

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 twenty-fifth and final installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Annika Socolofsky, Dylan Arthur Baker, Lawton Hall, Andrew Rodriguez and Matthew Kiichi Heafy.


Annika Socolofsky:


Annika Socolofsky is a composer based in Ann Arbor, MI. Annika and I were colleagues at the University of Michigan from 2012-14. From Annika’s website, I listened to Rachenitsa falsa, for orchestra, Carpathian Concerto, for Serbian brass band, and Quatour a cordes en re, “Freyglish”, for string ensemble.


These works demonstrate Annika’s interest in exploring elements of eastern European folk music in different compositional settings. Commonly, one can hear this pursuit shape a work’s pitch or rhythmic material. In any case, Annika’s strong technical gifts always emerge, frequently in the form of stellar orchestration and gripping melodies.


You can find Annika on Twitter.


Dylan Arthur Baker:


Dylan Arthur Baker is a composer based in Kansas City, MO. Dylan and I were colleagues at the University of Michigan from 2012-2014. From Dylan’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Dew, for flute and soprano saxophone, an unfinished work for orchestra and soprano, and Rhapsodic Resonance, for saxophone quartet.


These works evince Dylan’s sensitivity to instrumental color. Dew is the clearest example of this quality, as timbre is one of the work’s most vibrant characteristics. Dylan’s new orchestral work also impresses with color insofar as the soprano floats clearly atop a variety of dramatic and astutely designed symphonic textures.


You can find Dylan on Twitter.


Lawton Hall:


Lawton Hall is a composer and multimedia visual artist based in Milwaukee, WI. From Lawton’s website, I listened to Ex.Glock., for glockenspiel, Binary Etude, for solo trombone, and Drift (a field), for fixed media and improvised visual projection.


These works possess a lot of differences, but share an alluring spatial quality. Ex.Glock., a set of experiments for bells, feels like a drifting etude in musical space, while Binary Etude is more focused, and features an ever-growing melodic line. Drift (a field) is a more varied work, and offers a new approach to space with its visual component.


You can find Lawton on Twitter.


Andrew Rodriguez:


Andrew Rodriguez is a composer based in Abilene, TX. From Andrew’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Every Path But Your Own, produced with software instruments, Elegy for Strings, for string orchestra, and Agnus Dei, for SATB choir and piano.


This slice of Andrew’s music features clear, compelling harmonies and strong, evocative melodic material. These works also feature interesting, but not glib, structures, particularly the Elegy, which is the longest piece in my selection. The form of Agnus Dei is particularly satisfying and clever, a response made possible by Andrew’s competent text-setting, skillful use of the chorus and endearing melodies.


You can find Andrew on Twitter.


Matthew Kiichi Heafy:


Matthew Kiichi Heafy is the lead vocalist and guitarist for the American heavy metal band Trivium. From Matthew’s website, I watched a web advertise he scored, and also listened to the songs “Like Calisto To A Star In Heaven” from Trivium’s album Shogun, and “Detonation” from Ignition.


Matthew is an incredibly skilled guitarist, versatile singer and talented songwriter whose range and ability, I feel, is well-represented in these works. The two Trivium songs I chose demonstrate the group’s gift for strong melodic ideas. Moreover, these tracks showcase Trivium’s nuanced style, penchant for counterpoint, and thoughtful approach to metal’s structural conventions.

You can find Matthew on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 24

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 twenty-fourth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Mohammad W. Alsaad, Garrett Gillingham, Ian Dorsch, Matt Schoendorff, and Jess Hendricks.


Mohammad W. Alsaad:


Mohammad W. Alsaad is a composer based in Amman, Jordan. From Mohammad’s SoundCloud page, I listened to the tracks A Way To Conquer, Shine, and The Peach Town, all of which were produced with software instruments.


Mohammad describes much of his music as, “cinematic”, and an epic, grand sensibility is certainly palpable in A Way To Conquer and The Peach Town. All three pieces have a very strong melodic focus and clear forms, but differ in their color palettes. Shine is subdued directly features synthesizers while the other two works effectively simulate the sound of an orchestra.


You can find Mohammad on Twitter.


Garrett Gillingham:


Garrett Gillingham is a composer and member of the group Willo Collective, based in East Lansing, Michigan. From Garrett’s SoundCloud page, I listened to the first movement of Vesper Images, for two saxophones, double bass and piano, Variations for Abbey, for marimba, and Right to Work, for orchestra.


These pieces only share abstract connections: for example, they all contain – and, in different ways, display – an underlying virtuosic energy. However, each work’s soundworld is very distinct from the others, ranging from pulsing, melodic pandiatonicism to highly detailed, capricious abstraction. To Garrett’s credit, all three exhibitions compel and excite.


You can find Garrett on Twitter.


Ian Dorsch:


Ian Dorsch is a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Aberdeen, WA. From Ian’s SoundCloud page, I listened to the Halfway Home and Piño’s Ride, both produced with software instruments, and the instrumental heavy metal track Undefeated.


From what I can gather, Ian licenses much of his music for films and video games, and, thusly, each of these pieces is associated with a different media project. What impresses me is this music’s – and, by extension, Ian’s – versatility. Piño’s Ride has the romantic personality of a classic film score, while Undefeated satisfies all the criteria for good metal.


You can find Ian on Twitter.


Matt Schoendorff:


Matt Schoendorff is a composer who teaches at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. From Matt’s website, I listened to Heist and Fugue State, for young band, as well as In Search Of…The Wild Saxamuphones, for saxophone quartet.


Counterpoint plays a big role in these works, though it is most important to Fugue State and The Wild Saxamuphones. These pieces resemble each other insofar as both present a series of contrapuntal episodes instead of bearing a more unified structure. Heist, a rhythmic and energetic work, is a little more self contained and less focused on line.


You can find Matt on Twitter.


Jess Hendricks:


Jess Hendricks is a composer and electric bassist located in Northampton, MA. From Jess’ SoundCloud page, I listened to In Vino Veritas, for fixed media, Expansive Unity, op. 64, for bass and live electronics, as well as Concertino for Bassoon and Electronic Playback, op. 58.


These last two works represent a classic facet of the electroacoustic genre: they reference the traditions of the concerto in the way Jess casts the acoustic and electronic sounds against each other. This dialogic characteristic is most evident and playful, as one would expect, in the Concertino, but also seemed present Expansive Unity.

You can find Jess on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 23

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 twenty-second installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Luis Tinoco, Brad Fowler, Karl Henning, Sarah Wallin Huff, and Brian Kozaczek.


Luis Tinoco:


Luis Tinoco is a composer based in Portugal. From Luis’ website, I listened to excerpts of Cercle Intrérieur, for spatialized orchestra, Antipode, for 15 players, and the second movement of Diptych for Piano and Orchestra.


These works feature crisp orchestration, and importantly so because texture plays an important role in each. With this said, the fragments I listened to differed in their tonal character, with Cercle Intrérieur and Antipode seeming the most abstract. Interestingly, all three piecess include a similar swelling gesture, though always not in the same context, such that this idea’s affect varies with each piece.


You can find Luis on Twitter.


Brad Fowler:


Brad Fowler is a composer based in Kansas City, Missouri. From Brad’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Mirror Anima, for SSAA choir and piano, Two Laramie Sketches, for solo piano, and May Music, for wind ensemble.


Mirror Anima and Two Laramie Sketches appear to be deliberately reserved and materially minimal works. The second movement of Laramie Sketches is particularly evocative in its patient use of space and register. However, May Music differs dramatically in character from Brad’s other works. Like Mirror Anima, May Music is rhythmically active, but this motor leads to far grander and more bombastic ideas.

You can find Brad on Twitter.


Karl Henning:


Karl Henning is a composer and clarinetist based in Boston. From Karl’s InstantEncore page, I listened to Zen on the Wind, Op. 114, no. 2, All the Birds in Mondrian’s Cage, and Swivels and Bops, all for flute and clarinet.


These pieces have more in common than just their instrumentation. For example, Zen on the Wind and All the Birds are relatively calm, linear, motive-driven works who bear limited and subtle contrasts over the course of their durations. Swivels and Bops, on the other hand, stands out insofar as it propels itself with a juxtaposition between fast and slow ideas.

You can find Karl on Twitter.


Sarah Wallin Huff:


Sarah Wallin Huff is a composer, violinist, and vocalist based in Rialto, California. From Sarah’s SoundCloud page, I listened to excerpts of the soundtrack to The Book of I, along with Greek Dance for string quartet, and Face the Moonlight, for soprano, string quartet and piano.


These works demonstrate melody is one of Sarah’s paramount compositional concerns, an interest consistent with her role as a solo vocalist and violinist. The soundtrack to The Book of I showcases melody in a number of ways, including sections where the power balance between the melodic presence and its accompaniment shifts wildly and dramatically.


You can find Sarah on Twitter.


Brian Kozaczek:


Brian Kozaczek is a composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Westfield, Massachusetts. From Brian’s SoundCloud page, I listened to MIDI realizations of As Shadows, Time Passed, for solo guitar, Fugue for Piano Quartet, for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and Ancestral Dance, for solo piano.


Rhythm is a powerful force in all three pieces, particularly As Shadows and Ancestral Dance, where Brian plays with different layers of rhythmic irregularity. Contrastingly, formal rhythm and pacing is an important factor in the Fugue. Here, Brian’s harmonic language and use of texture obscures and makes intriguing the work’s de rigueur contrapuntal mechanism.

You can find Brian on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 22

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 twenty-second installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Ian Dicke, David Dies, Hayes Biggs, Stace Constantinou, and Peter Van Zandt Lane.


Ian Dicke:


Ian Dicke is a composer based in Riverside, CA. From Ian’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Flash Mob, for wind ensemble, White Parasol, for solo piano, and Assembly Lines, for orchestra.


Flash Mob and Assembly Lines differ markedly from White Parasol in that they are more groove-based and driven by melody than the work for piano. As the title suggests, Assembly Lines is consistently motoric, while Flash Mob occasionally ducks away from its rhythmic center for more lyrical material. White Parasol is distinctly atmospheric among these pieces, and features an recurring chord progression around which the work centers.


You can find Ian on Twitter.


David Dies:


David Dies is a composer based in Minnesota. From David’s website, I listened to excerpts of Tinnitus, for flute, viola, and violin, Lorca Songs, for soprano and cello, and Sketches for string orchestra.


The proffered segments of these works were concise but telling, and, all together, suggest a wide expressive range in David’s Music. For example, Tinnitus is decidedly more abstract than the other two works, focusing more on timbre and harmony than the others, which are based in melodic ideas. While Sketches appears dedicated to intense, pseudo-romantic lyricism, the Lorca Songs seem to be more varied and coloristic.


You can find David on Twitter.


Hayes Biggs:


Hayes Biggs is a composer based in New York, NY. From Hayes’ website, I listened to an excerpt of The Caged Skylark, for choir, and from Hayes’ SoundCloud page I listened to O magnum mysterium, for choir, and Prelude and Freund’s Fuguing Tune in E (noch nach einmal Bach), for solo piano.


These works of Hayes’ showcase an evocative harmonic language that toys with the familiar syntax and sounds of tonality. This quality is imbedded in the premise of Freund’s Fuguing Tune, but also appears in the two choral works, of which O magnum mysterium is the most sensuous.


You can find Hayes on Twitter.


Stace Constantinou:


Stace Constantinou is a composer of, “spectralmicrotonalism,” based in London. From Stace’s BandCamp page, I listened to parts of the album The Lost Body Of Nothing II.


This work is a collection of four nineteen-minute tracks, each a reflection of the previous. I found myself lost in the process of short- and long-term comparisons as I listened to this music: sonic clouds condense and evaporate, shifting, as these emerge and disappear, the breadth of the frequency spectrum represented to the listener. Each movement expresses this basic process, but the sounds’ presence and fidelity weaken over time.


You can find Stace on Twitter.


Peter Van Zandt Lane:


Peter Van Zandt Lane is a composer based in Boston. From Peter’s website, I listened to Slant Apparatus, for chamber orchestra, Poa Pratensis, for electric guitar and chamber ensemble, and Transverse Fractures, for flute and piano.


These pieces differ insofar as Slant Apparatus is more structurally straightforward than the other two works. While Poa Pratensis and Transverse Fractures certainly have clear forms, they rollick and careen more than the chamber orchestra work. Perhaps in light of this, the final minute or so of Slant Apparatus is very surprising, and seems to appear, satisfyingly, from nowhere else in the piece.

You can find Peter on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 21

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 twenty-first installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Eric Malmquist, Daniel Felsenfeld, Nina C. Young, Julia Mihály, and James Joslin.


Eric Malmquist:


Eric Malmquist is a composer based in Chicago. From Eric’s website, I listened to an excerpt of Variations, for wind quintet, Everyone in Civilization Knew Each Other, for orchestra, and Mass of Eternal Love, for choir and organ.


Eric divides his output into concert and sacred music, and these works testify to his facility in both arenas. The Mass, a sacred composition, sounds fresh and lovely while seemingly remaining approachable to non-professional choirs. Variations and Everyone in Civilization are, understandably, more daring and both prominently feature rhythmic material that eventually gives way to dominating melodic ideas.


You can find Eric on Twitter.

Daniel Felsenfeld:


Daniel Felsenfeld is a composer based in New York, NY. From Daniel’s SoundCloud page, I listened to “VIII” from the oratorio Revolutions of Ruin and the song cycle Every Composer is a Murderer, for flute, cello, harpsichord and soprano.


Both works are very earnest and feature gripping vocal parts. Given the scale of Revolutions of Ruin, its vocal writing is appropriately dramatic; a characteristic that energizes the work’s somewhat austere tone. Every Composer is more intimate and stuns in its reserve. The lamenting final movement, in particular, chills with a serene soprano line that floats above a continuo-like accompaniment.


You can find Daniel on Twitter.


Nina C. Young:


Nina C. Young is a composer based in New York, NY. Nina and I both attended the 2008 EAMA Composition Program. From Nina’s website, I listened to Traced Upon Cinders, for 13 musicians, an excerpt of Remnants, for orchestra, and Memento Mori, for string quartet.

These pieces are ornate, delicate, and feature what seem to be very specifically conceived textures and moments that, particularly in the case of Traced Upon Cinders, flow from one to another with relative freedom. Remnants and Memento Mori possess larger sections, which compel and absorb the listener with their precision and taught subtlety.


You can find Nina on Twitter.


Julia Mihály:


Julia Mihály is a vocalist and composer based in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. From Julia’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Lokalklang FFM, for fixed media, FarbTon, for voice and live electronics, and scape_3, for fixed media.


These pieces show Julia’s virtuosity both as a vocalist and a sonic sculptor. This selection showcases an impressive variety of tone and musical character, from the ebullient caprice of Lokalklang FFM to the slow, methodical transition from natural to synthetic sound in scape_3. FarbTon, in some ways, is more compelling thanks to the patient manner by which it reveals Julia’s lyrical singing voice.


You can find Julia on Twitter.


James Joslin:


James Joslin is a composer and sound artist based in London. From James’ website, I listened to Deus Ex Machina, for electrified piano, Hatta, for two toy pianos, amplified chess board, and tea set, and Constructions in Iron and Rust, for fixed media.


James’ imagination is on full display in this daring and experimental works. Deus Ex Machina features an extremely bold piano preparation: running electrical currents through the instrument’s strings. When amplified, this current completes a circuit with the outboard speaker and produces a hum sympathetic to the played notes’ vibration. This cloud-like sound is captivating and haunting.

You can find James on Twitter.

Twitterverse Hiatus #2

Hey all,


Excitement in my personal life last week (i.e. getting engaged to the love of my life Shana!!) kept me from pointing out that my blog series “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse” is taking a brief hiatus so I can catch my breath.


The last five weeks of the series will commence on Monday, July 28 with the music of Eric Malmquist, Daniel Felsenfeld, Nina C. Young, Julia Milahy, and James Joslin. In the meantime, feel free to re-visit the first 100 composers whose music has inspired and driven this blog project since it began last January.


See you all at the end of the month!



Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 20

Editor’s Note:

This week’s edition of “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse” is
dedicated to mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen, a devoted performer of
contemporary music who ranks among this series’ most loyal readers.

Megan suffered a personal tragedy this weekend, and I humbly
extend these words as a gesture of sympathy to her and her family.
I am certain I would not have reached the twentieth week of this
project without Megan’s encouragement.

For Megan’s passionate support of this endeavor, I will always be
grateful; and, for her present loss, my heart breaks.

- Garrett

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 twentieth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Claire Jordan, Erin Rogers, Alan Theisen, Eric Nathan, and Ben Hjiertmann.


Claire Jordan:


Claire Jordan is a composer based in Church Point, Australia. From Claire’s website, I listened to The Origin of Time, for orchestra, and Undercurrent, for fifteen players.


I found myself inextricably enthralled by these works. They possess a scintillating approach to color, a gripping harmonic sense and taught melodic ideas whose sparse materials bear deep, condensed dramatic import. At many moments, I had trouble believing what I heard in these pieces. Claire’s orchestration is both astonishing and thoughtfully designed, as in The Origin of Time where Claire uses spectral techniques to crystallize the work’s intent deep within its structure.


You can find Claire on Twitter.


Erin Rogers:


Erin Rogers is a composer and saxophonist based in New York. From Erin’s website, I listened to excerpts of Chronolinea, for voice and ensemble, Duluth, for saxophone quartet, and Quartet, for piano quartet.


The selections from Duluth and Quartet available to me were rather brief (about thirty seconds in length), but, nonetheless, had a lot to share. These segments featured a mostly stable base of abstract harmony or instrumental sound, which was vivified by lively, capricious rhythmic gestures. The considerably longer excerpt of Chronolinea corroborated these qualities and showed off the compelling compositional virtuosity Erin can display with these interests.


You can find Erin on Twitter.


Alan Theisen:


Alan Theisen is a saxophonist and composer teaching at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina. From Alan’s website, I listened to Noir Fantasy, for wind ensemble, “Meditazione” from Two Forms of Insomnia, for solo oboe, and Con Tristezza, for tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, and piano.


These pieces display a strong focus on melody. This was particularly the case in Noir Fantasy, which, in addition to being highly stylized and allusive, unfolds in a conventional sense through the development of contrasting melodic ideas. “Meditazione” and Con Tristezza operate more freely, but remain anchored by compelling melodies.


You can find Alan on Twitter.


Eric Nathan:


Eric Nathan is a composer and conductor currently based in Rome. From Eric’s website, I listened to Paestum, for chamber orchestra, and Ommaggio a Gesualdo, for two violins, two violas, and cello.


These pieces show Eric’s skillful approach to instrumental color and ensemble writing, as well as an ability to arrive at conventionally beautiful moments in very nuanced, unexpected musical settings. The latter of these traits is best represents in Ommaggio, where the presumed Gesualdo quote seemingly comes from nowhere in the lower strings and its decorated by surprisingly abrasive, yet fleeting, gestures  in the violins.


You can find Eric on Twitter.


Ben Hjiertmann:


Ben Hjiertmann is a composer and vocalist based in Chicago. From Ben’s website, I listened to Etude, for string quartet and Bicinium, a duo for himself and (“Musical Twitterverse” alum) Luke Gullickson.


To me, Etude is a thrilling and moving work punctuated by a stunning opening cello solo whose luster does not fade when it is recalled and re-scored at the piece’s end. The intervening music is unrelentingly rhythmic and intense to an extent that belies the mostly sterile heritage of the work’s title. Bicinium is similarly raw and stirring, particularly in the way Ben uses his and Luke’s voices.

You can find Ben on Twitter.