Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 19

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 nineteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers John Teske, Scott Worthington, Ben Fuhrman, Clare Shore, and Owen Davis.


John Teske:


John Teske is a composer and bassist located in Seattle. From John’ website, I listened to and ffinniiss, as well as an excerpt of Mer, both for chamber orchestra. From John’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Facets, for solo cello.


These works are formed by different scales of gestures. Mer, a structured improvisation, basically features one action: a sonic representation of a shifting see. Facets and ffinniiss contain a series of actions, most clearly in the latter, which contains a handful of slow, free-sounding swells meant to evoke the extemporaneous frenzies often found at the end of rock songs.


You can find John on Twitter.


Scott Worthington:


Scott Worthington is a composer and bassist located in Los Angeles. From Scott’s website, I listened to A Few Kites, for trumpet, violin, and electronics, Infinitive, for the LoadBang ensemble, and Prism, for three double basses.


A Few Kites and Infinitive appear to be deliberately constrained and tense works, a particularly effective character for Infinitive given its text, which is drawn from Hamlet. Prism, like the other pieces, bides its time with taught nuance and subtlety but, at a significant point in the work, explodes with an intensity enabled, along with the work’s color palette, by its redundant instrumentation.


You can find Scott on Twitter.


Ben Fuhrman:


Ben Fuhrman is a composer and mandolinist based in Lansing, Michigan. From Ben’s website, I listened to Cellular Hallucinations, for percussion, and Gestalt Variations, for electric guitar and computer.


Cellular Hallucinations is a very skillfully written solo percussion work that unfolds through thoughtful manipulations of color and rhythmic intensity, as one would expect from a piece with this scoring. It was impossible for me to hold preconceptions about Gestalt Variations because I’ve never heard a piece quite like it. The guitar is disembodied, floating in a vivid world of brilliantly processed computerized noises whose flexibility of expression stunned me.


You can find Ben on Twitter.


Clare Shore:


Clare Shore is a composer based in Lake Worth, Florida. From Clare’s SoundCloud page, I listened to excerpts of Cool Spring Meditations, for solo guitar, July Remembrances, for soprano and orchestra, and Nightwatch, for brass quintet.


These works share an indirectly and hauntingly beautiful language, which is brought to life through the airtight persuasiveness of Clare’s instrumental writing. The movements of July Remembrances I heard were particularly stunning in their treatment of the orchestra-soprano dynamic. Cool Spring Meditations, too, seems expertly written for the guitar, not to mention the work’s the expressive forcefulness of the work’s musical material.


You can find Clare on Twitter.


Owen Davis:


Owen Davis is a composer and percussionist based in Chicago. From Owen’s SoundCloud page, I listened to TELEPHONE, for piano, poet, cell phones and electronics, Colour Gommable, for alto saxophone, percussion and trombone, as well as Circadian, for alto saxophone and vibraphone.


Colour Gommable and Circadian share an atmospheric tendency, though Circadian’s final movement breaks this character with the introduction of a satisfying and lyrical saxophone melody. TELEPHONE is outstandingly high-concept in my selection of Owen’s music. To me, TELEPHONE obliquely evokes John Cage’s Credo in US with the cumulative profundity of its composed, chance, and multimedia elements.


You can find Owen on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 18

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 eighteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Jay Batzner, Beki Smith, Matti Kovler, Kieren Macmillan, and Joseph Hyde.


Jay Batzner:


Jay Batzner is a self-identifying electroacoustic composer who teaches at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, MI. From Jay’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Silhouettes, Receding, for natural horn and electronics, and Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice, for glissando flute and electronics.


It oversimplifies these pieces to argue their electronic forces simply augment the acoustic presences of the flute and horn. Rather, these works deconstruct and rebuild these instruments’ identities. This deeply expressive feat is aided on all sides by technology, from the electronics to the retrospective nomination of natural horn and forward-looking exploration of the glissando flute’s soloistic potential.


You can find Jay on Twitter.


Beki Smith:


Beki Smith is a composer based in Glasgow, Scotland. From Beki’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Between Scylla and Charybdis, for four harps, “The Mary Grey”, from the Perthshire Suite, for orchestra, and The Dancer, for spoken word and electronics.


These works confidently cover a wide range of genres. “The Mary Grey” features the most traditional musical language of the three and Between Scylla and Charybdis acts as a coutnerbalance with its dark, ominous clouds of harp. The Dancer, contrastingly, hardly uses pitch, and, instead, flows dramatically with its intricately processed sounds, which surround the recitation of a poem.


You can find Beki on Twitter.


Matti Kovler:


Matti Kovler is a composer based in New York, and Boston. Matti and I met when he visited the University of Michigan last year. From Matti’s website, I listened to excerpts of Unsung Serenade, for orchestra, Ninevah, for string orchestra, as well as Lili Marlene, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra.


Unsung Serenade and Ninevah seem to have a dark character, which occasionally twists into something bittersweet, creating a sense of underlying tension in the music. Matti exploits this property more transparently, and ostensibly ironically, in Lili Marlene, wherein a cabaret-like tune is opposed with mysterious and aggressive orchestral interludes.

You can find Matti on Twitter.


Kieren MacMillan:


Kieren MacMillan is a composer based in Toronto. From Kieren’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Berceuse for Benjamin, for piano, Wither’s Carol, for choir and brass quintet, and excerpts of Fantasy Variations, for piano quartet.


These works of Kieren’s are conventionally melodic, structurally engaging and deeply charming. For example, the particularly emblematic Wither’s Carol is joyous and endearing while continuing to grow and evolve – namely in the brass part – throughout its duration. The Berceuse has a similarly linear form, and builds the arrival of a new, confident melodic idea that enters about two-thirds of the way through.


You can find Kieren on Twitter.


Joseph Hyde:


Joseph Hyde is a composer who teaches at Bath Spa University, UK. From Joseph’s website, I listened to In Sunlight, for soprano and electronics, as well as Seven Waves, for flute and electronics.


These works, despite their similarities, bear strikingly contrasting forms. In Sunlight constructs and unveils a hybrid musical space of voice and sound. The text guides the piece along, even in face of its increasing sonic obscurity. Seven Waves, however, builds towards and arrives at a significant and, in many ways, moving change in the piece’s musical material, a transition that is aided by presumably pre-recorded spoken material.

You can find Joseph on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 17

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 seventeenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Daniel Gilliam, Ryan Noakes, Nicolai Jacobsen, Adriano Fontana and Gitte Viuff.


Daniel Gilliam:


Daniel Gilliam is a composer based in Louisville, Kentucky. From Daniel’s SoundCloud page, I listened to The Aggregate of Our Joy and Suffering, for piano, flute, clarinet and cello, and Fictive Music and After the Dazzle of Day, both for orchestra.


Fictive Music and After the Dazzle of Day are fairly short and use a handful of ideas – paired with distinctive orchestrations – whose transformation is clearly communicated. The Aggregate is a longer and more abstract work, which Daniel keenly anchors with an increasingly present, and constantly redecorated, quote from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier.


You can find Daniel on Twitter.


Ryan Noakes:


Ryan Noakes is a composer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. From Ryan’s SoundCloud page, I listened to A cloud moves through the sky, for wind ensemble, Piano Quartet, for piano quartet, and Solemnity…and Interruptions, for percussion, alto flute and cello.


These works share an elemental focus on color and scoring. This is most obvious in A cloud, wherein orchestration is the brief work’s most active feature. Ryan also uses instrumentation to delineate the structures of Solemnity… and Piano Quartet, but these works are longer and more detailed and also use contrasting materials to propel themselves, compellingly, through time.


You can find Ryan on Twitter.


Nicolai Jacobsen:


Nicolai Jacobsen is a composer based in Houston, Texas. Nicolai and I were colleagues at Rice University. From Nicolai’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Songs for a Winter’s Night, for flute and cello, and Sakura, for clarinet and electronics.


These works are contrapuntal and delicate. Nicolai seems interested in pushing instruments to the threshold of their timbre and expressive nuance, a characteristic most present in the final third of Sakura. This passage begins with a chorale that pits the solo clarinet against electronic reiterations of itself before unraveling into the intricately designed electroacoustic environs that dominate the work.

You can find Nicolai on Twitter.


Adriano Fontana:


Adriano Fontana is a composer and guitarist based in Genoa, Italy. From Adriano’s SoundCloud page, I listened to At the window and Boh, for cello, saxophone and guitar, as well as Piccole Mani, for guitar and electronics.


At the window and Boh clearly demonstrate Adriano’s background as a classical and jazz guitarist. While these works’ harmonic language, particularly in At the window, suggests jazz or pop music, their forms and contrapuntal characteristics disobey these genres’ tropes. Piccole Mani fulfills its purpose as a dance piece very well, and features unobtrusive guitar undulations alongside gently rhythmic percussion samples.


You can find Adriano Fontana on Twitter.


Gitte Viuff:


Gitte Viuff is a composer based in Denmark. From Gitte’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Circle of Woods and parts one and two of Ancient Sparkles, all of which are electronic works.


All three works are ambient, but each is a little different from the others, particularly in the realm of the samples on which they are based. Circle of Woods draws on different clarinet sounds to articulate a stable beat and harmonic progression. Ancient Sparkles, however, is more variegated in its source sounds and character and features more noise and rhythmic ambiguity, though still within a consistently ambient soundworld.

You can find Gitte on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 16

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 sixteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Peter Amsel, Marc Yeats, Chip Michael, Carolyn O’Brien, and Nat Evans.


Peter Amsel:


Peter is a composer based in Ottawa. From Peter’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Sonata Fantasia, for solo viola, Concertpiece, for viola and orchestra, and samples of Peter’s album Music from the Inner Voice.


Sonata Fantasia and Concertpiece feature skillful and forceful viola writing, though they differ in style. Concertpiece adheres to the precedent of an Enescu piece, which it orchestrates, while Sonata Fantasia is an angular, gestural and dramatically furrowed work. Music from the Inner Voice also varies in personality, from the computer realization of an austere chamber symphony to peaceful, ambient, and diatonic music for synthesizer.


You can find Peter on Twitter.


Marc Yeats:


Marc is a composer based in Crewkerne, Britain. From Marc’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Oros, for eight voices, and The Shape Distance [11], for harp and piano.


Marc likens The Shape Distance [11] to Russian nesting dolls, but I think a faberge egg is more apt an analogy. Indeed, both of these works are abstract and intricate, and also maintain a mysterious sense of beauty. Oros, most notably, stuns in the way it so nonchalantly displays the full virtuosity of the human voice in a musical mechanism that feels totally free while carrying the traits of thoughtful organization.


You can find Marc on Twitter.


Chip Michael:


Chip is a composer based in Westminster, California. From Chip’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Reflection Lillies, for cello and piano, as well as realizations of Impromptu #3 and Impromptu #4, both for solo piano.


Chip’s music focuses intently on clear textures and compelling melodies. In Reflection Lillies, this compositional orientation leads to the cello occupying the centerpiece of the music’s foreground, drawing the listener into the piece with a meditative line. Impromptu #3 is similarly subdued, but features a melodic dialog between the hands, while Impromptu #4, contrastingly, bobs with the activity of a playful ostinato.


You can find Chip on Twitter.


Carolyn O’Brien:


Carolyn is a composer based in Chicago. From Carolyn’s website, I listened to Nocturne, for contrabass flute and djembe, and Thing Contained for saxophone quartet.


Both pieces are full of imagery. Nocturne is particularly evocative, as Carolyn produces an impressive array of musical expressions from an unusual pairing of instruments. To me, the combination conjured the sense of a strange, ancient, and possibly submarine, ritual. Thing Contained is livelier, but no less stirring or expansive, and appears to exist as series of phrases that are most saliently tied together by their character more than a motive.

You can find Carolyn on Twitter.


Nat Evans:


Nat is a composer based in Seattle, Washington. From Nat’s website, I listened to Hear No Noise, for soprano, chamber ensemble and field recording, Unrelated, for percussion quintet, and Cutting Word, for men’s chorus and percussion ensemble.


Though Hear No Noise specifically features a running field recording, all three pieces act like large, somewhat ambient, bodies of sound. Hear No Noise and Cutting Word put respective sonic entities on display as pedestals for a vocalized text, the textural delineation of which changes. However, in Unrelated, the ambient form moves and mutates, perhaps because this is an instrumental work.

You can find Nat on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 15

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 fifteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Luke Gullickson, Karen Siegel, James Ricci, Kirk O’Riordan, and Alex Temple.


Luke Gullickson:


Luke Gullickson is a composer based in Chicago. From Luke’s SoundCloud page, I listened to the song The House, Valley of the Moon in Big Horn Mtn Range Sheridan Wyoming, for fixed media, and Outer Channel, for two pianists and two percussionists.


I found these works touching and fundamentally sentimental. The House and parts of Outer Channel convey this character through a style that feels genuine,warm and modern, but not cloying. Valley of the Moon uses different materials to achieve a similar sense of nostalgia, insofar as it features audio samples of friends telling stories, presumably around a campfire.


You can find Luke on Twitter.


Karen Siegel:


Karen is a composer, vocalist, and conductor based in Hoboken, New Jersey. From Karen’s website, I listened to “October 1st” from October in Galicia and “Felucca: The Listening” from Reflections on Espionage, both for voice and string quartet, as well as Vit encore la mousque, quel pasir!, for choir.


Karen describes the delightful Vit encore as a, “re-imagining of fifteenth century Franc-Flemish chanson,” the spirit of which I believe applies to all three works. The two art songs clearly respect the Romantic vocal tradition, but do so in a manner distinct and distant from these precedents.


You can find Karen on Twitter.


James Ricci:


James is a composer based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. From James’ website, I listened to the third movement of Quintet, for pierrot ensemble, Indigo Blue, for flute and piano, and To the Solar Winds, for wind quintet.


These works demonstrate a wide range of musical expression, as well as a notable keenness for instrumental color. For example, the third movement of Quintet and To the Solar Winds are nuanced, energetic and contrapuntal. Indigo Blue is, contrastingly, very sensual and lyrical; and, while the other two works deftly exploit instrumental color, Indigo Blue highlights this musical element the most.

You can find James on Twitter.


Kirk O’Riordan:


Kirk is a composer, conductor, and saxophonist based in Easton, Pennsylvania. From Kirk’s website, I listened to Chaconne, for violin and orchestra, River Lights, for orchestra, and the first two movements of Ductus figuratus, for saxophone and chamber ensemble.


Chaconne and Ductus figuratus are concerto-esque works (the Chaconne is also part of Kirk’s violin concerto), and, as a matter of course, feature melody. River Lights, however, is decidedly unmelodic and atmospheric, a timbre-centric work that shines against two other well-orchestrated pieces. Beyond the skillful use of color, these works are bound by their captivating and expansive characters.


You can find Kirk on Twitter.


Alex Temple:


Alex is a composer based in Chicago; we occasionally correspond online. From Alex’s website, I listened to “Introduction” from The Travels of E.C. Dumonde, for voice and electronics, Thick Line, an indeterminate piece for saxophone and wind quintet, and Stile Antico, for flute and piano.


These works evidence a wry sense of humor. You can hear it clearly in the textual delivery of E.C. Dumonde, or in the wild gestures of Thick Line. This sensibility is more subtly present in the older Stile Antico, which suggests this wit may be a persistent, underlying presence in Alex’s music.

You can find Alex on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 14

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 fourteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Lou Bunk, Ezra Donner, Andrea Reinkemeyer, Ben Stevenson, and Everette Minchew.


Lou Bunk:


Lou Bunk is a composer based in Massachusetts. From Lou’s website, I listened to Cut (Feat. K. Kirchoff), for fixed media, and Twenty Cross Sections of Three Themes, for piano and violin.


Though these pieces bear contrasting instrumentations, they share a nuanced, fragmentary form and a focus on exploring the sonic potential of a tightly controlled and limited sample of musical material. Twenty Cross Sections pursues this aim with a methodical progression of instrumental sounds and delicate gestures. Similarly, Cut creates an ominous atmosphere by wildly and jarringly manipulating what appears to be the recording of a toy piano.


You can find Lou on Twitter.


Ezra Donner:


Ezra Donner is a composer based in Bloomington, Indiana. Ezra and I met at a concert in Ann Arbor. From Ezra’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Mountain Suite, for string orchestra, and excerpts of Symphonic Idyll and Cosmos, both for full orchestra.


Ezra’s music, it seems from these pieces, seeks to engage with the grandeur and expression of the early twentieth century canon. To this end, Ezra’s skill as an orchestrator and lyricist is on full display in these works, particularly in Mountain Suite. I imagine these evident strengths reappear in Ezra’s other music, regardless of instrumentation.


You can find Ezra on Twitter.


Andrea Reinkemeyer:


Andrea is a composer based in Bangkok, Thailand. From Andrea’s website, I listened to Wild Silk, for baritone saxophone, piano and percussion, the first movement of Dos Danzas, for concert band, and Lured By The Horizon, for orchestra.


These works share passages of vibrant rhythms, which, in the case of “Tangential Tango” from Dos Danzas, constitutes the piece’s whole. Lured By the Horizon and Wild Silk counterbalance their steadily rhythmic sections with consequent and antecedent, respectively, passages of freer, slower lyricism. Thus, these pieces use a shared framework of ideas to produce a three unique, compelling and persuasive musical forms.

You can find Andrea on Twitter.


Ben Stevenson:


Ben Stevenson is a composer and guitarist based in Knoxville. From Ben’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Chaconne: Les chemins du desir, for solo piano, How Far The Morning Leaps, for piano and live electronics, and Ghost Metropolis Transition 28, a collaborative live electroacoustic piece with composer Zack Pentecost and saxophonist/composer Marquis’ McGee.


The variety among these pieces captivated me, particularly because I have never encountered a composer whose output includes a classically-oriented solo piano work and improvised electroacoustic music. To Ben’s credit, he not only has these broad interests, but executes them at a very high level, too.


You can find Ben on Twitter.


Everette Minchew:


Everette is a composer based in Saucier, Mississippi. From Everette’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Constructions for Julie Mehretu and Quartet for El Anatsui, both for saxophone quartet, as well as Open Piece No. 1, performed by a large chamber ensemble.


To me, these pieces suggest Everette’s impressive ability to clearly, yet unexpectedly, address the role of harmony in music, as well as employ electrifying instrumental colors. I am not surprised Everette appears so inspired by visual art because these works do not simply play out, they enjoy a dynamic existence in a distinctly beautiful world of space and sound.

You can find Everette on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 13

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 thirteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Asaf Peres, Joe Phillips, Viet Cuong, Ryan Keebaugh, and Paul Wilkinson.


Asaf Peres:


Asaf is a composer based in Ann Arbor, MI. Asaf and I are colleagues at the University of Michigan. From Asaf’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Fun Fun Fun, for reed quintet, and Do The Awkward Stumble and If The Beats Alright She’ll Dance All Night for chamber ensemble.


These works are infectiously ebullient, even in their darker moments. Beside their eclectic musical language, rhythm seems to be these compositions’ most important element. Sparkling activity and languorous stasis appear in opposition throughout these pieces, a dialog Asaf handles most impressively in Fun Fun Fun, because there is no percussion.


You can find Asaf on Twitter.


Joe Phillips:


Joe is a composer, and leader of the ensemble Numinous, based in Brooklyn. From Joe’s website, I listened to Unlimited and four scenes from Joe’s score for the silent film The Loves Of Pharaoh, both performed by Numinous.


Unlimited exhibits two basic elements: a near-constant rhythmic drive, which energizes the piece, and its imaginative array of colors, which Joe toys with expertly. These characteristics also appear in The Loves of Pharoah, but this piece is, necessarily, very different from Unlimited. Nonetheless, the aforementioned qualities can be heard as the foundation beneath the film score’s more freely flowing unfolding.


You can find Joe on Twitter.


Viet Cuong:


Viet is a composer based in Princeton, New Jersey. From Viet’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Moth, for wind ensemble, Obsession, for solo guitar, and Lacquer and Grit, for flute and piano.


The three works of Viet’s I listened to share a vibrant character, which is always conveyed by a gentle, confident treatment of their instrumentation. Viet highlights the virtuosity of a given work’s instrumental forces in the service of the music’s core ideas. This dynamic is clearest, and most compelling, in Obsession, which is an enchanting piece that also sounds like a natural fit to its instrument: the guitar.

You can find Viet on Twitter.


Ryan Keebaugh:


Ryan is a composer and conductor based in Virginia. From Ryan’s website, I listened to In The Dooryard, for mezzo-soprano and piano, and The Suffering Servant, for a cappella SATB choir.


Texture is an important common thread in these two works, particularly in Ryan’s approach to their scoring. The accompanying piano part in In The Dooryard, for example, uses register and space to delicately shade the vocal line in what is a relatively restrained musical landscape. Similarly, Ryan manipulates the spacing of the choir the enhance the element of tension and release present in The Suffering Servant’s tonal harmonic language.


You can find Ryan on Twitter.


Paul Wilkinson:


Paul is a composer and pianist based in Halifax, England. From Paul’s Myspace page, I listened to One By One, for wind quintet, Catch44, for piano and upright bass, and an excerpt of Paul’s Piano Sonata No. 1.


These pieces convincingly demonstrate a wide range of musical styles: Catch44 is, essentially, a slow, lyrical jazz tune, while Piano Sonata No. 1 seems to be a neo-classical piano work. One By One, on the other hand is a very facile modernist-ish instrumental piece whose musical language is far more abstract than that of the other pieces of Paul’s I listened to.

You can find Paul on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 12

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 twelfth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Tony Solitro, Lane Harder, John Mackey, Patrick Harlin, and Alex Burtzos.


Tony Solitro:


Tony is a composer based in Philadelphia. From Tony’s website, I listened to an excerpt of the orchestral work Impromptu & Rondo, and Interplay, for baritone saxophone, trombone, and bassoon. From Tony’s SoundCloud page, I listened to excerpts of his work Unclasped, for soprano and orchestra.


These works share a masterful treatment of the instrumentation, both in terms of general orchestration and the use of timbre as a structural device. This latter quality is most obviously present in Interplay, which depends on the thoughtful overlap and contrast of its instruments’ colors to give the work shape and direction over time.


You can find Tony on Twitter.


Lane Harder:


Lane is a composer and percussionist based in Dallas, Texas. From Lane’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Whispered Interior, for electronics and chamber ensembles, Carey, for drumset and percussion septet, and Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Minor, for solo marimba.


Percussion is present in all these works, but I also found they share a unique, yet clear, style of lyricism. Granted, Carey is not conventionally lyrical, but I still heard an attention to line at the core of its unfolding. I was particularly fond of Whispered Interior, which abounds with subtle references to the music of Erik Satie.


You can find Lane on Twitter.


John Mackey:


John is an internationally-recognized composer. We met when John visited the University of Michigan in 2010. From John’s YouTube Channel, I listened to the work The Frozen Cathedral, for winds, and from the University of Texas Wind Ensemble’s YouTube Channel, I listened to John’s wind symphony Wine-Dark Sea.


These works are deeply earnest, undeniably grand and impressively economical. They both showcase John’s talent for melody and orchestrating for band; but, more importantly, take advantage of a serious understanding of form. As these are recent works, they may signify that John has honed of a powerful compositional device.


You can find John on Twitter.


Patrick Harlin:


Patrick is a composer based in Ann Arbor, where we are colleagues at the University of Michigan. From Patrick’s SoundCloud, I listened to the wind ensemble version of his orchestra piece Rapture, and Adrift, for cello and piano.


Even though Adrift is more lyrical than Rapture, the works share an infectious approach to rhythm. For example, Rapture, even in its quietest passages, retains a foreboding pulse, which suits the work’s expression of the anxiety. Adrift also showcases a modular approach to harmony wherein Patrick draws on a familiar collection of sonorities, the order and arrangement of which is always surprising.


You can find Patrick on Twitter.


Alex Burtzos:


Alex is a composer and educator based in New York. From Alex’s SoundCloud page, I listened to 12.14.12 for large chamber ensemble and The Black Riders, for orchestra.


These pieces are both dark and tremulous, and feature material that frequently and dramatically changes character. This caprice, however, seems very purposeful and meaningful, a quality displayed most provocatively in 12.14.12. Alex describes the piece’s scoring as, “[four] levels of instruments and three conductors”, and the struggle for unity resulting from this setup helps to make the work’s evasive personality approachable and deeply expressive.

You can find Alex on Twitter.

Mapping My Musical Twitterverse: Week 11

After a six-week hiatus, my ambitious blog project “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse” is back for another ten-week episode of listening-to and briefly writing about the music of the composers, songwriters and writers-of-music who follow me on Twitter.


This post marks the eleventh installment in this series and features the music of Isaac Schankler, R.A. Moulds, Bri Arden, Ethan Greene and David Biedenbender.


Isaac Schankler:


Isaac is a composer based in Los Angeles. From Isaac’s website, I listened to Concerto for Mannequin Head, for modulated vocals and electronics, It’s Not Ero!, an electronic pop song, and Honey, Milk and Blood, for women’s chorus and electronics.


Although these pieces all use electronics, they mark an incredible range of style. It’s Not Ero! is catchy enough to fit in on terrestrial radio, while Honey, Milk and Blood seemingly reflects the twentieth century avant-garde. The theatrical Concerto for Mannequin Head lies in between, and sounds so amazingly mysterious, I can picture how powerful its live performance must be.


You can find Isaac on Twitter.


R.A. Moulds:


R.A. Moulds is a composer and author based in Baltimore, Maryland. From R.A.’s SoundCloud page, I listened to “Chevreaux”, from Aquarelles and Offrande for solo piano, as well as Égloga: el Sauce que se enamoró de la Caricia del Viento, for orchestra.


R.A.’s music uses a very traditional language, even to the point that Égloga’s orchestration sounds charmingly anachronistic. This work and Offrande have a deeply earnest character, such that “Chevereaux” stands with its whimsy. To this end, R.A. uses odd accents and diatonic clusters to make this piece sound winkingly off-kilter.


You can find R.A. on Twitter.


Bri Arden:


Bri Arden is a singer/songwriter based in New York. Bri and I went to high school together. From Bri’s website, I listened to the song “Mr. Anonymous”, and I listened to “Still I Rise” and “Miss The Misery”, on Bri’s YouTube Channel.


“Still I Rise” fascinated me the most because it uses the poetry of Maya Angelou as its text. This format gives Bri a chance to flex her muscles as a writer-of-music, and the result is tremendous. The song is beautifully performed and composed, and its merits amplify the impressive talent of Bri’s soulful music and singing.


You can find Bri on Twitter.


Ethan Greene:


Ethan is a composer teaching in Nashville, TN. Ethan and I were colleagues at Rice University. From Ethan’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Environmental Rhythm Etude No .1, for fixed media, Nana, for clarinet and marimba, and Weevil, for mixed quintet.


These pieces are delicately idiosyncratic, and twist one’s expectations with captivating subtlety. For example, in Environmental Rhythmic Etude No. 1, we see this quality in the work’s deceptively regular rhythms. The discretion and thoughtfulness with which Ethan manipulates the prevailing clarity of these works is impressive, and the result of this labor is fascinating, approachable and beautiful music.


You can find Ethan on Twitter.


David Biedenbender:


David is a composer and colleague-emeritus of mine at the University of Michigan. From David’s website, I listened to Dreams in the Dusk for alto saxophone and winds, Grit, for chamber ensemble, and an excerpt of Strange, Beautiful Noise, for orchestra.


These pieces share rhythmic vitality. In Dreams in the Dusk, the saxophone’s solo part drives the music, while the other works cunningly use the drumset to emphasize this element of the texture. In these cases, this rhythmic voice fights desperately and compellingly against its irregularity towards a stability it, to the satisfaction of my ears, does not achieve.

You can find David on Twitter.

Rewinding the First Fifty: Weeks 9 & 10

A new ten week installment of “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse” will begin next Wednesday. But, before we begin an exploration of fifty new composers’ music, let’s revisit the pieces and personalities that made the first ten weeks of this blog project so special.


Below, reconnect with my thoughts on the music of Kevin J. Cope, Christopher Healey, Corey Cunnigham, Hannah Kendall, John Arrigo-Nelson, Daniel Zajicek, Charles Halka, Dennis Tobenski, Thom Norman, and Greg Simon.


Week Nine (February 26, 2014):


Kevin J. Cope:


Kevin is a composer and classical guitarist based in Philadelphia. From Kevin’s website, I listened to Unknown Origin: A Pole Was Journeying, for guitar and alto saxophone, Solstices, for solo guitar, and Sirocco for solo clarinet in A.


Kevin’s comfort zone is the guitar, which is why I will note the compelling non-guitar elements of the above works. By this, I mean the overwhelmingly lyrical solo parts in Unknown Origin and Sirocco. Kevin skillfully makes the most of these instrument’s ability to carry long, flowing melodies, which shows he works well beyond the idiom of his home instrument.


You can find Kevin on Twitter.


Christopher Healey:


Christopher is a composer based in Brisbane, Australia. From Christopher’s SoundCloud page, I listened to his Cello and Piano Sonatina and Mountain Prelude, for solo piano.


Based on these works, I get the sense Christopher’s music is mostly based on triadic harmonies, though these pieces differ significantly in their style. The Sonatina, as the title suggests, has a very “classical” tone, and treats its instruments in a traditional manner. Like a Debussy prelude, Mountain Prelude is more contemplative and evades many of the harmonic conventions of the Sonatina, though it is not wild nor abstract.


You can find Christopher on Twitter.


Corey Cunningham:


Corey Cunnigham and I were colleagues at the University of Michigan from 2011-2013. From Corey’s SoundCloud page, I listened to In Misty Heights and Distant Sea, for orchestra, To Watch The Moon Silently Vanish, for solo cello, and Take a Place in the Light, for fixed media.


These works succeed wonderfully at establishing and contrasting distinct musical spaces. Moreover, the sound worlds Corey creates and uses to build his pieces are, unto themselves, deeply attractive. Whether by sonic color, material character or another element, Corey seems to produce and use terrific sound spaces in any musical setting he likes.


You can find Corey on Twitter.



Hannah Kendall:


Hannah Kendall is a composer based in London, England. From Hannah’s website, I listened to Kanashibari, for chamber orchestra, Vera, for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, and an excerpt of The Great Dark for large ensemble.


Hannah’s musical language is abstract and very idiosyncratic. A great example of this is Vera, which Hannah describes as a work based on a twelve-tone row, but the piece is rather playful and generally does not sound like a stereotypical twelve-tone piece. Overall, these works were filled with intense, striking ideas presented scrupulously through the thoughtful use of their given instrumentation.


You can find Hannah on Twitter.


John Arrigo-Nelson:


John Arrigo-Nelson is a composer based in Pittsburgh. From John’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Phosphene, for chamber orchestra, and fluttazione/attimo, for two pianos and two percussion.


It appears, from these pieces, that John’s music is typified by abstract musical materials whose nuance is offset by emergent rhythmic transparency. Both of these pieces, for example, open with shifting micro-moments that careen towards passages of rhythmic, if not also melodic and harmonic, regularity. In Phosphene, this form yields a stunning, yet fleeting, passage of lyrical solo piano whose poignancy is amplified by its contrast to the work’s preceding material.

You can find John on Twitter.


Week Ten (March 5, 2014):


Daniel Zajicek:


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.


You can find Daniel on Twitter.


Charles Halka:


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.


You can find Charles on Twitter.


Dennis Tobenski:


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.


You can find Dennis on Twitter.


Thom Norman:


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.


You can find Thom on Twitter.


Greg Simon:


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.


You can find Greg on Twitter.