*The Prioress's Tale - a chamber opera in one act for four singers and recorded sound (75 minutes)
A touring chamber opera production that explores issues of religious intolerance, peace-making, and anti-Semitism. As the piece is not currently in production, you can Click here to download an archived website with synopsis, photos, and live links to video excepts. NOTE: After downloading the folder, open it and click on index.html. The site will open (offline) in your default browser. Most of the links, however, are live.
Boston Globe preview article about the premiere production.
*Ruach - for string quartet (20 minutes, one movement)
Premiered by the Borromeo Quartet in 2018
*Dayspring - for clarinet or tenor saxophone and piano (10 minutes, one movement)
Click for Score (see also version with string orchestra)
"Dayspring" is an archaic word for "sunrise", used in the King James version of the Bible both literally and as a metaphor for Christ. This piece explores the possibilities that are open to us at the beginning of each new day. The potential for great joy and also great sorrow is represented by the contrast between the quiet, lyrical opening section and the fast, vigorous middle section. The piece ends with great stillness: a sacred moment of peace in which the two possibilities are reconciled - right before the sun emerges over the horizon...
*Number the clouds - for violin, cello, and piano (one mvt., 15 minutes)
An intensely dramatic composition that explores the experiences of loss and redemption in the biblical book of Job. Premiered by the Hermitage Trio.
*Number the clouds - for flute, cello, and piano (one mvt., 13 minutes)
A version of the piece adapted and transformed to include flute instead of violin.
*Perichoresis - for brass quintet (7 minutes, one movement)
Perichoresis is a fast and joyous composition for brass quintet. The title refers to an ancient theological term used to describe the mystery of the Holy Trinity by imagining the three Persons involved in an endless, whirling dance. Perichoresis has been performed by the Triton Brass Quintet at Tanglewood, Fenway Brass, and also recently by the Grammy-winning Chestnut Brass Company.
Gemini Variations - for two identical saxophones (9 minutes, one movement)
This is a set of variations for two identical saxophones, performed here on two tenors. The piece unfolds slowly, emerging from a very gradual introduction of the pitches of the theme, and builds all the way to a brash, be-bop-inspired ending.
Siciliana - for soprano saxophone and string trio (7 min)
A short, lyrical piece inspired by the Baroque era Siciliana - a gentle, rocking, pastoral dance. However, in this piece the traditional 12/8 meter is replaced by an uneven metric structure that keeps the music moving forward in unpredictable ways. Premiered as part of the final season of Composers in Red Sneakers.
*Strange Energy - for flute/piccolo, bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion (13 min., one mvt.)
A meditative, multimedia chamber piece meant to explore the mystery of the simultaneous immanence and transcendence of God. A recording of a child's voice ritualistically repeats at various points in the composition, saying an ancient prayer attributed to the Eastern Orthodox theologian St. Symeon: "O power of the Divine Fire, O Strange Energy, You who dwell, Christ my God, in light, wholly unapproachable: how in Your essence, totally divine, do you mingle yourself with grass?" Performed in the dark with the musicians surrounding the audience, along with projections of photographs of the natural world, musicians are asked to not only play their instruments, but make various other vocal sounds in imitation of nature. Premiered by Boston's Radius Ensemble.
Cityscape - for unaccompanied bass trombone (5 minutes, 2 mvts.)
Composed for former Boston Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist Douglas Yeo, this piece is inspired by two paintings by the American artist Stuart Davis. The first movement, “Grayscale”, is based upon Davis’ “Landscape”, in which the artist uses shades of gray to capture the heaviness and isolation of a city street at dusk. The second painting, “Combination Concrete”, is a reworking of “Landscape”, done by Davis later in his career - after he had become enamored with jazz. “Combination Concrete” adds vibrant splashes of primary colors to the original structure of the first painting, creating a feisty, energetic vision of the same city street.
*Pneumenon - for chamber orchestra (13 minutes)
A one-movement piece that harnesses the "hidden" sonic capabilities of the orchestra as a metaphor for the wild and unexpected power of the the Spirit. The title connects the Greek work for spirit/breath ("pneuma") with the philosophical term "noumena", referring to the world which we cannot apprehend with our senses.
*Dayspring - for clarinet or tenor saxophone and string orchestra (10 min., one movement)
Click for score (see also version with piano)
*de Chrico's Dream - for chamber orchestra (Mvt. 1 of Sacred Symphony ) (15 minutes)
The meditative first movement of my Sacred Symphony. The title refers to the Spanish proto-surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, whose shadowy, slightly skewed work “Mystery and Melancholy of a Street" provided me with an inspirational visual representation of this interior disquiet. The movement represents the sadness, uncertainty, and vulnerability of the human condition in its loneliest moments - the types of moments that can lead a mortal to thoughts about the immortal. It is out of these thoughts that a spiritual journey may begin.
Rocket Sleigh - original holiday overture for orchestra or wind ensemble (4 minutes)
CHORAL AND VOCAL MUSIC
*Tenebrae factae sunt - for unaccompanied SATB chorus (5 minutes)
Tenebrae factae sunt is a setting of a portion of the traditional liturgy for Good Friday, the day Christians remember Christ’s crucifixion. The opening verse (“There was darkness over all the earth”) appears in both English and Latin several times during the piece, casting a mysterious shadow over Jesus’ final, excruciating words from the Cross. The darkness is interrupted twice by a fugato treatment of the Matthew’s words “Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice”, leading each time to the words of Christ himself. The piece ends with an exhausted but tender depictionof Jesus finally handing his soul over to his Father.
*O Come - for unaccompanied SATB chorus (6 minutes)
A short and mysterious setting of the traditional Advent hymn "O come O Come Emmanuel." While the music is new, the setting inentionally maintains certain affinities with the chant melody to which the text is usually sung. Commissioned by Genesis Chamber Singers in 2016.
*Psalm 19 - for baritone and piano (2 movements, 8 minutes)
A two-song setting of the Biblical Psalm 19 (KJV). The text of the the first song begins "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork." Rather than set these lines gloriously, as Haydn does in his oratorio The Creation, I chose to bring out the wonder, awe, and humility which are another, equally valid response to God's Creation.
brutal arithmetic - for soprano or mezzo-soprano and piano (3 songs, 10 minutes)
A short setting of three poems by the American writer Christopher Hood. This song describes the tragic image of a young child trying to hold together his life in the face of grief. Click here for coverage of a recent performance in New Jersey, with commentary from the poet.
*Darkness from which I come - for soprano and piano (6 songs, 25 minutes)
Six songs that set poems by the German poet R.M. Rilke. These early poems, in new English translations by Mark S. Burrows, describe Rilke's intense spiritual exploration using the striking metaphor of God as a powerful, inescapable darkness.
After 15 years as a professional, I have come to define myself as a “community-based” composer: someone who actively seeks out ways to use his creative skill to serve his community in a variety of ways. I’m not ashamed to admit that I often try to figure out a way for my music to “do good” - whether it is through exploring its relevance to a contemporary issue (my opera on religious intolerance), its resonance with a particular community (sacred music or music written for a dedication ceremony), or its social value (music for educational concerts or audiences at pops concerts.)
I write most of my pieces with a clear sense of whom they are for, the contexts in which they will be used, and what I would like the audience’s experience to be like. Thus, even those pieces of mine that are were not written for specific uses or events usually have a programmatic element (meaning that they are inspired by extra-musical ideas.) I find that this helps my audiences understand my music more deeply because they can approach it by way of the non-musical concept upon which it is based.
I have often said that I try to compose for the "educated non-musician". If my music can communicate something to my non-musical friends and colleagues, I
think I'm succeeding. I do not feel hindered creatively be keeping this goal in mind. Indeed, I am lucky that I do not feel called to a musical style that is particularly abstruse.
Though my music is in turns tonal, atonal, and modal, I hope that it is always lyrical. For me, the most difficult and rewarding task for me compositionally is to write a melody: a single line that is beautiful, interesting, and compelling all by itself. Perhaps because of the connection to the voice and the breath, a well-constructed melodic line will be interesting and will make sense to any perceptive listener - regardless of the harmonic language.
Unsurprisingly, I also write a lot of counterpoint. One of the most gratifying experiences of being a composer is listening to (and watching) performers communicate with each other using my music. Melodic counterpoint invites this type of "conversation" between and among players unlike anything else. Plus, I love the challenge of writing multiple melodies that can stand on their own, yet are more beautiful when combined with others.
I seek to create a sense of drama in my music, particularly on the largest scale. I want to create senses of momentum and tension, and - hopefully - inevitability: the feeling that, in retrospect, the tension (generated by the momentum) was released in the exact "right" way at that point in the the piece. Again, I believe that music created with a keen understanding of dramatic pacing and the balance of tension/resolution cannot help but communicate to the listener.