Tell Me... (2012)
Tell Me... (originally for string quartet) is structured like the work of a confused storyteller, mixing strands of multiple stories. The piece opens with the juxtaposition of intense, frenzied music and the slow, pulsating chords of a dirge. Motives from both these themes are used in a wild dance, which interrupts the opening section, followed by a mournful song. The dance motives return in an accelerating section, leading to the passionate climax of the pulsating dirge theme to the end the piece.
Munich Chamber Orchestra
Alexander Liebreich, conductor
October 27, 2012
Iberian Sketches (2010)
1. Fado Menor
2. Error Meus
3. Fallaste Corazon
Iberian Sketches is a setting of three folk songs: Fado Menor - a sad, introspective song from the Portuguese "fado" tradition about regretting one's past; Error Meus - a more rhapsodic and passionate Portuguese "fado" song about regret; and Fallaste Corazon - a Spanish song about life and the power of the human soul.
Commissioned by the Irvine Classical Players Chamber Orchestra to mark their 2010 tour to Spain and Portugal.
Irvine Classical Players Chamber Orchestra, Henry Miller conductor
June 17, 2010
Sonic Dreams Made Real (2007)
1. Sonic Dreams
2. Dreams Made Real
(movements performed without pause)
The title Sonic Dreams Made Real refers to the orchestra itself and combines elements of a violin concerto and fanfare. The first movement begins with a repeating, "dreamy" arpeggio played by the piano and percussion. From this arpeggio, a solo violin melody emerges, calling out to other members of the orchestra to begin playing. The lyrical movement builds to a climax as all the members of the orchestra enter, leading into the unrelenting, fast-paced second movement. This movement builds on motives from the opening which are finally transformed into a brass fanfare accompanied by pulsating chords in the other sections of the orchestra to the end the piece.Sonic Dreams Made Real was commissioned by the Holland Symphony Youth Orchestras in commemoration of their 20th anniversary season.
Holland Area Youth Orchestra, Richard Piippo conductor
West Ottowa Performing Arts Center
March 2, 2008
Songs Lost and Forgotten (2006)
1. Children's Song
2. Chant Fragments
(movements may be performed separately)
Songs Lost and Forgotten deals with my own memories of being sung to. The first movement, Children's Song, was inspired by the death of my grandmother. It is based on the old French song Sur le pont d'Avignon, which she often sang. The tune is never stated directly. Rather, the melodic material is based on altered versions of the children's song. Like juxtaposed photographs, the altered versions are organized into a series of musical tableaux of varying musical affect which portray memories that aren't completely realized.
The theme of childhood leads to the second movement, Chant Fragments, which is based on musical memories from my early childhood living in the United Arab Emirates. The movement was inspired by memories of hearing many different musical influences on television during that time, specifically fragments of music from throughout the Middle East.
The final movement, Basslines, evokes a musical memory from my more recent past: listening to pop music as a teenager in the early nineties. The movement's musical material springs from stylized pop music melodies played by the bass instruments of the orchestra. The two sections of the movement are separated by the same "chorus" material of sustained chords played by the entire orchestra. The movement ends with the material from the two halves of the movement converging on the pitch A, representing a metaphoric fading of these memories back into the past.
Underwood New Music Reading Sessions
American Composer Orchestra, Jeffrey Milarsky conducting
Miller Theatre, NY
May 15, 2006
A Letter Home (2004)
A Letter Home is an extended song for orchestra dedicated to my sister and written during a period of great pain in our family that began with our father's sudden illness. I decided to express my emotions through images of winter in Ann Arbor. Specifically, I was fascinated with the image of wooden branches encased in ice after an ice storm. To me, this image represented a beautiful kind of embrace, which seemed to me to offer comfort from the loss she and I were suffering together.
This winter scene is depicted in the opening of the work and developed throughout the rest of the piece. The first four notes of the opening melody, played by solo flute, spell out my nickname for my sister: Alex. This melody is answered by an inexact imitation played by the vibraphone and glockenspiel. This three note melody spells out the name Teo, which is my sister's nickname for me.
University Symphony Orchestra, Marcus Carpenter conductor
Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan
February 1, 2004
Torn Threads Rewoven (2003)
3/3/3/3; 4/3/3/1; timp, 3perc, hp; strgs
Torn Threads Re-Woven is my personal response to the tragic events of Sept. 11th. The title comes from an advertisement I saw in a tailor shop window while wandering through downtown Manhattan after visiting "ground zero." Haunted by the devastation that had, up to then, only been images on the nightly news, I came across the sign which read in large letters: "RE-WEAVING," or the process of restoring torn or frayed threads. As I walked passed the window, this word stuck in my mind. I began to picture "ground zero" as a huge tear in the physical and emotional landscape of New York City. Re-weaving threads became a metaphor for both my desire to turn back the clock on the events of Sept. 11th, that had become so real, and my need to look for hope in the face of such great loss.
Torn Threads Re-Woven begins with a loud "tearing" gesture in the form of grotesque glissandi in the string section, landing on the pitch A, played very passionately. Like jagged edges of torn fabric, this gesture is rigidly juxtaposed with two other musical "threads": a ritualistic chant, played by muted trumpets, and a fragment of a simple song, played by flutes and percussion. These musical ideas become the materials upon which the rest of the piece is based.
Torn Threads Re-woven was commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony.
Feb. 16, 2003
New York Youth Symphony, Paul Haas conductor
Carnegie Hall, New York