The Panther [8′]
violin and bassoon (for William Overcash and Benjamin Roidl-Ward) Score Program Note:
The Panther was composed during the Summer and Fall of 2016 for my good friends William Overcash and Benjamin Roidl-Ward.
Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Diana Toman)
His gaze, from pacing back and forth
Behind the bars, has grown so tired
That it contains nothing anymore.
He feels as if there were a thousand bars
And behind the thousand bars, no world.
The soft treat of supply powerful steps,
Which goes around with the very smallest circle,
Is like a dance of force around a center
In which stands numbed a potent will.
Only sometimes, the eye’s lid
Soundlessly opens – Then an image enters,
Moves through the limbs’ taut silence –
And in the heart, it ceases to be.
…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! And since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee… -Moby Dick, Herman Melville
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”
The sea sparkled far and wide in the last glow of evening; … The fog rose, the water surged. The gull flew back and forth; …
-Am Meer, Heinrich Heine (fragment)
04/05/17 – New York, NY – Amaranthine (violin, cello and piano)
PREMIERE – Hunter College, Lang Recital Hall – Longleash Trio
Amaranthine was written during the Winter and Spring of 2017. There are two performance versions, one for piano trio premiered by the Longleash trio, and another for piano trio + flute, clarinet, harp and french horn commissioned and premiered by NAT 28. I would like to thank my good friends Jean-Patrick Besingrand and Zoe Sorrell of Nat 28 for commissioning this piece.
1. An imaginary, undying flower.
2. Unfading, everlasting: a woman of amaranthine loveliness.
As I row over the plain
Of the sea and gaze
Into the distance, the waves
Merge with the bright sky
As certain as color
Passes from the petal,
Irrevocable as flesh,
The gazing eye falls through the world
Haiku – Fujiwara no Tadamichi (trans. Kenneth Rexroth)
Phoenix and the Tortoise (fragment) – Kenneth Rexroth
Eolian refers to the mode that is today commonly known as the Aeolian mode. The nature of this piece stems from the complex history of the Aeolian mode (all modes in general) and its etymology, mainly dealing with the concept of wind and erosion finding its roots in the name of the Greek god Aeolus “ruler of the winds”. Structurally this solo is based on the prelude and fugue model of the baroque era. The opening prelude presents a sound world that is interrupted by wind-like gestures, and is in part inspired by the instrument known as the Aeolian harp, an instrument placed outside or at an open window whereby the strings are put into motion by wind alone. The concluding recitative and quasi fuga (canonic fugue) never fully generate into a traditional form, rather an antiphonal call and response between pitched dyads and wind-like gestures takes place, which is further eroded over the course of the piece. Eolian is part of the Melos Cycle for string quartet, in which a series of solos and duos are performed one after another (attacca), each based on a mode and the concept of its etymology and complex historical utilization.
Eolic “…was fittest for lyric verses, as having a particular sweetness mixed with gravity.”
-Brossard Dictionary (1703)
11/16/16 – New York, NY – Returning (violin and piano)
PREMIERE – Elebash Recital Hall at the CUNY Graduate Center – Seohee Min, violin; Irfan Tengku, piano
Returning was written for the violinist Seohee Min during the Spring and Summer of 2016.
1. Incipit I
2. Con moto I
3. Chimera I
4. Murmurations I-II, Flight, Canticle
6. Murmuration III
7. Con moto II
8. Incipit II/III, Chimera II
ALL I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Or on still evenings when the rain falls close
There comes a tremor in the drops, and fast
My pulses run, knowing thy thought hath passed
That beareth thee as doth the wind a rose.
Camaraderie [stanza 3]
Du bleibst doch immer was du bist. “you remain always what you are.”
02/16/16 – New York, NY – Recitation Tomb (3 baritones and 2 perc.)
PREMIERE – Elebash Recital Hall at the GC – Ensemble C4 and The Curiosity Cabinet
Perry Townsend, Brian Mountford, David See; baritones
Ellery Trafford, Joe Tucker; percussion
Martha Sullivan; conductor
Ezra Pound’s poem The Tomb at Akr Caar depicts the presence of a soul or perhaps the perspective of time. The quality of isolation and suppression found in this poem struck me as fit for homogeneous musical ensembles, especially whereby two groups are at odds with one another while attempting to fuse at the same time. This piece is also a response to Georges Aphergis’ Recitations for solo voice, and utilizes rhythmic material from Recitations eleven and fourteen as well as pitched material from Recitation four. Accumulation of these materials (for instance the pyramid shape of Recitation eleven) is further pronounced, in Recitation Tomb by a slowly descending series of dyads throughout the first part of the piece, effectively burying the vocal range in the low register. Pound’s poem deals with aspects of decay, in such a way that a reading of his poem isn’t much different from running one’s fingers along the remains of hieroglyphs from an unearthed tomb, in an attempt to decipher the words in greater detail. Here bits and pieces of text have fallen to the ground, the voices pass the words around in fragments, although following the original linear arc of Pound’s poem a sense of decoding these cryptic words permeates this setting. The feeling of accumulation in Aphergis’ Recitations is here reconfigured and fragmented, whereby a simplicity of pitch and timbre attribute to a static yet accumulating development through which the voices are affectively “buried” in a tomb themselves.
Waxen retains material from a previously composed duet of mine for violin and viola entitled Cantus. Both the sound world and technique of arpeggiating over the open strings is here composed in a more rigorous manner transformed from a formerly improvised texture to one that is more controlled. Waxen also strives to rework the form of the baroque minuet; the traditional form: I, II, I, III, I da capo is reconstructed by way of misplaced repetitions and eliding material. This scheme is additionally interrupted by an interlude and bagatelle. This “trite” dance form consisted of quick steps and jumps performed at court, and was often found at the tail-end of baroque dance suites as a sort of palate cleanser. The transformation of this dance in Waxen engenders (I hope) a more current and personal expression of the minuet form.
Brossard Dictionary (1703) Minuet definition:
“…a kind of dance, the steps whereof are extremely quick and short, it consists of a coupe, a high step and a balance; it begins with a beat, and its motion is triple…”