Sinfonietta was composed in 1996 while I was living in Finland on a Fulbright Fellowship. The work is cast in two contrasting movements. The first is an extended “Sonata-Allegro” form. The principal theme is presented in the trumpet and strings. The second theme is presented in the oboe with a delicate woodwind accompaniment. A brief closing section introduces a chordal motif. The remainder of the movement elaborates these themes, building to a climactic return of the principal theme. The movement concludes with a fugal coda. The second movement telescopes the remaining three movements of a traditional symphony. It begins with a slow section that juxtaposes eerie polychords with descending string lines. The material is taken over by the woodwinds, then elaborated by the lower strings, building to a graceful dancelike section that serves as the “scherzo”. These two ideas are finally brought together in a triumphant climax, leading to a quicksilver coda. Sinfonietta was first performed by the Omaha Symphony Orchestra as a result of their new music competition.
Infernal Whispers was composed for Jerry Junkin and the University of Texas Wind Ensemble in 1996. It is based on my Two Pieces for Chamber Ensemble, which was composed for the University of Texas New Music Ensemble that year. The work is cast in two movements. The evocative first movement is a passacaglia framed by an explosive introduction and coda. During the passacaglia, the repetitions of the theme continually speed up and later begin to overlap, creating a series of mensuration canons. The second movement is a kinetic release of the energy built up during the moody first movement.
Vortex was originally composed in 1995 for Pierrot ensemble plus percussion and was later arranged for string orchestra. It is a short, energetic piece that begins with a burst of energy. A mysterious passage ensues, punctuated by occasional outbursts, and builds gradually until the opening intensity is regained. At that point, the opening outburst is juxtaposed with two contrasting ideas–a disjunct triplet motive and a restless, hovering motive–in rapid succession. The opening outburst returns to close off the section, leading into a dreamlike passage that features the strings in triple-octaves, accompanied by the marimba and piano. As this intensifies, the cello takes the lead in its lowest octave, ushering in a return of the opening outburst. This subsides into the triplet idea, which becomes an ostinato in the piano. From here the intensity builds to the end of the piece, with all of the main ideas returning in varied form. The concluding peroration is the final embodiment of the opening outburst.
…the weakening eye of day was primarily composed between September and December of 1994, though the first sketches appeared in July and minor revisions occurred during the first half of 1995. It was first performed by the Hungarian Radio Orchestra under the baton of János Kovács.
The title stems from a poem by Thomas Hardy, “The Darkling Thrush”, which was literally written on the eve of the twentieth century. In this poem, Hardy laments the passing from Romanticism to modernism and looks to the bleakness of the pending century, all the while recognizing its unavoidability. The music seeks to reconcile the rigorous demands of modernism, while at the same time subsuming them into a Romantic context. It has been awarded a BMI Student Composers Award, a special “Commendation of Excellence” in the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Competition, and Second Prize in the First International Composers’ Competition “In Memoriam Zoltán Kodály”.
…the weakening eye of day is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Albert, my first true compositional mentor, who’s life was cut tragically short in a car accident in 1992.
Intimate Voices was composed in the summer and early fall of 2015 for the Lyris Quartet as part of their “Intimate Letters” project. The project involved their recording of Janacek’s String Quartet No. 2 (Intimate Letters) as well as works by four commissioned composers responding to the Janacek in some way. I have always been struck by how little Janacek’s work corresponds with my conception of intimacy. I decided my work would explore my own notion of intimacy. In it, I exploit the gentle side of the string quartet – muted sonorities, quiet dynamics, delicate gestures – with ideas unfolding gradually and organically in a single formal arc.
Although the mood of Intimate Voices contrasts strongly with that of the Janacek, its materials all owe their genesis to two prominent themes from Intimate Letters. The passionate opening theme of the first movement appears transformed into a searching melody that first appears nearly halfway through the work and becomes the principal melodic idea for Intimate Voices. But the core of the work comes from the eerie melody introduced by the viola about ten seconds into the first movement of Intimate Letters. The first four notes of this theme – G-C-F#-D – become the harmonic and melodic palette from which the entirety of Intimate Voices evolves.