Charged Particles is a shimmering, jazz-inflected overture that was composed in 2011 for MUSE/IQUE to open its inaugural season at Caltech in Pasadena, CA.
Touching Red was inspired by my toddler son’s fascination with matches. On seeing a match with a red tip lit, he said he wanted to “touch red”. The work explores the idea of wonder – the magic of flame flaring to life from nothing – but also of danger. The work was composed in 2010 as a commission for the Utah Arts Festival.
Variation-Fantasy is a set of free variations for large chamber ensemble based on a theme from the first movement of my Seven Last Words for unaccompanieed violin. The theme is first presented in the first violin and upper strings against a shimmering backdrop. It is transformed and manipulated throughout the piece in a cascade of variations of varied character and style. It was commissioned by the YMF Debut Orchestra of the Young Musicians Foundation.
Rhythm Changes was composed in 2002 for Cologne-based duo lirico, who gave the premiere of the work in January 2003, and was subsequently arranged for violin and orchestra. My preceding works, Dialogues for viola and piano and LINES/ANGLES for orchestra, had been growing in harmonic and melodic complexity. Rhythm Changes represented a shift to a more lighthearted affect and an embrace of my American musical heritage. As the title suggests, it pays homage to Gershwin and to the jazz tradition of building new works on the harmonic progression (“changes”) from “I Got Rhythm”, though highly sublimated. Unable to resist the musical pun, the work is also an exploration of constantly shifting rhythms.
LINES/ANGLES was composed between August and November 2001. The title is reflected both in the surface materials and at the structural level. The materials consist of sustained notes or chords (“lines”) and disjunct melodic gestures (“angles”). The linear sections unfold through shifting timbre, texture, and harmonic density; the angular sections are propelled by rhythm and counterpoint. Initially, the lines and angles are kept separate, but over the course of the piece they are juxtaposed and finally integrated: the angles stretched into lines and the lines reassembled into angles. Structurally, this dichotomy is reified through formal stasis (“lines”) and disjuncture (“angles”).
The final third of the piece was composed in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States; indeed, the brutal brass passage was sketched on the very day. I dedicate LINES/ANGLES to the victims of terrorism and of the “War on Terror”.
LINES/ANGLES was commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It was first performed on February 9, 2002, under the baton of Gary Kulesha.