I am honored to have been awarded a commission to write a site-specific work for the famous Newberry Library (https://www.newberry.org/) as part of Open House Chicago (https://openhousechicago.org/), funded by Access Contemporary Music https://www.acmusic.org/. My piece focuses on the front lobby and stairwell, with the instruments separated spatially. Event is Saturday, October 13, 2018. The work is played continuously (with short breaks) throughout the afternoon.
"Eight O's in Woolloomooloo," for contralto and baroque string quartet (with viola da gamba), commissioned by Galax Quartet; "Fox Hollow," a string quartet, commissioned by the Lafayette String Quartet; "The Library of Babel," for two five-octave marimbas, commissioned by Jack Van Geem; "The Space Between Us," for two string quartets and Radiodrum-driven Trimpin percussion, commissioned by Other Minds; "Congregations" for eight cellos, commissioned by Cello Octet Amsterdam.
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Performance of third movement of new violin concerto (composed May 2016) from Tytuvenai Festival, in Lithuania. For further information, and video of the first two movements, please follow this link: "How Did It Get So Late So Soon?"
"How Did it Get So Late So Soon?" is a musing on time folding back on itself, in homage of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss, whose wildly creative illustrations and texts inspired the melodic shapes and satirical overtones of the work.
This twenty-five minute concerto is the latest in a series of works exploring non-linear perception and connection. Earlier such compositions include "The Space Between Us" for eight strings, Trimpin percussion and radiodrum (2011); "Quiet Places," for string quartet (1996); and "Dybbuk," for chamber ensemble (1980).
It was premiered on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 8:00 pm at the Tytuvenai Festival, Lithuania. Karen Bentley Pollick, violin; Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre Orchestra, Robertas Šervenikas, conductor.
The title is taken from this short poem by Dr. Seuss:
“How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”
Violinist Karen Bentley Pollick, one of America's leading contemporary music violinists, has been championing the medium of live video/film combined with solo violin. In a desire to include "Cluck Old Hen Variations" in these shows, we enticed video animation artist Fred Kolouch to create a fanciful animation, based on ink drawings and simple abstracted objects, all suggested by the words of the folk tune, "Cluck Old Hen," which served as the basis of "Cluck Old Hen Variations." The words go "My old hen's a good old hen, she lays eggs for the railroad men, sometimes nine sometimes ten, that's enough for the railroad men. My old hen cackles, she cackles quite a lot, the next time she cackles, she'll cackle in a pot."
Info on performances here. Here are several stills from the animation...
Just finished the Galax commission, "Eight Os in Woolloomooloo."
Here is a description of the piece...
Mark Twain, during his 1897 trip around the world, wrote in his diary:
Blazing hot, all day. December 20. Back to Sydney. Blazing hot again. From the newspaper, and from the map, I have made a collection of curious names of Australasian towns, with the idea of making a poem out of them. It may be best to build the poem now and make the weather help.... Those are good words for poetry. Among the best I have ever seen. There are 81 in the list. I did not need them all, but I have knocked down 66 of them, which is a good bag, it seems to me, for a person not in the business... The best word in that list, and the most musical and gurgly is Woolloomooloo... It has eight O's in it.
"Eight O's in Woolloomooloo" traverses a vast space, full of extreme contrasts and absurd exaggerations, inspired by Twain's satirical genius. The music is down-home American... what else could it be?... but peppered by impressions of the Australian outback.
The work was written specifically with Baroque instruments in mind, with their distinctive timbre and coloration (though it can also be performed on modern instruments), and for the virtuosity and musicality of the Galax Quartet. The vocal part was inspired by Karen Clark's beautifully expansive pure tone and stylistic flexibility, ranging from opera to bluegrass.
"Eight O's..." was commissioned by the Galax Quartet with the help of a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. Thanks also to Australian Professors Philip Mcmanus, Alistair Riddell and Peter Kirkpatrick, who helped with the pronunciation of the place names.
The Galax Quartet has commissioned me to write Eight O's in Woolloomooroo, based on a text by Mark Twain. In this work, Galax will be joined by contralto Karen Clark. Work on the piece is supported by a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the San Francisco Early Music Society and the Galax Quartet.
Galax Quartet is modeled after an early version of the string quartet — two Baroque violins, Baroque cello and viola da gamba — developed by the eighteenth century composer and viola da gamba virtuoso, Carl Friedrich Abel. The personnel of Galax include some of the top early music musicians in the world: Elizabeth Blumenstock, David Wilson, Roy Whelden and David Morris.
I first met Karen Clark when I was a Visiting Professor at Princeton University. There,as part of the Composer's Ensemble, she gave a stellar performance of my work, Number Man, for the ghost of J.S. Bach for four voices and oboe. I was floored by the flexibility of her voice and by her musicality. I am very much looking forward to collaborating with her and Galax on this new work.
On the technical front, I've recently been involved in a variety of projects as part of my role as Senior Scientist/Engineer at Universal Audio.
Fox Hollow is a string quartet commissioned by the Lafayette String Quartet. The work was premiered at Open Space in Victoria, BC, Canada, on November 8, 2013.
The title refers to the Fox Hollow Folk Festival, which I attended as a teenager (and later performed in, as part of "Bottle Hill," an eclectic bluegrass band). The festival was hosted by the Beers Family on their family homestead, and ran from 1966 to 1980. While I have been to many festivals of all kinds before and since, this one stands out as particularly meaningful.
Steve Winter of WSHU describes the festival as follows: "It was a festival of the times, steeped in romance as a world of musical magic and enchantment was created. It was a festival of intimacy and limited attendance that brought together “big names” with lesser known traditional artists. It was purely acoustic — no electricity."
"Fox Hollow" for string quartet is in four connected movements depicting different moods and times of day: "Sawmill Tuning" is based on the modal banjo tuning used in many Appalachian folk songs. "Midday Blues" begins with a mournful viola solo and includes a freely rhythmic heterophony. "Natural Amphitheater" recalls concerts in which the audience sat on the ground on a terraced hillside. Finally, in "Campground Cacophony Under the Stars," multiple overlapping jam sessions expand and recede until the dawn, when it all starts again.
Wrote a new cadenza for the Mozart G Major violin concerto, 1st movement; this new cadenza is shorter than those that are often played and quickly moves to a remote key (in the stratosphere), then works its way back to Earth.
"NotomotoN Unstrung," a collaboration with Andrew Schloss for mandolin and signal-processed robotic percussion, controlled by the "Radiodrum" a 3D percussive controller.Read More
The Library of Babel is scored for two five-octave marimbas, commissioned by San Francisco Symphony principal percussionist Jack Van Geem. It was premiered at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival in July 2013, performed by Van Geem and Fumito Nunoya. The title refers to a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, which describes a nearly-infinite library containing every possible book of a certain length and format, in every possible language. In addition to every book ever written or someday to be written, the library includes every possible misprint of these books. As the volumes are organized at random, nobody can ever find anything. Yet, somewhere in the library is the answer to every possible question.
The Space Between Us was commissioned by Other Minds, with support from the James Irvine Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts. It is scored for two spatially-separated string quartets and a set of robotic instruments performed by a percussionist using a 3D sensor. The robotic instruments were created specially for this piece by Seattle sound artist Trimpin, whose work has appeared in galleries throughout the world and who was a winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant. The instruments include a set of 18 chimes that are hung above the audience. The piece was premiered at the 2011 Other Minds Festival. Excerpts below (titles are silent)...
Here is a photo at Trimpin's studio in Seattle, where he is describing to me his ideas for the chime mechanism:
The robotic instruments are controlled remotely by a Radiodrum (a 3-D performance controller with six degrees of freedom.) The work includes a set of chimes that surround the audience and are controlled remotely by the radiodrum, as well as remote control xylophone, glockenspiel and piano.