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Recent Commissions

"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.

"How did it get so late so soon?", for violin and orchestra

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 US premiere (in slightly different orchestration) was Nov. 11, 2016 with Karen Bentley Pollick and the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, Bahman Saless, 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?”

"Eight O's in Woolloomooloo", text by Mark Twain

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.

Commission from Galax Quartet with Karen Clark

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.

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