The Festival I started 9 years ago and curate each year in my hometown of Carlsbad, CA is happening on September 21-23. I’m really excited about the line-up so thought I would share it here. If you’re anywhere near Southern California that weekend, I suggest you come out.
Here’s a recording of “Fleet” #2 of “4 Pieces for Violin and Piano” from the premiere at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis in January also by the fantastic teenage musicians violinist Alexi Kenney and pianist Hilda Huang. I’m really happy with how this one came out.
Here’s a recording of “Level” from the premiere at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis in January by the fantastic teenage musicians violinist Alexi Kenney and pianist Hilda Huang. Writing “Handoff” last October put me on a 3-piece kick of music with drones/pedals that included “within” and “Level,” all written in quick succession in the fall.
I recently received a video of a collaborative dance-theatre piece by choreographer Laura Diffenderfer that I wrote the music and did sound design for. It is an abstract retelling of Willa Cather’s short story “A Wagner Matinee” and was premiered at the Red Cloud Opera House in Red Cloud, Nebraska (population 1020), Cather’s hometown. The performance in the video is from the New York premiere at the Merce Cunningham Studio in 2010. This excerpt comes from the extended middle section of the work in which Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde stirs up memories in the aunt of the story’s narrator. Musically, I juxtaposed a processed recording of the Prelude with wind recordings evoking the harshness of the Nebraskan landscape. From this emerges a solo piano piece that is essentially a long minimalist deconstruction of the iconic chords of the Prelude. The piano solo starts sparsely at 2:34 and builds up eventually from there.
I recently was listening back through some of my older music, and was still remarkably happy with how my film scores sound. So, I decided to make a little collection of my favorites that haven’t seen the light of day in awhile- kind of an EP- and put them online. These are largely written during my senior year in college and the year after (10 years ago!) and are for a variety of student projects and independent short films. They are scored for everything from solo vibraphone to synths to full orchestra. All that need a conductor were conducted by me. There’s 7 tracks totaling 12 minutes. Give them a listen…
Back in early October while recovering from the Carlsbad Fest, I wrote a quick piece for the wind quartet DZ4. They had several (24 to be exact) friends to write a 2-3 minute piece in each of the major and minor key a la The Well Tempered Clavier. I got C minor, and chose to treat it very strictly: no accidentals and a C drone throughout. I also thought about the ensemble and how different the sounds of oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn are from each other (while all being in the same orchestral family) compared to say, the instruments of a string quartet.
So, I decided to write a simple piece with two main elements (a melody and a rhythmic accompaniment) but that become interesting in their constantly changing colors as they are passed around the four instruments. The melody is seamlessly passed from instrument to instrument depending on which is most appropriate for the range and the character of each part of the melody. The rhythmic pattern on middle C stays the same throughout and alternates every other note between the instruments not playing the melody at the time. Through both of these ideas this piece puts a spotlight on an old technique of good chamber music playing: handing off a musical idea from one musician to the next. Hence the title: Handoff.
A few weeks ago I finished writing 4 Pieces for Violin and Piano for the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. This commission is for their young artists competition and had one of the more specific set of parameters I’ve worked with: write a piece consisting of 3-5 short movements each of which is appropriate for a different level of teenage violinist.
On January 8, each of the competition’s violinists will choose one of the movements to play as part of their competition performance and I will be one of the judges. The following weekend, last year’s competition winners Alexi Kenney and Hilda Huang will premiere the piece in its entirety. This project is the brainchild of the excellent pianist Lara Downes, and I think it is a really fantastic experience for these teenage musicians to have the opportunity to premiere a new piece.
In writing the piece, I thought about what I would have wanted to play when I was their age and how I could write something that would work for this project that I might also want to play myself in the future. So, two of the movements are explorations of ideas I have played with in Build pieces, one is a new rhythmic direction for me and one is a kind dirge. I have to say, it was a bit of a challenge to write a piece for different ability levels that still works as a whole, but I’m pretty happy about the outcome.
I’ll post a recording (either of the premiere or of me playing it) here when one is available.