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Drowsy Maggie Dreaming was a piece that I wrote for, and in collaboration with, two good friends from Lawrence: Andrew Cashner and Katherine Moore Rush. The piece is a set of five variations on the fiddle tune “Drowsy Maggie,” which you don’t hear in full until the final movement. The overall form of the piece imitates fiddle performance practice: just as a fiddler typically starts off playing the tune simply then builds speed and ornamention, the piece starts with a simple, slow and sustained movement then builds speed with each movement. The final movement was an improvised collaboration between the three of us, and much of what you hear in it is quasi-planned out improvisation by Andrew and Katherine. The whole piece is a kind of miniature fiddle concerto with a few surprises (in the cadenza especially) along the way. I hope you enjoy listening to¬†Drowsy Maggie Dreaming.

I wrote this piece at the request of Rebecca Dirksen, who is one of the two performers playing on this recording (Daniel Van Sickle is also performing.) The piece is for piano, two performers: one playing the keyboard and the other playing the inside of the piano. I based the music explicitly on a favorite poem of my grandfather’s, “The Night has a Thousand Eyes,” by Francis William Bourdillon.

The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
and the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.

A lot has happened at Lawrence, my undergrad alma mater, since I graduated in 2004. The composition department seems to have grown a great deal, and they recently started up a handsome-looking blog of goings-on, the Lawrence Composition Blog. Incidentally, my orchestral piece Unfolding is one of the “Listen” posts, but there are other examples of work by students both current and graduated that make me proud of having gone there!

After 8 months of preparation, my new cantata, With Stars and Shells, Rest in Peace, will premiere in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall at UC Santa Barbara on May 23. The piece, which calls for string orchestra, choir, and tenor, is dedicated to all who have suffered in Iraq. I am grateful to the writers who gave me permission to set their words to music. The movements of the cantata are:

I. War Words- Ron Antonucci

II. Rain on a Battlefield- Yehuda Amichai (trans. Assia Guttman)

III. Clockwork- Sgt. Zach Scott-Singley

IV. The Missing- Gerard Van der Leun

V. Letter Home- Army Pfc. Jesse Pivens

VI. What If- Anonymous

VII. Requiescat in Pace

The program also includes two other world premieres: Katherine Saxon’s oratorio, The Return of Silence, and Tim Beutler’s Road to Emmaus. The concert will feature some wonderful musicians as well:

Jerry Hui, guest conductor
Temmo Korisheli, tenor
Christine Hollinger, soprano
Katherine Saxon and Claire Danielson, sopranos
Blythe Tai, alto

One of my favorite older pieces is a string trio that I wrote my freshman year of college in 1999. It consists of three movements, fast, slow, fast, the last two of which I am including here. The second movement, Largo cantabile, was meant to be a quiet, suspended center to the whole piece, while the last movement, Presto, is a quick burst of perpetual motion, borrowing liberally from Bartok and Shostakovich, and ending in a frenzy. The performers are Courtney Hanna-McNamara, violin, Hillary Nordwell, viola, and Steven Girard, cello.

The world premiere of my piece Free Variations took place at the University of California at Santa Barbara during the 2007 Primavera Festival. The piece is scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. The theme is My Country ‘Tis of Thee, each of the five variation movements is a kind of meditation on patriotism. For instance, two of the movements involve the whole ensemble coming together and democratically sharing the same instrument (the piano), while one movement is a solo meditation. Here are excerpts from the score for Free Variations.

Unfolding, for orchestra

Here is a recording of Unfolding, a piece for full orchestra that I wrote in 2004. One of the inspirations for the piece was stop-motion photography of flowers showing the gradual opening and closing of flowers with all the unique stages in between. The orchestra is made up of student musicians from my alma mater, Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin.

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