Iseult Speaks (2016) – view in online store
Commissioned by the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra
Text by Elizabeth Hamilton
Instrumentation: Mezzo-Soprano | | | 1 perc. | harp | strings (also available for piano)
Duration: 36:00
Premiere: Feb. 20, 2016 | Charity Clark and the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra
Program Notes

Iseult Speaks is an extended song cycle for mezzo-soprano based on a retelling of the Tristan/Iseult myth.  For those of you who might not be familiar with the story, the basic outline—and there are many variations on this skeleton—is that Tristan is supposed to bring Iseult to marry his uncle, but on the way they fall in love, usually because of a potion they accidentally ingest.  Portrayals of Iseult range from passive cypher to tragic heroine to wanton seductress, but she is almost always cast as a one-dimensional accessory to Tristan.

Elizabeth Hamilton’s evocative and provocative poems reexamine the legend from Iseult’s point of view, here somewhat omniscient and shaded with a modern sensibility that links the tale to contemporary experiences.  The text touches on questions of gender roles, societal pressure, and personal power as the narrator contemplates her life, rages against the unfairness of fate, wallows in memories of physical affection, condemns Tristan for his inaction, and vacillates between confidence, insecurity, hope, and despair.

It has been a pleasure setting these gorgeous poems, and I want to thank Elizabeth for trusting me with her words!

Still I Rise! (2015) view in online store
Instrumentation: | | timp.+2 | harp | piano | strings
Alt. Instrumentation: | | timp.+3 | harp | piano | strings
Duration: 10:00
Premiere: TBA
Program Notes

Still I Rise! is named after Maya Angelou’s eponymous poem.  Her words express a profound sentiment of perseverance: they reflect not only surviving hardships, but coming out of them with one’s spirit in tact.  The narrator’s sassiness, quirky humor, and energy are manifested in the music’s grooves, flirty lines, and vibrant colors.  Angelou’s theme of endurance is expressed as the main motive or “protagonist” travels through periods of confidence, adversity, manic excitement, questioning, and catharsis.  Even when the identity of the main motive is almost obliterated by the heavy, static chords of the climax, it emerges to close the piece with a wink and a flourish – always rising again.

 Seasonal Affective Disorder (2011) – view in online store
Winner of the 2012 NewMusic@ECU Orchestra Composition Competition
Instrumentation: | | timp. | strings
Duration: 6:30
Premiere: Oct. 16, 2011 | Yakima Symphony Chamber Orchestra
Program Notes

Seasonal Affective Disorder was written in 2011 for the Seasons Fall Music Festival. The condition for which the piece is named generally involves the connection of some negative mood with a particular season – an ironic reference, since I have particularly fond memories of the time I spent at the Seasons Festival in 2010 and am quite partial to fall in general (being both the season in which I was born and that which contained my favorite holiday, Halloween). Still, the nervous excitement and chaotic outbursts of the music do reflect some of the emotions I associate with autumn, albeit taken to a (possibly unhealthy) extreme.

Twisted Blue (2011, rev. 2013) – view in online store
Commissioned by the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: | | 2 perc. | strings (alt.: clarinet and piano)
Duration: 14:00
Premiere: April 20, 2013 | HICO with Alexander Kollias, clarinet
Program Notes

Twisted Blue was written for clarinetist Dan Liptak to perform with the Hartt Independent Chamber Orchestra conducted by Erberk Eryilmaz. The title comes from the bluesy progression that forms the basis of the second movement, which was in fact composed first in a few frantic fall afternoons. The opening movement followed, and then the finale.

Vortices (2010) – view in online store
Winner of the IAWM’s 2011 Libby Larsen Prize
Instrumentation: | | timp. | strings
Duration: 5:15
Premiere: October 16, 2010 | Yakima Symphony Chamber Orchestra
Program Notes

When I was very young, I became interested in astronomy – particularly in the planets of the solar system. Vortices for orchestra was inspired by images I remember seeing of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a gigantic storm that has existed for hundreds of years. This ironically brief perpetual motion romp is based on chaotic fragments and swirling ostinatos (or repeated patterns). Volatile, bubbling textures are contrasted with bombastic tuttis to reflect a child-like vision of the storm. The work was written for the 2010 Seasons Music Festival in Yakima, WA, where it was premiered in October 2010.

Black Satin Triptych (2010) view in online store
Commissioned for the Sgt. Katherine E. Brunnelle Memorial Concert
Instrumentation: | | timp. | strings
Duration: 9:15
Premiere: April 17, 2010 | Sgt. Katherine E. Brunnelle Memorial Concert Orchestra
Program Notes

Black Satin Triptych is a tango fantasy: tango because that was what conductor Noah Glynn requested when commissioning the work, and fantasy because other musical styles kept creeping in, making the piece a very non-traditional sort of tango. The three main sections of the composition follow a medium – slow – fast scheme and share certain themes and gestures, though each explores a unique subset of the varied moods and emotions that can be expressed through tango. This work was composed for the third annual Sgt. Katherine E. Brunnelle Memorial Concert in Lincoln, NH, where it was premiered in April 2010.

Gyre Variations (2009)
Commissioned for the Sgt. Katherine E. Brunnelle Memorial Concert
Instrumentation: string orchestra
Duration: 7:30
Premiere: March 28, 2009 | Sgt. Katherine E. Brunnelle Memorial Concert Orchestra
Program Notes

The Gyre Variations are based a theme built from arpeggiated chords. Initially, these chords are dissonant augmented triads. As the theme recurs throughout the piece, the harmonies shift from dissonant to consonant and vice versa. Between the appearances of the theme, other ideas are introduced to create a rondo form. The music thus spirals outwards from the opening theme, constantly moving forward yet never really leaving its origin. To me, such a circular form seems to be a metaphor for the human experience: one will constantly grow and evolve through difficult times and then achieve moments of repose or joy, yet always be rooted in their previous experiences.

Scenes from Battleship Potemkin (2008) – view in online store
Instrumentation: | | timp.+1 | harp | strings
Duration: 9:40
Premiere: April 16, 2008 | The Hartt Contemporary Players
Program Notes

Battleship Potemkin was written to accompany scenes from the silent film of the same title. The movie depicts an uprising triggered by the murder of a sailor by one of his officers. This score was written for the Hartt Contemporary Players Ensemble, who premiered the work on April 16, 2008.

Fantasy Variations on a Forgotten Myth (2007) – view in online store
Instrumentation: | | timp.+1 | piano | strings
Duration: 13:00
Premiere: Aug. 3, 2007 | Bard Conductor’s Institute Composers’ Chamber Ensemble
Program Notes

The inspiration for this work came in the form of a myth from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. A brief passage in the text recounts the story of Ocyrhoe, a half-divine woman who was able to tell the future with startling accuracy. While entertaining at first, the prophetess soon became a nuisance to some of the gods who did not appreciate her doomsday foretellings. In the end, she was silenced when a god transformed her into a horse. The work does not strictly follow the narrative of the myth, but contains impressions based on the imagery it contains.

To Bind the Sweet Influences (2007)
Instrumentation: | | timp.+3 | harp | strings
Duration: 28:00
Premiere: N/A
Program Notes

To Bind The Sweet Influences was written in 2006 – 2007. Each movement is designed to function as an integral part of the entire work, while also being able to stand alone as an individual piece. The movements can be played together in the order given in the full score or in any other arrangement.

The title of this work comes from Job 38:31 as translated by the King James Version of the Bible: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion?” That line is from an extended passage about the limits of human ability despite an ever-present need to try to break free of those limits.

The sub-title of the fifth movement, ‘Eternity Falls from My Feet’, is inspired by William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

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