Solo Instruments

Step No. 4: Know the Tuba Attitude (2016)
Commissioned by Kayla Davis with support from the Women’s Advancement Inititative
Instrumentation: Tuba and Fixed Electronics
Duration: 6:30
Premiere: Feb. 5, 2016 | Kayla Davis
Program Notes

This piece was commissioned by tubist Kayla Davis, with the support of a grant from the University of Hartford’s Women’s Advancement Initiative.  As I was coming up with ideas for the piece, Kayla posted something on her Facebook page about guitar method books specifically targeting young women, things like Guitar for Girls and the Girls’ Guide to Guitar.  Now, there is really nothing in these books that make them more appropriate for one gender or the other—they are just an example of stereotyping based on gender norms and marketing to those preconceived notions.  But it seemed like an idea worth exploring, so I put Google to work to see if something equivalent existed for tuba.

The title for this piece, Step 4: Know the Tuba Attitude, comes from a wikiHow post titled “How to Be Respected as a Female Tuba Player”.  The article describes the tuba as the “most widely recognized, and stereotyped” instrument of the band, explaining that “when someone thinks of a tuba, they picture a somewhat overweight, dorky guy in a band uniform.”  To help women overcome the prejudices they face for not fitting that mold, the author (whose name doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on the article) outlines six steps and a series of other helpful tips that women can take to “fit in with a predominantly male section that may or may not respect you at first.”

The article includes pearls of wisdom such as “be good at your instrument” and “be strong, physically.”  I also enjoyed the warning: “If you find you have a crush on one of the guys in your section, proceed with caution.  It can make rehearsals awkward.”  But I think my favorite was Step 4: “Know the Tuba Attitude.”  According to the article, “tuba players are loud and outgoing, often with large egos.”  They have “a great sense of humor” and “can be the troublemaker of the band.”

I wanted to write a piece that showed the bombastic side of tuba, as well as some of its more quirky aspects.  I also wanted to write something that would show off the kick-ass skills of the female tubist for whom I wrote the piece (and any male tubists who want to play it later on).

Elegy (2013) – View in Online Store
Instrumentation: Trumpet
Duration: 2:00
Premiere: 2/24/11 | Richard Leslie

My Father Was a Ventriloquist (2011) View in online store
Commissioned by Dr. Daniel D’Addio
Instrumentation: C Trumpet and Fixed Electronics
Duration: 6:25
Premiere: Dec. 6, 2011 | Daniel D’Addio
Program Notes

My Father Was a Ventriloquist was written in 2011 for Dr. Daniel D’Addio. The work uses an original text by the composer, incorporated into an electronics track based on manipulations (sometimes extreme and sometimes barely perceptible) of recordings of the composer reading the text and of Dr. D’Addio performing sketches of the live part.

Laws of Entropy (2010) View in online store
Commissioned by Cory Hills
Instrumentation: Percussion
Duration: 6:00
Premiere: TBA by Cory Hills
Program Notes

Entropy is a measure of the disorganization in a given “system”. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy will never decrease, but rather will increase until a uniform state of disorganization is reached. It seems to me that such a process will ultimately result in a stasis whose chaos is perfectly organized.

In Laws of Entropy, I use various processes to transform the opening drum groove into a large-scale polyrhythmic ostinato that ultimately decays completely. The rules governing those changes include the systematic deletion of notes from the original pattern, the addition of subdivisions to that pattern, the intrusion of repeated pulses that conflict with the main meter, and the insertion of silence.

Laws of Entropy was written in 2010 for Cory Hills. He commissioned the work after my Napoleon Complex was awarded first prize in his 2009 Con/un/drum Solo Percussion Composition Competition.

L’Age Mûr (2010) View in online store
Written for the 2010 Cortona Sessions
Instrumentation: Flute
Duration: 4:45
Premiere: June 27, 2010 | Julie Penner
Program Notes

L’Age Mûr (or the “Age of Maturity”) is a sculpture by Caille Claudel, depicting a young woman on her knees clasping the arm of a man who is being shepherded away by an old woman. The work is thought to express the grief Claudel experienced after her lover (and teacher) – the sculptor Rodin – ended their affair to remain with his wife. Though a more abstract interpretation of the sculpture’s meaning also exists, it is the work’s connection to that very concrete and personal situation that intrigued me. The depth of emotion found in the young woman’s face and figure inspired this eponymous composition for solo flute.

St. Teresa in Ecstasy (2010) View in online store
Commissioned by Mike Lunoe
Instrumentation: Gyile
Duration: 3:45
Premiere: June 6, 2010 | Mike Lunoe
Program Notes

When I began working on this piece, the idea of religious ecstasy – a state of spiritual transcendence brought about through the joy of communing with one’s higher power – immediately came to mind. The use of music to induce trance states was also an important element. In what seemed to me a natural combination of those two sources, Bernini’s sculpture “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”(also known as the “Transverberation” of “Saint Teresa or Saint Teresa in Ecstasy”) became the inspiration for this composition, which mixes a jubilant fanfare with driving runs in an attempt to hint at what a mystic might feel during such an experience.

A Dark Gaze Bathed in Light (2009) View in online store
Commissioned by The Phoenix Concerts
Instrumentation: Violin
Duration: 4:30
Premiere: Mar. 5, 2010 | Anthea Kreston
Program Notes

The New York City-based Phoenix Concert Series commissioned A Dark Gaze Bathed in Light for violinist Anthea Kreston to premiere in March 2010. The title refers to a line from Richard Dehmel’s poem Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured Night”), which inspired Arnold Schoenberg’s well-known composition. In that text, a man and a woman walk together through a dark wood as she confesses that though she loves him, she is carrying another man’s child. Her companion listens to her story and absolves her of any guilt, declaring that his feelings for her will transform the child into his own. The words “Her dark gaze is drowned in light” comprise the last line before the man speaks and seem to represent a turning point, encompassing both the woman’s despair and the man’s redeeming love.

Concertina No. 1: Cathedrals (2009) View in online store
Commissioned by Daniel Mumbauer
Instrumentation: Baritone Saxophone and Fixed Electronics
Duration: 5:05
Premiere: Mar. 14, 2009 | Daniel Mumbauer
Program Notes

Concertina No. 1: Cathedrals was written in 2009 for saxophonist Daniel Mumbauer. The electronic track uses recordings of Mumbauer demonstrating extended techniques on the saxophone, as well as a field recording of a street saxophonist in Paris. Rather than masking the source of the sounds, I wanted to create electronics that would blend with the live saxophone so that the listener would not always be sure whether sounds are coming from the speakers or the performer. The samples are therefore processed minimally (mostly using a large amount of ‘cathedral’ reverb) to ensure the “saxophone-ness” is not lost. Extended techniques and an improvisatory element in the live part are designed to further blur the boundaries between the acoustic and the electronic.

There are Times I Walk from You (2008)
Instrumentation: Marimba (alt.: Piano)
Duration: 4:00
Premiere: Oct. 30, 2008 | Bill Solomon
Program Notes

There are Times I Walk from You was inspired by the nature of relationships: with one’s friends and families, with any higher power(s) that might exist, and even with one’s own self. Such interactions can be characterized by an inherent motion from acceptance and happiness to doubt and unrest, through periods of fear to those of comfort and trust. The ebb and flow of emotions ultimately is based on faith (or love): if strong enough, the surface disruptions will not matter; if not, those troubles are all that will remain.

This work attempts to express something of that reality. The music echoes the fluidity just described, both in terms of the flexible tempo and changeable rhythms as well as the shifting harmonic tensions. The incessantness of the basic pulse and the slow dying away of the music imply that piece continues on after the listener can no longer hear it. In this fashion, I am trying to convey devotion and constancy despite the surface disturbances that arise.

Napoleon Complex (2007)
Awarded First Prize in the 2009 Con/un/drum Solo Percussion Composition Competition
Commissioned by Michael Lunoe
Instrumentation: Percussion
Duration: 4:30
Premiere: Nov. 17, 2007 | Mike Lunoe
Program Notes

The idea for Napoleon Complex came from one of my dogs: Quiz is a Chihuahua-dachshund mix that thinks he is much bigger than his actual 15-pound size. His loud, sometimes defensive barking brought the phrase “Napoleon Complex” to my mind around the time I was deciding what kind of piece to write for Michael Lunoe, who had requested something to play on a recital in 2007. The music represents a mélange of imagery stemming (though sometimes distantly) from that expression.

Glimpses (2006) – View in online store
Instrumentation: Piano
Duration: 5:15
Premiere: Mar. 25, 2007 | Gabriel Löfvall
Program Notes

I began writing this piece after my piano teacher requested that I compose a piece to play on a recital the following year. The work thus was designed with my own playing abilities in mind; in other words, it was written to be challenging but within reach for someone with limited piano skills. Most of the movements are inspired by pieces that I have played.

For Sara (2006)
Instrumentation: Clarinet
Duration: 2:00
Premiere: May 7, 2008 | Dan Liptak
Program Notes

This short work was written for my younger sister, who played clarinet when we were growing up.

Elegy (2005)
Instrumentation: Euphonium (alt.: trumpet)
Duration: 2:00
Premiere: May 9, 2007 | Allison Scull

Dance, Cadenza and Reprise (2005) View in online store
Instrumentation: Bassoon
Duration: 2:00
Premiere: Dec. 9, 2005 | Kristin Sansoucy

The Widow Dance (2005)
Instrumentation: Five-String Electric Viola
Duration: 5:00
Interested in premiering this work? Please contact me!

Sonata (2004)
Instrumentation: Piano
Duration: 7:30
Premiere: May 4, 2007 | Jordan Bailey

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