Compositions

Pictures Without an Exhibition (2019) - for solo piano, dur. 35 minutes

Commissioned by Oklahoma State University for pianist Heather Lanners.
Premiere January 28, 2020 McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, Stillwater, OK.


It’s with its title — Pictures Without an Exhibition — that this work began. Right away, I intuited the piece would be both an homage and a reaction to Mussorgsky’s great work Pictures at an Exhibition. But the title also felt fitting since I often think of my music as “pictures in sound.”

While there are many interconnections with the Mussorgsky, there are also many divergences. The main movements are generally longer than Mussorgsky’s individual pictures and, unlike his work, none of the movements are visual in inspiration, even if, perhaps, they evoke visual images for the listener. (Exceptionally, there are two suggestive titles, “La Poule” and “Languorous Clouds,” that reference specific aspects of the natural world).

The “Air” interwoven between the main tableaux was inspired by Mussorgky’s promenade theme. It and its variants give continuity to the work and provide contrast to the larger movements. Much like promenade theme, the air evolves with each iteration.

The creation of this work has been wholly thanks to Heather Lanners to whom I am deeply grateful. Her championing of my music has been both an inspiration and a joyous encouragement.

 

Les rives du présent (2010-2019) concerto for cello and orchestra in four movements, dur. 45 minutes.

Commissioned by and written for cellist Xavier Phillips.
à Maman, pour célébrer l’éternel

A narrative for the cello where the orchestra serves as a kind of bas-relief, Les rives du présent is a concerto structured into four movements. The titles of the movements, Arrival, Forgetfulness, Remembering, and Return, suggest a kind of cycle. The work places great demands on the soloist, since they must evoke ever-changing moods and spaces as they bring this story in sound to life.

Letter for a Dying Soldier (2016) for a cappella SSAATTBB chorus, dur. 7 minutes.

Commissioned by and written for Zoran Stanisavljević and the University of Niš Choir.
a letter written by Walt Whitman for a dying soldier at the end of the American Civil War.

During the American Civil War, the poet, Walt Whitman, often visited a Union hospital in Washington DC where he would speak to the sick, wounded and dying soldiers. He typically brought pen and paper and offered to write letters home for them.

The specific letter set here was discovered in February 2016 in the National Archives at the Library of Congress. It is one of only three, which still exist with Walt Whitman’s name and handwriting. We know that the soldier, Nelson Jabo, for whom he wrote this letter, died of tuberculosis in 1866 before returning home to see his family. He may have been too sick to write, perhaps even illiterate. He was a French Canadian living in northeastern New York State with a wife and six children.

I set this seemingly mundane letter to music to capture what exists between the lines. There are layers of emotion – Nelson Jabo’s awareness of his waning mortality, his thoughts of his family and his hopes and desires and Walt Whitman’s feelings as he looks upon the soldier. There is also the knowledge that Nelson Jabo would not see his family again. I was intrigued by the challenge of evoking this multiplicity of perspectives.

Pictures Without an Exhibition (2019) for solo piano, dur. 35 minutes.
Commissioned by Oklahoma State University for pianist Heather Lanners.
Premiere January 28, 2020 McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, Stillwater, OK.

PROGRAM NOTE

Les rives du présent (2010-2019) concerto for cello and orchestra in four movements, dur. 45 minutes.
Commissioned by and written for cellist Xavier Phillips.
à Maman, pour célébrer l’éternel

PROGRAM NOTE

Letter for a Dying Soldier (2016) for a cappella SSAATTBB chorus, dur. 7 minutes.
Commissioned by and written for Zoran Stanisavljević and the University of Niš Choir.
a letter written by Walt Whitman for a dying soldier at the end of the American Civil War.

PROGRAM NOTE

Quatre états d’âme (2015-2016) for clarinet, violoncello and piano, dur. 35 minutes.
Commissioned by and written for counter)induction.
Premiere February 2, 2016, The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, New York, NY.

PROGRAM NOTE

The Way Things Are (2013) for flute and piano, dur. 15 minutes.
Commissioned by the University of Oregon.
Written for David Riley and Molly Barth.

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On To Stillness (2013) for mezzo soprano, oboe, guitar and percussion, dur. 27 minutes.
Commissioned by CSMTA for their 2013 Conference.
A cycle of songs on poetry by Georg Trakl as translated by Stephen Tapscott.
Written for Kirsten Sollek, Anna Hendrickson, and Kenneth Meyer.
Premiere June 29, 2013, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.

PROGRAM NOTE

Gathering What Is To Be Told (2012-2013) for mezzo soprano and guitar, dur. 32 minutes.
Written for Kirsten Sollek and Kenneth Meyer, voice and guitar.
A song cycle on poems by Keats, Shakespeare, Simic, Berry and Tagore.
Premiere May 23, 2015, Tenri Cultural Center, New York, NY.

PROGRAM NOTE

Gathering What Is To Be Told (2012-2013) for mezzo soprano and guitar, dur. 32 minutes.
Written for Kirsten Sollek and Kenneth Meyer, voice and guitar.
A song cycle on poems by Keats, Shakespeare, Simic, Berry and Tagore.
Premiere May 23, 2015, Tenri Cultural Center, New York, NY.

PROGRAM NOTE

Offertory (2010) for cello and piano, dur. 4 minutes.
Written for cellist Florent Renard-Payen.
Premiered November 6, 2010 at Expressiones, New London, CT.

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Little Ant Got Hurt “Der kleinen Ameise tat’s weh” (2010) for clarinet, bassoon, contrabass and narrator. Dur. 15 minutes.
Based on the 2008 work on a Czech children’s tale. In German, Czech and English translations.
for members of the ensemble “Die Reihe”.

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Piano Concerto (2008-2009) for piano and symphonic winds, dur. 40 min.
Commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition and written for Solungga Liu and the
University of Minnesota Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Craig Kirchhoff, conductor.
Apám emlékére.

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Little Ant Got Hurt “Polámal Se Mraveneček” (2008) A Czech children’s tale for solo oboe or solo oboe and narrator, dur. 14 min.
Written for oboist Marlen Vavřikovà and the Ostrava Oboe Festival, 2009.
Premiered May 2009 Ostrava, Czech Republic.

PROGRAM NOTE

Pears on a Sill (2007) for solo piano, dur. 13 min.
in 4 movements: 3 a.m. Nightingale; Spinning Waltz; Boatman’s Song; Caitlyn’s Goodbye.
dedicated to Anne Modugno and written for pianist Solungga Liu.
Premiere February 2010 at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.

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A Seeker’s Song (2006) for solo guitar, dur. 9 min.
Commissioned by Kenneth Meyer with partial funding from the Hanson Institute.
Premiered November 8, 2006 by Kenneth Meyer, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

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À l’écoute (2005, rev. 2009) for 2 oboes and harpsichord, dur. 15 min.
Commissioned for the Ostrava Oboe Festival, Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Premiered November 25, 2005 by Marlen Vavřikovà and Richard Killmer, Ostrava University.

PROGRAM NOTE

Madra’s Musings (2005) for flute, viola and harp (also available for violin, viola and harp), dur. 10 min.
Written for janus.
Premiered January 31, 2007 by janus, Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall , New York City.

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Fanfare to an Open Sky (2003) for 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 2 trombones, tuba and timpani, dur. 3 min.
Premiered November 2003, Central College, Iowa.

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Aria (2003) for oboe, violin, viola and cello, dur. 11 min.
Commissioned by Alice Caplow-Sparks.
Premiered April 12, 2003, Eastman School of Music.

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Love, Play On (2002) for wind ensemble, dur. 24 min.
Commissioned by the Big Ten University Wind Ensembles.
Premiered April 25, 2003, Northwestern University.

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Pandora’s Beethoven-Box (2001) for orchestra, dur. 10 min.
Commissioned by the Phoenix Symphony for its 2002 Beethoven Festival.
Premiered January 31, 2002 in Symphony Hall, Phoenix, AZ.
The Phoenix Symphony, Hermann Michael, conductor.

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for inspiration hath no society with reason (2001) for woodwind quintet, dur. 6 min.
Commissioned by the Chamber Music Festival of the East.
Premiered August 11, 2001 at Bennington College, Bennington, VT.

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Lover Calls (2001) for seven cellos (also transcribed for six cellos and bass), dur. 7 min.
Commissioned by the Tarab Cello Ensemble.
Premiered May 12, 2001 at the Merryall Center for the Arts, New Milford, CT.

PROGRAM NOTE

Evocations of an Earthly Nature (2000) for orchestra, dur. 15 min.
Commissioned by ASCAP and the Rhode Island Philharmonic in honor of the Aaron Copland Centenary.
Premiered June 16, 2000 in Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston.
Rhode Island Philharmonic, Larry Rachleff, conductor.

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Afterglow of a Kiss (2000) for solo flute and large chamber ensemble, dur. 7 min.
Premiered February 29, 2000 in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.
Composers’ Sinfonietta, Alyce Johnson, flute, David Gilbert, conductor.

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Recitative to an Absent Sky (1999) for solo cello, dur. 6 min.
Premiered February 4, 2000 in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.
Florent Renard-Payen, cello.

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A Spell of Myriad Dances (1999) for orchestra, dur. 15 min.
Paul Jacobs Memorial Fund Commission by the Tanglewood Music Center.
Premiered July 26, 1999 during the Contemporary Music Festival, Ozawa Hall.
Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Stefan Asbury, conductor.

PROGRAM NOTE

Trio & Consort (1999) for English horn, seven oboes and percussion, dur. 13 min.
Commissioned by Richard Killmer.
Premiered August 12, 1999 at the International Double Reed Society Conference, Madison, WI.
Richard Killmer, Anna Hendrickson, Andrea Gross, and Eastman oboe choir.

PROGRAM NOTE

Sculpted Memory (1998) for chamber orchestra, dur. 10 min.
Commissioned by the Fairbanks Symphony.
Premiered January 30, 1999 in Davis Hall, University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
Arctic Chamber Orchestra, Madeline Schatz, conductor.

PROGRAM NOTE

Quatre Aperçus (1998) for mezzo-soprano, clarinet and piano, dur. 13 min.
Premiered February 4, 1999 in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.
Kirsten Sollek, Anthony Franco, David Riley.
A song cycle on French poems by Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Empress (1998) for large chamber ensemble, dur. 12 min.
Premiered July 19, 1998 in Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, MA.
Tanglewood Fellows, Stefan Asbury, conductor.

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Spiralcycle (1998) for tape, dur. 21 min.
Premiered April 16, 1998 in Tuttle Theater, SUNY Brockport, NY.
Augusto Soledade, choreographer.

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But the Stars Are Slower Still (1997) for orchestra, dur. 18 min.
Premiered February 2, 1998 in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, IL
Chicago Civic Orchestra, Cilff Colnot, conductor.

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Souffle et Contresouffle (1996) for piano, dur. 9 min.
Premiered February 17, 1997 in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.
Stephen Perry, piano.

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Pavane en forme de voûte (1996) for oboe and string orchestra, dur. 10 min.
Premiered December 12, 1996 in Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music.
Anna Hendrickson, oboe and Eastman Strings, David Phillips, conductor.

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Program Notes

Pictures Without an Exhibition (2019)

It’s with its title — Pictures Without an Exhibition — that this work began. Right away, I intuited the piece would be both an homage and a reaction to Mussorgsky’s great work Pictures at an Exhibition. But the title also felt fitting since I often think of my music as “pictures in sound.”

While there are many interconnections with the Mussorgsky, there are also many divergences. The main movements are generally longer than Mussorgsky’s individual pictures and, unlike his work, none of the movements are visual in inspiration, even if, perhaps, they evoke visual images for the listener. (Exceptionally, there are two suggestive titles, “La Poule” and “Languorous Clouds,” that reference specific aspects of the natural world).

The “Air” interwoven between the main tableaux was inspired by Mussorgky’s promenade theme. It and its variants give continuity to the work and provide contrast to the larger movements. Much like promenade theme, the air evolves with each iteration.

The creation of this work has been wholly thanks to Heather Lanners to whom I am deeply grateful. Her championing of my music has been both an inspiration and a joyous encouragement.

Les rives du présent (2010-2019)

A narrative for the cello where the orchestra serves as a kind of bas-relief, Les rives du présent is a concerto structured into four movements. The titles of the movements, Arrival, Forgetfulness, Remembering, and Return, suggest a kind of cycle. The work places great demands on the soloist, since they must evoke ever-changing moods and spaces as they bring this story in sound to life.

Letter for a Dying Soldier (2016)

During the American Civil War, the poet, Walt Whitman, often visited a Union hospital in Washington DC where he would speak to the sick, wounded and dying soldiers. He typically brought pen and paper and offered to write letters home for them.

The specific letter set here was discovered in February 2016 in the National Archives at the Library of Congress. It is one of only three, which still exist with Walt Whitman’s name and handwriting. We know that the soldier, Nelson Jabo, for whom he wrote this letter, died of tuberculosis in 1866 before returning home to see his family. He may have been too sick to write, perhaps even illiterate. He was a French Canadian living in northeastern New York State with a wife and six children.

I set this seemingly mundane letter to music to capture what exists between the lines. There are layers of emotion – Nelson Jabo’s awareness of his waning mortality, his thoughts of his family and his hopes and desires and Walt Whitman’s feelings as he looks upon the soldier. There is also the knowledge that Nelson Jabo would not see his family again. I was intrigued by the challenge of evoking this multiplicity of perspectives.

Quatre états d’âme (2015-2016)

Quatre états d’âme, with the clarinet at the fore, departs from most trios where instruments have equal roles. Each movement evokes a state of being and together they form a progression. The first movement begins as a plea whose intensity alternates with moments of tenderness. The second movement is a somber meditation. At times, serenity breaks through. The third movement is a playful interlude. A fourth movement awakens. It is a transformational movement, where both its own musical materials and those from earlier movements are remade. Solemnity and vigor trade places, resulting in celebration. Quatre états d’âme was written for counter)induction

The Way Things Are (2013)

Written for David Riley and Molly Barth and commissioned by the University of Oregon, The Way Things Are is a 15-minute work that treats the flute and piano not as a solo and an accompanying instrument, but in relation. This deviation from the traditional chamber music setting became a driving force for the piece. Beginning with a clear sense of who dominates, both characters, in ways appropriate to their personalities, engage and transform the musical materials. Over the course of the work their relationship becomes richer and more genuinely interactive.

While the title implies permanence or unchangeability, it is contradicted by the fluid and ever-evolving music. The piece suggests that “The Way Things Are” is actually a permanent state of flux. It is dedicated to Koren Cowgill.

On To Stillness (2013)

When I look for poems to set to music, what catch my eye and ear are texts that have openings that invite music to enter.

In its time, Georg Trakl’s (1887-1914) poetry was radical for placing images side by side and evoking – without guidance, without story – powerful emotional landscapes. When Stephen Tapscott first presented me with his translations in 2011, I was captivated. Since these poems are about space – each word or phrase asking to linger on the tongue and in the imagination, they seemed to encourage music to wind through them.

The sequence of poems is my own; chosen to emphasize poetic and musical connections and to shape the song cycle. The instrumentation features extreme variations in timbre from the rich color of the mezzo, to the long line of the oboe, the piquant harmonic resonance of the guitar and the rustlings and punctuations of the percussion. The unexpected union of these instruments is perhaps a complement to Trakl’s own juxtaposition of images, but is also an opportunity to bring dear friends, and master musicians, together.

Like the Trakl, the music gives rise to images and also creates its own spaces. It evokes rather than tells. While my music has always had this tendency, Trakl has brought me to new territory.

Gathering What Is To Be Told (2012-2013)

Beginning with the troubadours, the combination of voice and guitar/lute has had a long history. Regrettably, while it has become the quintessential vehicle for songwriters, is has virtually escaped the attention of contemporary composers today. Wishing to reclaim this pairing, my intention was to showcase its expressive and textural vitality. This set of songs also gave me the distinct pleasure of coupling the talents of Kirsten Sollek and Kenneth Meyer, for whom I have long wished to compose. There are a variety of themes explored in this collection, from the existential, to love between individuals, to the horrors of humanity, and to man’s relation to nature. In some sense, the cycle builds to the penultimate song – with the last one serving as a kind of philosophical coda.

Offertory (2010)

An offering to Florent Renard-Payen for whom it was composed, Offertory is also an offering on several levels – of my work, of an offering in the ritualistic sense and as a plaintive, muted plea. The materials are few: a long, sustained line in the cello and spare bell-like sonorities in the piano. A short, somber work, it is restrained, yet poignant.

Little Ant Got Hurt (2010)

Based on a traditional Czech children’s tale, this piece was originally written for solo oboe with or without narrator. In this trio version, the narrator has been explicitly integrated into the score.

Eines Tages, tat’s der kleinen Ameise weh.
Und der ganze Ameisenbau wusste davon.
Zu Mitternacht ward der Ameisendoktor gerufen.
Der Doktor untersuchte ihr Herz
Und verschrieb sodann die Arznei:
„Eine Tablette aus Zucker, dreimal am Tag genommen,
und er wird stark sein wie ein Löwe“.

Sie gaben ihr die Arznei, so wie’s verschrieben war,
allein, unsrer Ameise blieb’s weh.
Für die Ameise verstrich der ganze Tag in Brennen,
Und die ganze Nacht in Tränen.
Vier standen rund ums Bett,
Und die fünfte sorgte sich und sagte:
„Weine nicht, kleine Ameise, ich werde dir auf deine Wunde blasen
und morgen wird es dir viel besser gehen.“
Und er bließ auf die Wunde der kleinen Ameise,
und streichelte ihre Stirn.
Und am nächsten Morgen, hop!,
sprang die gesunde kleine Ameise aus dem Bett.

Übersetzung: Heinrich Deisl

see earlier version for Czech and English.

Piano Concerto (2008-2009)

The piano concertos of the 19th and 20th centuries are ostensibly about hero and society. Think of a few examples: the Beethoven Third Piano Concerto, where the piano enters, after a long orchestral presentation of the themes, with a bold, confident statement of the first theme itself; the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto which opens with the piano alone, its huge chords, growing in intensity, resound over a massive pedal point; the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 where the pianist shows his/her heroism from the start with the huge Db major chords that join the opening theme in the violins. In all of these cases the composers make it very explicit that pianist is hero.

My idea was to subvert that model and compose a concerto where the soloist would discover herself over the course of the work. In the first movement, she begins without a sense of who she is – playing brief interjections and accompanimental material. As the movement progresses she gains definition and becomes an equal with the orchestra. In the second movement she relates to the orchestra as with another individual, grapples with it and learns about herself in the process. In the third movement both soloist and orchestra have become interdependent; they speak together while retaining their individuality.

Movement 1: From the outset the orchestra is active and confident – fully formed – and presents the central musical material of the movement. When the piano enters, it does so timidly. After the orchestra propels the musical material forward for a time, we suddenly get a glimpse of the soloist’s essence, like a child unexpectedly revealing its inner self. A new idea – the piano’s alone – appears (accompanied by a murmuring flute). It is a soulful melody, almost operatic in its large leaps, colored by changing homophonic chords. It quickly disappears, however, as the orchestra returns to the fore.

The piano gains confidence over the course of the rest of the movement. Its first statement of the opening theme is broken, cut up, and unstable. By contrast, when the opening idea returns nearer to the end of the movement, the piano is at the fore and in command. Yet, it is when the pianist reiterates and develops her own lyrical theme in the middle of the movement that she reveals herself most fully. Following this passage, the pianist becomes a true soloist. No longer waiting for the orchestra, she drives the material forward.

Movement 2: “Coupling”, the title of the second movement, suggests the relation – emotional, sexual, intellectual ¬– of two individuals. Now on a par with the orchestra, the soloist can engage it as an equal. She converses with it, provokes it, interacts with it, and responds to it. Inspired by the heartfelt intermezzo from Schumann’s Piano Concerto, this movement departs from its original source to depict the tumult, passion and beauty of the coupling of two individuals.

Beginning quietly, tentatively, the soloist and orchestra exchange chords, displaying a kind of dependence on each other. Later the piano and orchestra emerge individually, the orchestra taking the chords and the piano singing over them. A sudden outburst fades back into the calm of the chords, which leads to a crucial passage that serves to divide the movement into two. Taking the opening theme of the first movement, the pianist transforms it – making it her own – over lush, pulsing chords in the orchestra. This idea will return at the end of the movement in the piccolo – a passage of great serenity and delicacy.

From this point forward, the music gains energy and couples the two protagonists more dramatically. The opening chords grow under a rippling line in the upper register of the piano and break into moments of force. After quieting temporarily, a long dialogue begins. The piano and orchestra trade phrases, each extending the conversation until the energy builds and the piano bursts forth with a dramatic chordal passage that recalls the second theme of the first movement. The orchestra responds to this with a climactic descending chordal phrase. The conflict exhausted, the music concludes in intimate quietude.

The second movement is the centerpiece of the concerto. Unlike the first movement, the piano introduces its own music, responds to and transforms the ideas from the orchestra and often propels the music forward. But it must relate to the orchestra and in this act more fully become itself. This movement reminds us that it is in relation to others that we most discover ourselves.

Movement 3: If the second movement was essentially about relating, the third movement celebrates interdependence. Often the piano comes to the fore (it is now a fully realized individual), but other times it hears what the orchestra has to say. However, unlike the second movement, the piano no longer waits for the orchestra to react and vice versa, but rather they play together, acknowledge each other and conjoin to form something larger.

The music is quirky and unpredictable and reworks many ideas from the previous two movements. By weaving in earlier ideas, the concerto culminates in a passionate and spirited celebration. Right from the outset we hear the independence of the parts, the brass with its rhythmic chord, the piano with its buoyant melody. Soon thereafter the saxophone introduces a new idea that will become important in the trombones and the piano much later on.

While the last movement’s inner logic might not be immediately apparent, there is a natural, if unpredictable flow. For example, many of the ideas introduced at the beginning of the movement only find fulfillment later. The saxophone melody is a good example. It is presented as a short phrase, reiterated by the bassoon about a half-minute later, but only fully developed in the middle of the movement by the trombones and the soloist. Similarly, the material related to the opening theme of the first movement returns several times. This threads the movement together, but does so loosely.

The third movement concludes a transformation that began by gaining identity in the first, self-discovery in relationship in the second, and interdependence in the third. The concerto as a whole therefore becomes a metaphor for a process that is the process of many individuals. Over three movements, the pianist has become herself. In this way she is perhaps heroic.

Little Ant Got Hurt (2008)

Polámal se mraveneček
ví to celá obora –
o pulnoci zavolali mravenčího doktora.
Doktor klepe na srdíčko,
potom pise recepis:
„Trikrát denne prásek cukru,
bude chlapík jako rys.“

Dali prásky podle rady,
mraveneček stune dál,
čely den byl jako v ohni,
celou noc jim proplakal.
Ctyri stáli u postylky,
páty tesil: „Neplakej!
Zafoukám ti na bolístku,
do rána ti bude hej!“
Zafoukal mu na bolístku,
pohladil ho po čele,
hop! a zdravy mraveneček
ráno skáce z postele! Little ant got hurt
and the whole ant colony knew about it.
At midnight they called in the ant doctor.
The doctor checked his heart;
then wrote a prescription.
“One pill of sugar three times a day
and he will be as strong as a lion.”

They gave him the medicine as prescribed,
but our ant was still sick.
The whole day he was on fire,
the whole night he spent crying.
Four stood by his bed
and a fifth one comforted him saying,
“Do not cry, I will blow where it hurts
and by the morning you will be fine.”
He blew on the little ant’s wound
and caressed his forehead,
And in the morning, hop!, healthy little ant
jumped out of bed.

– translated by Marlen Vavřikovà and Gregory Mertl

Pears on a Sill (2007)

Unlike most of my music, which is in one movement and relies on dramatic shape spinning out over many sections, each movement to Pears on a Sill is self-contained. Contrast occurs, but often within the context of a more limited palette. There is emphasis on recurrence – of opening ideas, distinct passages from other parts of a movement – in either unanticipated or open-ended ways. Each part of the set is a character piece and, as such, evokes a particular mood. To set a mood, most movements use rhythmic figures that recur throughout. Here the challenge is to create flow and a sense of a process despite rhythmic consistency. The last and most rhythmically concise movement is, in fact, the most expansive and a fitting conclusion to the set. While the titles of the individual movements are specific, the title as a whole hints at the idea of a collection of pieces set side by side. Pears on a Sill was written for pianist Solungga Liu and is dedicated to a dear teacher and enduring friend, Anne Modugno.

A Seeker’s Song (2006)

In virtually all of my pieces, it is the sound and personality of an instrument (or combination of instruments) that inspires a piece. As I gradually acquainted myself with it, the guitar revealed its searing, vulnerable beauty – a quality which totally enchanted me. It is the guitar’s inability to sustain, its particular six-string resonance, the method of plucking, and the special sound of turns or ornaments – due to the technique of hammer-ons and pull-offs, that I believe yields this beauty. Turns, in particular, enthralled me. (There is simply nothing like that sound on any other instrument.) They are central to the musical fabric of the piece, as both rhythmic and figurative elements.

Although we are used to the guitar in highly amplified settings, in its untainted state the guitar seems to me to embody intimacy, both in its delicacy and in its quiet power. And it is intimacy, mainly, that I explore in this piece – an exploration which unconsciously and naturally gave rise to an air of seeking. Seeking is universal to humans, but how and why we seek is uniquely particular to each individual. It is a personal process, intimate in the extreme. “Song” in the title speaks to an overarching lyricism, a particular quality in the music, which is punctuated by impassioned cries and invocations that seem to spill out beyond its confines.

I am profoundly indebted to Kenneth Meyer for his confidence in my creativity and his courage in commissioning new works for guitar. I hope I have done justice to this trust and am grateful to have come to know this remarkable instrument.