Works

Here, a diverse col­lec­tion of projects with notes & audio.

Large Ensemble

(2011), sin­foni­etta (15 play­ers), 16:00

III. Ghost Dance
GHOST DANCE was com­mis­sioned by The New Juil­liard Ensem­ble and pre­miered on Novem­ber 8, 2011, in Alice Tully Hall, con­ducted by Joel Sachs.

Ghost Dance takes a motive from a Math-rock band called Hella and charts it in a rapid pro­ces­sion of grow­ing vari­a­tions, lead­ing to a ecsta­tic view of the original.

(2010) orches­tra, 10:00

Travel Lightly
(excerpts of the piece were also read by the Juil­liard orches­tra before the première)

This piece was com­mis­sioned by the Albany Sym­phony Orches­tra, and funded in part by the Com­poser Assis­tance Pro­gram of the Amer­i­can Music Cen­ter. It was pre­miered by the Albany Sym­phony and music direc­tor David Alan Miller on March 12, on a con­cert with John Corigliano’s per­cus­sion con­certo. The orches­tra was filled with good peo­ple who did a gor­geous job with a tricky new piece. Here’s my pro­gram note:

I used to doubt artists who claimed geog­ra­phy as an influ­ence on their work. I could under­stand a drum­mer going to Africa to learn about Zam­bian tra­di­tions, or a dancer study­ing with an Indone­sian mas­ter, but couldn’t an artist work­ing in Paris make his work in Lon­don, Rome, or Miami? How­ever, after mov­ing my country-Alaskan self to New York City, I became inter­ested in oppos­ing traits that occur in traf­fic: the fleet skit­tish­ness of peo­ple dash­ing through the crowded side­walk, and the tum­bling qual­ity of vehi­cles in dense traf­fic. In using these char­ac­ter­is­tics to pro­duce a musi­cal impres­sion of the city, I have to admit that loca­tion inspired my work. I didn’t set out to make a pro­gram­matic piece—a story that could be filmed—but even so Travel Lightly feels like a cel­e­bra­tion of places I love, and a com­ment on the things we carry with us through ever-changing environments.

 

(2013) orches­tra, 7:45

 

Com­mis­sioned and pre­miered by the New York Youth Sym­phony as part of their First Music pro­gram, Parade of Old Motion was per­formed at Queens Col­lege on May 4, 2014, and at Carnegie Hall on May 25, 2014, con­ducted by Joshua Gerson.

…a short, com­pelling orches­tral essay…” — Anthony Tom­masini, NY Times

Old Motion Parade abridges great earth-building processes—impossible to com­pre­hend in proper scale—into a brief, abstract pageant. Parade is a tour of musi­cal decay and recy­cling: great brass bea­cons smoothly fade into silence, a jig smears into sonic soup, a jaunty pro­gres­sion in the piano and harp rusts and frag­ments, and burly orches­tral chords weaken, broaden, and finally explode into the land­scapes we see before us.

 

 

 

 

Small Ensemble

(2013) flute, clarinet/bass clar­inet, vio­lin, cello, piano, per­cus­sion, 17:30

The Cos­mic Ham­let Part 1: Tides The Cos­mic Ham­let Part 2: The End of the Road
Com­posed for the inau­gural sea­son of the Wild Shore Fes­ti­val for New Music. Stu­dio record­ing made by Katie Cox, flute, Eileen Mack, clar­inets, Andie Springer, vio­lin, Eve­lyn Farny, cello, Vicky Chow, piano, and Joe Bergen, per­cus­sion . The Pre­mière and record­ing of this work was made pos­si­ble in part by the Com­poser Assis­tance Grant of New Music USA.

The Cos­mic Ham­let is a med­i­ta­tion on two aspects of life in my home­town, Homer, Alaska: dynamic nat­ural forces that deter­mine every­day life (20-foot tides, the price of salmon, the flux of day­light), and the people—fisherman, artists, Russ­ian Old Believ­ers, seek­ers, exiles and many others—who con­tribute to the utterly unique cul­ture of Homer. Each part embod­ies one of these aspects, form­ing a kind of dip­tych impres­sion of the fish­ing vil­lage bear­ing the nick­name “The Cos­mic Ham­let by the Sea.”

my siblings Delaney and Austin on my father's fishing vessel, the Maranatha, 2013.

my sib­lings, Delaney and Austin, on my father’s fish­ing ves­sel, the Maranatha, 2013.

 

 

(2012) bal­let, scored for soprano sax, alto sax, vio­lin, cello, and celesta, 11:00
1. Momo­fuku Ssäm Bar
2. WD-50
3. Roberta’s
excerpts:

Com­mis­sioned by the New York Chore­o­graphic Insti­tute. Stu­dio record­ing made by Aaron Thomas Pat­ter­son, s.sax, Jay Rattman, a.sax, Eliz­a­beth Der­ham, vln., Isabel Gehweiler, vc., Çağ­daş Özkan, celesta.

Set in three com­pact move­ments, this bal­let, chore­o­graphed by Justin Peck, adapts qual­i­ties of the cui­sine and design ele­ments of three dis­tinct restau­rants in New York City. Momo­fuku Ssäm Bar is built on sim­ple com­bi­na­tions of unusal ele­ments, WD-50 deploys oppo­sites to trick the senses, and Roberta’s rev­els in the earth and the recy­cled. The title, Mise-En-Place, is a culi­nary phrase, mean­ing every­thing in place.

(2012) fl, vln, vc, perc., 11:00

excerpts:

Abid­ing Shapes
full record­ing from con­cert in Port­land, ME, Decem­ber, 2012

 

Ever since I learned about sim­ple sound waves, I have felt an irra­tional affec­tion for those atomic shapes from which all sorts of com­plex elec­tronic sounds are made. I wrote Abid­ing Shapes as a lit­tle pageant about these ubiq­ui­tous forms, with move­ments for saw­tooth, sine, and square waves. I tried, as much as pos­si­ble, to embroi­der lit­tle dynamic ramps, tri­an­gles, sines, and squares (loud-to-silent, soft-loud-soft, etc.) into big­ger ones to illus­trate these shapes at every level.

Japanese-translated chart. Nobody calls it a “ramp wave”

(2012), flute, gui­tar and elec­tron­ics, 10:46

winslow-try-the-spirits-excerpt.mp3
excerpt
winslow-try-the-spirits.mp3
Daniel James, flutes, and Colin Davin, gui­tars and banjo, Ale­jan­dro Acierto, bass clar­inet, and Ken Hamao, mandolin.

Almost a con­certo grosso in which the flute and gui­tar play against an army of pre­re­corded plucked strings and wind instru­ments, Try the Spir­its depicts a kind of séance, in which the flute and gui­tar get in touch with their instru­men­tal rel­a­tives. Chris­tians have long under­stood the phrase “try the spir­its” to rep­re­sent the process of dis­cern­ing whether a par­tic­u­lar spirit is from God. It could also mean try­ing them on, learn­ing to con­trol them, wield­ing their power. Try the Spir­its was com­posed for Daniel James and Colin Davin, who gave the pre­mière and made the first record­ing of the work. Try the Spir­its received hon­or­able men­tion in the 2013 ASCAP Mor­ton Gould Awards.

 

(2011) trio for flute, viola, and harp, 11:30

Part 1
Part 2

Flutist Daniel James com­mis­sioned this work and pre­miered it on Sep­tem­ber 17, 2011 at the Juil­liard School with Jocelin Pan on viola and Michelle Gott on harp.

Gos­sip­ing involves every­thing I want in cham­ber music: secre­tive con­ver­sa­tion, glee­ful indul­gence, mock­ery, cru­elty, mis­ery, and fur­ther amuse­ment. The cyclic nature of the practice—as in, secrets are fun until they hurt some­one, and fun again when one for­gets about the sting—informs the struc­ture of the piece. In Part I, a per­sis­tent, jaunty gos­sip ele­ment alter­nates with lyri­cal pas­sages and whis­pery exchanges among the instru­ments. Part 2 is steely, severe, full of sink­ing har­mony, but of course the perky stuff creeps back in.

(2011) per­cus­sion duo, 8 min.

rounds-shank-taylor.mp3
Nick Tay­lor and Brian Shank per­form at the Juil­liard School.

In the land of unpitched per­cus­sion (instru­ments of indef­i­nite pitch) rhythm, dynam­ics, tim­bre, and pitch con­tour pre­vail. Here, each player has a col­lec­tion of five pri­mary instru­ments, out­lin­ing an even, low-to-high pitch con­tour; the drums occupy the low reg­is­ter, and the wood instru­ments occupy the high reg­is­ter. Though none of the instru­ments used in this piece is “pitched,” the entire col­lec­tion con­sti­tutes a wide, graded pitch spectrum—from the deep kick drum to the pierc­ing deskbells—suitable for rec­og­niz­able themes.

A series of canons for drums, wood, and desk bells, Rounds & Bells begins with the theme stated in per­fect uni­son by the play­ers. First come the rounds, led by alter­nat­ing play­ers at var­i­ous dis­tances. This is fol­lowed by desk bells, almost like box­ing bells or ring­ing chess clocks, which the play­ers use to strike at each other. Later come fur­ther, polyrhyth­mic canons, in which one player runs cir­cles around the other, tap­ping out the theme in a dif­fer­ent tempo, lead­ing up to a photo finish.

(2010) oboe, trum­pet, tuba, and harp­si­chord, 8:10

Char­iot excerpt
excerpt from the stu­dio record­ing. David Kaplan, harp­si­chord; Has­san Ander­son, oboe; Stu­art Stephen­son, trum­pet; Lee Jarzem­bak, tuba; Con­rad Winslow; conductor

I wrote a dance score for chore­o­g­ra­pher Zack Winokur, per­formed at Lin­coln Cen­ter in Decem­ber 2010, which fea­tures a trum­pet, oboe, tuba, and ampli­fied harp­si­chord, a deformed Mon­teverdi pro­logue, surround-sound, and a girl in a bal­loon dress. The dancers were incred­i­ble.
Here is the video of Char­iot: (This will play in iTunes if not in your browser.)

(2009) trom­bone quar­tet, 7:40

Pin­ning Music Excerpt
Per­formed by the Guidon­ian Hand at The Juil­liard School

This piece bears a loose rela­tion to my par­rot Char­lie, who talks a lot but actu­ally com­mu­ni­cates his var­i­ous emo­tional states by dilating—called pinning—his eyes. See­ing a bird’s eye go from pin­hole to gap­ing black hole and back again was always cap­ti­vat­ing to me. It’s a bit unset­tling to see for the first time, espe­cially when you don’t know what he’s try­ing to say.

I wrote the piece with these mem­o­ries and images. Pin­ning alter­nates between long­ing, lyri­cal lines and mus­cu­lar, rhyth­mic inter­play. In the most intro­verted moments in the piece, the play­ers per­form mul­ti­phon­ics; trom­bones one and two hold notes on their instru­ments while singing bits of a lyri­cal theme. A pair of unmuted trom­bones then sig­nal the return of vig­or­ous rhyth­mic mate­r­ial and the pinning-eye ges­tures from the beginning.

Com­plete work

(2009) trio for vio­lin, bass, and per­cus­sion, 11:00

Get­ting There Clip
This excerpt comes from the last sec­tion of the piece.

A per­cus­sion, vio­lin, and dou­ble bass trio is an unusual ensem­ble. There are unique chal­lenges for the unam­pli­fied group: the bass must project to match the vol­ume of the vio­lin and per­cus­sion; the strings must match pitch (which can be more dif­fi­cult when the pitch of the bass is often far from the vio­lin); and the per­cus­sion must bal­ance with the strings.

I heard “You Can Just Park Right Here” per­form a Wuori­nen trio for the com­bi­na­tion and I was astounded by their abil­ity to deal with these chal­lenges with mus­cu­lar flair. Matt Donello, the per­cus­sion­ist, asked me to write some­thing for the group, and I said yes, know­ing I wanted to explore bass tech­nique, to work with kitchen per­cus­sion (pots-and-pans-type sounds), and to cre­ate an over­all “earthy” sound world in a cham­ber ensem­ble. So I wrote a piece in which the strings often dis­pense with the silken approach of a Clas­si­cal cham­ber ensem­ble in exchange for rugged and some­times unruly sounds.

The struc­ture for Get­ting There is largely char­ac­ter­ized by rhyth­mic pro­file: the piece moves from reg­u­lar, insis­tent pulse in the begin­ning to slower, frag­mented rhythms in the mid­dle, to reg­u­lar pulse again. I accom­pany each shift in the piece with chang­ing per­cus­sion sounds—drums, metal, ceram­ics, then drums again.

 

Solos

(2011) piano, 6:40

All Rise
Jing Yang plays the piece in Paul Hall at the Juil­liard School in April 2011.

All Rise is a piece obsessed with ascen­sion, pro­longed lyri­cal lines and increasingly-prominent puls­ing chords. The form is sim­ple: thrice it goes up, then it goes down, grow­ing to a cli­mac­tic end. The ori­gin is less so. I wrote all my child­hood pieces for the piano, but I’ve avoided it in recent years for a silly rea­son. Since I often used the piano as a pitch machine and noth­ing more, I came to regard the piano tim­bre as an invis­i­ble sound, like a stage scrim on which other col­ors were pro­jected. I took this piece as a chal­lenge to lis­ten to the piano again, to savor the power and charm of the piano’s enor­mous expres­sive range. It is ded­i­cated to my teacher, John Corigliano, who stretched me as an artist as much as I stretched the melodic lines in this piece.

(2014), vibra­phone solo, 4:40

Ellipses in emails are con­fus­ing (and obnox­ious). But well-chosen musi­cal ellipses—in har­monies, chord pro­gres­sions, rhythms, and melodies—can trans­fix. ELLIPSIS RULES is a study of these sorts of gaps and omis­sions.

 

Vocal

(2010) mezzo-soprano or soprano and piano, 7:50

I Could Dis­solve into Sun­light
Carla Jablon­ski, soprano; Paulina Simkin, piano; Le Pois­son Rouge, May 2, 2010

Carla Jablon­ski, mezzo-soprano

The text for this song comes from a large poem cycle by Sarah Kate Moore, called The Song Sings Itself. A con­tem­po­rary gloss on the Eury­dice and Orpheus myth, this work retells the Orpheus myth from the var­i­ous per­spec­tives of the women in Orpheus’ life. The excerpt used in the song comes from Eurydice’s chap­ter, where Orpheus is a rock star-like fig­ure, irre­sistible and unfaithful.

The three sec­tions of the song deal with ini­tial love and infat­u­a­tion; mid-relationship dis­ap­point­ment; and spite and bit­ter­ness at the end of their earthly relationship.

(2013) soprano, piano, 5:20

 

For All the Cities So Bright
Amelia Watkins, soprano, and Bryan Wag­orn, piano. May 6, 2013, Newark, NJ

I hear “Home on the Range” as an idyl­lic fan­tasy, and one that should be par­tic­u­larly res­o­nant for 21st-century city-dwellers. Yet it is near-impossible to expe­ri­ence this beau­ti­ful text, buried, as it is, under heavy cul­tural bag­gage. I needed to find a fresh, non-ironic, path to these images, so I rearranged the words, mov­ing back­wards, line by line, from unfa­mil­iar stan­zas all the way to the refrain. Hav­ing grown up in Alaska, I often feel brief acute pangs of long­ing for a sort of fan­tasy life on the fron­tier. Hence, the music lurches among nos­tal­gia, agi­ta­tion, and longing.

TEXT:

the heav­ens are bright
the curlew I love to hear scream
and the ante­lope flocks
I love the white rocks
where the bright dia­mond sand
flows leisurely down in the stream
like a maid in a heav­enly dream

oh give me a land
yes, give me the gleam
oh give me the hills
oh give me the mine
oh give me the steed

the air is so pure and the zephyrs so free
and the breezes so balmy and light
and the skies are not cloudy all day
where sel­dom is heard
a dis­cour­ag­ing word
where the deer and the ante­lope play

oh give me the hills
oh give me a land
yes, give me a home

Home, home, on the range
I would not exchange
my home on the range
for all the cities so bright.

(2011) soprano and cello; 4:30.

ileavethisatyourear.mp3
Lau­ren Snouf­fer, soprano, and Sofia Nowik, cello.

text by W.S. Graham:

I leave this at your ear for when you wake,
A crea­ture in its abstract cage asleep.
Your dreams blind­fold you by the light they make.

The owl called from the naked-woman tree
As I came down by the Kyle farm to hear
Your house silent by the speak­ing sea.

I have come late but I have come before
Later with slaked steps from stone to stone
To hope to find you lis­ten­ing for the door.

I stand in the tick­ing room. My ear, I take
A moth kiss from your breath. The shore gulls cry,
I leave this at your ear for when you wake.

(2013) SSAATTB a capella

Love (after Rochefou­cauld)
The Yale Glee Club, Jef­frey Douma, con­duc­tor, Novem­ber 22, 2013

TEXT
from an epi­gram by Fran­cois de la Rochefou­cauld, trans­lated by Tom Clark

Love
like ghosts,
much talked about
sel­dom seen.

PROGRAM NOTE
I have kept most of Tom Clark’s trans­la­tion, but have used a cou­ple words from other trans­la­tions. As much as pos­si­ble, I tried to illus­trate the text through the archi­tec­ture of this brief setting.

for the Record

(2012) organ and per­cus­sion (sam­ples), 12 minutes

This work ren­ders the col­li­sion and join­ing of sus­tained organ chords with deep-layered, polyrhyth­mic sound effects. Many of the rhythms in the piece—some resem­bling idling engines—were devel­oped using MIDI-generating soft­ware and Euclid­ean geometry.

Ragged Motors

(2009) record­ing for syn­the­siz­ers, 5:35

Sleep Cycles
elec­tron­ics

I cre­ated this piece with five elec­tronic instru­ments, in the fall of 2009. There are two sim­i­lar episodes in this track, sug­gest­ing the idea of a recur­ring series of events—sleep phases or what­ever; I wasn’t sci­en­tific about it.

(2009) vio­lin, cello, bass, and piano, 1:36

Between Lovers
Patti Kil­roy, vio­lin; Leat Sab­bah, cello; Car­los Bar­ri­ento, bass; Con­rad Winslow, piano

This is a short piano+violin+cello+double bass inter­lude, writ­ten along sev­eral song arrange­ments for a show at Brooklyn’s Death By Audio, in the fall of 2009. The chords in the mid­dle of the inter­lude form the basis of a com­po­si­tion for string quin­tet and elec­tronic tex­tures called Nearly Resolved Chords.

 

Minia­tures

jin­gles

I wrote sev­eral jin­gles for Sir­ius radio, for their show “Doc­tor Radio.” I am told they used one for a pro­mo­tional spot, though I never heard it on the air. Minia­ture com­po­si­tions are fun to make! The material’s got to stand up imme­di­ately, do its busi­ness and go away. At the very least, it’s a fun exer­cise in production.

Doc­tor Radio 6 Adjusted

This one, “Dr. Raj” includes a celeste part at 0:27 that reminds me of Copland’s Piano Con­certo, at 1:08 in part 1.

Dr. Raj

And my first attempt, which was rejected for being too cute:

Doc­tor Radio Theme

cell­phones

I’ve writ­ten sev­eral ring­tones for friends and for myself. It’s a fun exer­cise in prac­ti­cal minia­ture form.

Bounce
Bounce
Ike No. 1
Ike No. 1
Ike No. 2
Ike No. 2
MJ
MJ

I have opin­ions about ring­tones, which I express here.

 

Col­lab­o­ra­tive

film score

This project, Three of a Feather, com­prised a num­ber of short sequences cre­ated by Celia Rowlson-Hall, using Mon­ica Bill Barnes’ dancers and choreography.


View the rest, as as well as Celia’s out­stand­ing port­fo­lio, here.

rock band

The Organ Grinder

I played and wrote with the exper­i­men­tal rock band dodger from 2002–2007. We wrote weird music, rooted in 60s melodic sen­si­bil­i­ties, the­atre of the absurd, and a ten­dency to favor dense instru­men­ta­tion. Matt Kamm (aka Telethon Veg­i­nald Cheese­burger) set the vibe for the band, Phil McCombs loved every bass line he wrote, Miguel Miranda and then Jeff Ilgen­fritz (of Mumpsy) played drums, and multi-instrumentalist and com­poser Sean Moore wrote and recorded vio­lins, trum­pets, and vocals.

I love the col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to writ­ing because your ego must absent itself. You can’t walk into an arrang­ing job, for exam­ple, with the atti­tude of own­ing the piece; it doesn’t work. It’s lib­er­at­ing then, because you have to serve the project. Every­one involved must refer to a com­mon tone.

This track, “The Organ Grinder” is a good exam­ple of that type of process. It was through-composed by all of us. Matt came in with a skele­ton for a song, and we each wrote (recorded) sec­tions of the song, and built the song out from that. This is maybe my favorite track we did.

You can hear the rest of our last album here.

Here’s a per­for­mance from 2006. I love these guys.

(2009–2011) arrange­ments, orches­tra­tions, some­times musi­cal direc­tion, Off-Broadway musical

I arranged and orches­trated this show, com­mis­sioned by the co-creator of the Blue Man Group, about two 14-year old girls who fall in love at a Chris­t­ian sum­mer camp. It received an extra­or­di­nary show­case pro­duc­tion in the leg­endary La Mama exper­i­men­tal the­atre club, the last pro­duc­tion approved by founder and ora­cle, Ellen Stew­art, before her death. The actors were so per­fectly cast that it was beau­ti­ful and strange.

Check out the CAMP WANATACHI web­site for media.