The music on this album presents my ongoing interest in the concerto form, a somewhat traditional approach that allows a single instrument to appear as an independent voice within a larger and rather complex sonic backdrop, a landscape – not a green screen – in an attempt to world-build. Foundationally, these three works are the final set of compositions that draw upon my Sunburst series, the set of intervallic relationships that has provided me with reams of material over the past decade. I have found that such pre-compositional work is essential to conjuring up original musical ideas in an effort to build such an infrastructure. I’d like to imagine that the listener’s experience, gleaned from the surface, emanates from a deeper well, a universe that we can’t possibly completely comprehend in a single listening or even render within a single composition.
In all three works I have played with binary ideas: day/night, light/dark, open/muted, articulate/murmuring, fast/slow, memory/forgetfulness, etc. These two-part designs are formally evident from movement to movement, especially in the way the timing of events unfold and play themselves out.
Cello Concerto (2019) is made up of two movements: an energetic and relentless opening gambit subtitled Mnemosyne, followed by Lethe, a response that is spectral and reflective of a memory that is fractured and detached. Attempts to recall and reconnect are made, but only as if in a dream, unconsciousness and unaware. Orchestration is reduced to strings and pianos/ celeste/harp/percussion only, providing a particular sonic resonance that is other-worldly and reminiscent of a performance of Boulez’s Sur incises I heard in a 1999 Carnegie Hall concert.
Double Bass Concerto (2018) – this three-movement work is the fourth in a series of compositions based on the Farey sequence. The concerto is in response to the experience of witnessing a solar eclipse, and specifically Baily’s Beads. When light from the sun travels through the valleys of the moon, there is a moment (around two minutes, depending on your point of view on earth) where "beads” of light seem to dance around the edges of the moon. This is suggested by the pulsating harmonics in the solo directly in the opening bars. The idea of covering and masking direct sunlight with the moon is, in some imaginary way, replicated sonically. I was keen to position the double bass in such a way as to create sonic shadows, auras, and glimpses of sound that are suggestive and ambiguous, often whispered and always muted.
Moonburst (2018), the second of a two-movement set of pieces for orchestra – Sunburst and Moonburst – reflects the transforming images of the night: a calm and gentle breeze triggering a whispering of leaves and twigs; the silent flight of owls amid a full moon overflowing with milky light and the distant yet sustained final mating calls of cicadas, all of which surrounds a sleepless mind reflecting on time passed. I composed the work in layers, beginning with a slow rotation of the Sunburst matrix heard spatialized among the strings at the opening while serving as a backdrop that captures the spirit of Sciarrino’s Sui poemi concentrici. The first seven notes from the first movement of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire (Mondestrunken) are transformed and distributed between the harp and vibraphone, followed soon after by the main tune from Debussy’s Clair de lune (in the winds and brass throughout). While I performed both works as a pianist, the latter while both young and imperfectly impressionable, all of these ideas ultimately end as a mashup, not quotable. They have now become fused and ineluctable, with all elements emerging from a unified melodic and harmonic language. The nine-minute composition divides roughly into three unequal sections, with the middle part the most rhythmically stationary and harmonically sustained through standing waves and multiphonics, found in the oboes and bassoons.
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