String Quartet No. 2 - there is no place

The creation of my second string quartet has been the longest musical journey of my life to date. I began writing it in the spring of 2016 and completed it in the spring of 2019. Subtitled, there is no place, this work encompasses a period of significant turbulence and change in my life. During that three year time span I moved from Baltimore to Austin and from Austin to Durham. I was dealt a devastating blow to my confidence when someone I trusted and respected betrayed me and treated me like dirt. And in the fall of 2018 I was diagnosed with HIV, something that felt more unfair to me than anything else in the world at that moment.

status:Reactive was written in the fall of 2018 immediately following my HIV diagnosis. I decided to use my viral load as a pitch set and then derived the musical materials from the result. This music has a sense of urgency, a sense that no matter what you have to move forward, because staying still means being ripped apart from the inside.

tie me down was composed in the spring of 2016 but I later made significant revisions to this movement. This music takes a break from the internal conflict of the surrounding movements but has its own frantic energy. To me there is something almost painful in the way that the quartet is pulling forward only to be constantly slowed down. The final rush of energy of this movement leads us to the edge of the abyss.

there is no place was completed in January of 2019 and is the centerpiece of this work. This music is once again about an internal conflict, if there is one recurring theme of this work it is the idea of being torn apart from different directions. The long lyrical melody presented at the start fights against the more aggressive gestures that begin to overtake the work. A final coda by the viola displays the slightest sense of optimism, maybe there is a way to hold on through everything.

a harsh reminder why brings us to the conclusion of the work. The quartet begins with a rushing pizzicato gesture that has a constantly shifting pulse. This music is full of energy, despite some left over aggression from the previous movements there is a real sense of hope. The quartet races forward excitedly until it slams head first into a brick wall, a harsh reminder. The harsh reminder that I received in Austin and again when I was diagnosed with HIV, to never become complacent. Never assume people have your best interests in mind and never expect the universe to be on your side. A harsh reminder that nobody should need a second time.

Acheron

for English Horn and Piano

In Greek mythology Acheron is known as the river of woe which divided the world of the living from the underworld. I use that perspective of the river in this piece to inform a vague narrative about the passage from life to death. The piano represents the river as an allegory for the passage of time.  It provides a constant source of forward motion across all four movements. The english horn on the other hand serves as a kind of character at the center of this vague narrative. This piece isn't tragic just a random pondering of the nature of death and its inherent place in the cycle of life.

 

Tapestry No. 1

for Clarinet Choir

Tapestry No. 1 is the first in a planned (plan in the loosest sense of the word) series of pieces for various homogenous ensembles.  This piece is based on the idea of layering simple lines of music to create a more complex image much like the process of weaving a tapestry.  The mood of the pieces is inspired by a quote from Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

"How often I have lain on a strange roof, thinking of home."

 

you say you're ok

for Lead Steelpan and Cello

Written for Mike Schwebke

This piece follows a recent trend of mine to attempt to reflect daily life in music.  It is an expression of my frustration with the shallowness of so may interpersonal relationships in my and other people's lives.  Social media has changed our interactions in way where it is almost unacceptable to be anything less than "fine, ok, good."  We present the most perfect version of ourselves whenever possible.  The primary compositional premise of this piece is two instruments engaging in a dialogue.  The dialogue begins quite superficially with the steel pan and cello essentially imitating each other.  Once the tempo picks up the two instruments begin to develop each other's ideas finally settling into different but complementary roles.