Champion (2019)

for solo violin

Champion was written for a close friend of mine for her senior recital at The Juilliard School. Inspired by her unending support for me as a composer, her frequent appearance in ensembles performing my music, and a coincidental reading of Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions, I sought to create a work that was tender, bold, and even a little silly.

Commissioned and premiered by Leerone Hakami

 

rose thorn bud (2018)

for symphony orchestra

Winner of the The Juilliard School’s Arthur Friedman Prize in Orchestral Composition, rose thorn bud is inspired by a warm-up activity that I used in peer groups while interning with the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City. Rose is something good in one’s life, Thorn is a recent struggle, and Bud is something one is looking forward to. These three ideas set the basis of an episodic narrative, which is full of dialogue, interruptions, and moments of tenderness, reminiscing on the excitement and support shared by communing group members.

rose thorn bud is dedicated to Graeme, Jo, Linden, and Malaya with tremendous love and gratitude for the community we made for each other.

 

Photo by Matthew Quigley

Let Them Eat Cake (2018)

opera scene

Let Them Eat Cake, based on a short play by Ted Malawer, is a historical fantasia that reimagines the life and trials of Marie Antoinette.  Motifs throughout the work play on musical and historical tropes that evoke images of yesteryear.  This work explores the complicated intertwining of marital dysfunction, out-of-touch nobility, repressed sexuality, and the healing properties of cake, all while proving that there is indeed a place on stage for comic opera.  

 


Photo by Dale Lloyd

Hatrack (2016)

a chamber opera in one act

Hatrack lives in the world of small-town America.  The original libretto by Katie Kull was inspired by Up From Methodism by Herbert Asbury.  In this memoir, Asbury reflects on his childhood in rural Farmington, Missouri around the turn of the century, giving special attention to the corruption and elitism that still plagues many religious institutions.  The story focuses on Hatrack, a woman known only by the moniker given to her by her community.  Making a living as a sex worker, Hatrack is denied acceptance and social status by the same men who regularly visit her in her place of work, the local cemetery.  She is confident in her relationship with God, however, and continues to make appearances week after week in church despite the judgmental congregation, as she prays for the life she has always dreamed of.  

I first read Asbury's Up From Methodism as a high school student in Farmington, MO.  Upon returning the book to my teacher, Dr. Brian Reeves, he asked me: "Do you think things have really changed here?"  As a teenager in the same place a century later, I felt that no, things haven't really changed.  What do you think?


An Act of Contention (2017)

for violin, double bass, and percussion

Choreographer Ethan Colangelo and I crafted this piece together over the course of several months while following a general rule: always more intense.  The music was inspired by my own experiences with trauma, fear, and struggle.  I chose to develop the music as a sort of controlled improvisation by providing the performers with a musical vocabulary, graphics, and visual cues while eschewing meter.  Approximated timings and reactionary events, rather than meter, allowed for the music to be sculpted around the choreography, which streamlined our creative process in the final stages of collaborating.


Photo and video by Matthew Quigley

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Threshold (2018)

"And given my time all over again,
rest assured that I'd rather speak for myself
than be Dearest, Beloved, Dark Lady, White Goddess, etc., etc.

In fact girls, I'd rather be dead.

But the Gods are like publishers,
usually male,
and what you doubtless know of my tale
is the deal."

- from Eurydice by Carol Ann Duffy

Threshold is intended as a vignette of the final moments of the Orpheus myth, shifting perspective from Orpheus as hero to Orpheus as captor and obsessor.  Drawing inspiration from the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke and Carol Ann Duffy, Eurydice is given a platform to share her story of radical escape:  sanctuary in eternal death.  As Eurydice moves through the Underworld, led by the man she desperately hopes to be saved from, she reflects on her life, cycling from anguish, to determination, to liberation.

Threshold was the inaugural project of Strangers in a Room, a collective of musicians and dancers united by an interest to uncover the hidden stories that lie within the accepted narrative of history.  By amplifying and disseminating those voices that have long been silenced, we hope to enrich the world with a broader understanding of history, myth, and legend.


 

long string of molecules (2016)

for chamber orchestra

long string of molecules is a frantic race towards the light at the end of the tunnel.  Composed for Alarm Will Sound as part of the 2016 Mizzou International Composers Festival, this work bounces and bubbles from start to finish with a seemingly endless fountain of energy.  Although bright and cheery, one can hear a certain volatility in angular gestures, tight hockets, and insistent rhythms, as if the train could derail at any moment.  

 

Und fast ein Mädchen wars... (2017) 

for chamber choir

Commissioned by Vox Nova, Und fast ein Mädchen wars... is a setting of the second of Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus.  I aimed to craft a sound world that was otherworldly and anguished, yet gentle to the utmost degree.  When I hear this music, I see blurriness and haze, Eurydice fading into eternal nothingness, Orpheus brought to his knees in grief. 

And it was almost a girl

And it was almost a girl who stepping
From this single happiness of song and lyre
Glowed clearly through her spring veils
And made herself a bed inside my ear.
And slept in me. And all things were her sleep:
The trees that I used to admire,
This tangible distance and the perceived meadow
And every wonder that affected me.
She slept the world. Singing god, how did you
Perfect her so that she didn’t
Seek to waken? See, she arose and slept.
Where is her death? Oh, won’t you compose a melody
Before your song languishes?
Where is she falling from me? ... Almost a girl ...


Love Letter (2016) 

for flute and guitar

Love Letter was inspired by the relationships in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and De Profundis by Oscar Wilde.  Both of these literary works contain some sort of love letter, although not the sort that one might expect.  These works subvert the object of the love letter into something twisted and corrupt.  I captured the fire and rage of these letters by leaning into the extremes of both the flute and guitar while juxtaposing sharp, angular gestures with fleeting moments of extreme tenderness.