Craig Weston: Recent Compositions

 



Note: all of the compositions listed on this page are currently self-published. Contact me if you are interested in recordings, perusal scores, or performance materials.



Links to some mp3 recordings, embedded audio, and/or embedded video are provided for some pieces.



This is not a complete catalog, but does list most recent pieces. Follow the quick links to the complete entries, which contain program notes, links to mp3 files and other info.



 

All text and recordings (c) copyright Craig Weston

 



 

Information about current (and future) works in progress

 



Quick links by medium:

 

Large Ensemble (instrumental):

Elegy and Dance (2006, alto saxophone solo with orchestra)

Sleeping in the Forest (2004, mezzo-soprano with chamber orchestra)

The River Bridged and Forgot (2000, orchestra)

Avatars (1990, orchestra)

 

Chamber and solo instrumental:

Demented Dances (2012, oboe, violin, cello, piano)

Intensity 8.5 (2011, alto saxophone, piano)

Stehekin Sonata (2008, clarinet, piano)

Glancing Spirals (2005, clarinet, violin, piano)

Still on the Antipodes (2004, bass clarinet solo, percussion ensemble)

Etherial Tincture (2003, trumpet ensemble)

Aix (2002, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, marimba, piano)

Unbroken Lines (1999, flute, clarinet)

...into all crevices of my world (1997, piano with digitally composed sounds)

Nightsongs and Glacial Runes (1994, string quartet)

Soliloquy (1989, guitar)

Essential Departures (1989, viola)

 

Choral/vocal:

Sleeping in the Forest (2004, mezzo-soprano with chamber orchestra)

If Just for Once (2002, chorus)

Credo (2001, chorus, piano, string quartet)

Archaic Torso of Apollo (1997, chorus)

 

Electroacoustic:

Texture Study no. 1 (1998, digitally composed sounds)

...into all crevices of my world (1997, piano with digitally composed sounds)

...is to... (1994, digitally composed sounds)

 



Demented Dances (2012): Oboe, Violin, Cello, Piano.
Duration: about 5 minutes.

Program Note for Demented Dances:

This piece was just finished--stay tuned for more info here.

 

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Intensity 8.5 (2011): Alto Saxophone and Piano. Duration: about 5 minutes.

(Recording coming soon. The premiere is September, 2012.)

Program Note for Intensity 8.5:

Many of my recent pieces involve delicate textures and subtle transformations of sound colors. This is not one of them. Buckle up.

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Stehekin Sonata (2008): Clarinet and Piano. Duration: about 13 minutes.

 

Program Note for Stehekin Sonata:

Stehekin Sonata was written at the request of, and dedicated to, my good friend and colleague Tod Kerstetter, extraordinary clarinetist and passionate champion of my music. It was composed in October, 2008, during my stay at North Cascades National Park, Stehekin, Washington, as Artist-in Residence. Not accessible by automobile, Stehekin lies in the heart of the North Cascades: the most remote and spectacular mountain wilderness in the lower 48 states. The mountains have always been, for me, a place of calm and restoration of the spirit. John Muir wonderfully captures this quality in the quote from which the movement titles come:

Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail. [John Muir, Our National Parks (Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin, 1901), 56.]

“Nature’s peace will flow into you…” features a lilting 6/8 theme which gradually emerges out of more complex, competing rhythmic combinations, and is rhythmically transformed (a little added to each measure) in its final statement. “The winds will blow…” is cast a more dramatic vein and explores the extreme low end of the clarinet’s large range. “…sunshine flows into trees” is a lighthearted and playful finale featuring virtuosic playing from both instruments and extensive use of asymmetrical meters and competing (simultaneous) rhythmic strands. All of these factors are ratcheted up a notch or three in the high-energy coda.

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Elegy and Dance (2006): Solo Alto Saxophone and Orchestra. Duration: about 12 minutes.

Listen to Elegy
Dance

Program Note for Elegy and Dance:

The two movements of Elegy and Dance are performed without pause, although no listener could possibly have any trouble hearing where one has ended and the other has begun.  In contrast to the white-hot rhythmic drive of the Dance, the Elegy is fairly cool and reserved, offering many opportunities for the soloist to show off the quiet end of the saxophone’s wide dynamic range and the subtleties of expressive playing. (The harp, possibly the quietest instrument in the orchestra, is prominent in this movement as well, enjoying the final, whispered word.)

The Dance is just a romp from beginning to end, including some light-hearted “borrowing” from Bartók and Ravel. (Always steal from the best!) If you feel the urge to move, then we’re all on the right track. However, in order to actually dance to this music, one would need a very acute sense of rhythm, and having one leg longer than the other would be a help as well: this movement features the “limping” and jagged accent patterns of shifting, asymmetrical meters from start to finish. After a cadenza-like passage that begins with only saxophone and marimba, a polyrhythmic “shout chorus” (the saxophone and bongos are on one team, the rest of the orchestra on the other) ratchets up the energy level one final notch into the ending.

As contemporary virtuoso playing standards have pushed the envelope ever further, especially in the realm of the so-called altissimo range (the extended upper range of the instrument), the saxophone, with its wide pitch, dynamic, and color range, has become an ideal vehicle for the contemporary composer. Elegy and Dance is the product of an idea for a saxophone and strings piece that’s been on my mental to-do list for some time. When I first heard Anna Marie Wytko play, this idea immediately jumped to the top of that list! I particularly wanted to write a vehicle to highlight the incredible control and subtleties of her soft playing as well as the usual virtuosic “wow” passages one expects in a solo feature.

 

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Glancing Spirals (2005): Clarinet, Violin, Piano. Duration: about 9 minutes.

 

Program Note for Glancing Spirals:

Glancing Spirals was commissioned by the Kansas Music Teachers Association and premiered at their annual meeting in Winfield Kansas in October, 2005. In setting out to compose this piece, I wanted to create a piece that would be challenging but fun to play, and perhaps deceptively simple to the listener. Each movement title says about everything one needs to know about the movement: Gently Flowing, Playfully Fierce, and Sweetly Singing.

The entire piece uses a family of scales that are similar to traditional diatonic scale, except that they do not repeat at the octave (so that any given octave of the scale will have not have the exact same notes as the octave above or below). The particular scales employed in this piece tend to move "toward the sharp side" as they ascend, which we tend to hear as producing a brighter harmonic color (and therefore, motion downward creates a darker harmonic color.) This deep structural aspect of the piece is the origin of the spiral metaphor in the title.

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Sleeping in the Forest (2004): Mezzo-soprano solo with chamber orchestra. Duration: about 10 minutes.

Program Note for Sleeping in the Forest:

This song is a setting of Mary Oliver's beautiful poem of the same name. Evoking images of night, this piece is something of an homage to Bartók's “night music.” Listeners familiar with Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste will recognize several textures and colors reminiscent of the third movement of that work. Sleeping in the Forest belongs to the same larger set of pieces-inspired by nature poetry-as The River Bridged and Forgot (orchestra), and The Sun (chorus with orchestra). Sleeping in the Forest has also been adapted for mezzo-soprano soloist, chorus, and orchestra. Together with one additional (yet unwritten) movement for chorus and orchestra, these four pieces will eventually be movements of a grand cycle for orchestra and chorus. Many common elements unify the pieces of this cycle, most notably the recurring, shimmering arpeggio figure in the harp, piano, and percussion.

 

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Still on the Antipodes (2004): Solo bass clarinet with percussion ensemble. Duration: about 8.5 minutes.

Listen to Still on the Antipodes

Program Note for Still on the Antipodes:

There is relatively little to say about how this high-energy piece goes that the music will not say, quite emphatically at times, for itself. Suffice it to say that the piece is nearly one long, sweeping energy curve (from less to more), pressing, through various polyrhythmic grooves, almost relentlessly to the brink of the ridiculous, pulling back momentarily, and then finally surging ahead, completing its journey to the ridiculous and perhaps well beyond.

The title pays homage to Charles Ives and his song "On the Antipodes." As is almost always the case for me, the title came last, and I was looking for something that captured some essential element of the piece. In this case, that element is extremes: this piece explores extremes in high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow, and so on. It is a natural outgrowth of the decision to write for bass clarinet; an instrument which has an enormous range, and (with the other clarinets) is virtually the only wind instrument which can play its whole range of soft to loud over its whole pitch range. This is also one of the often-overlooked unique features of percussion instruments (their softest softs are as stunning as their loudest louds are heartpounding)—it just seemed like a marriage made in heaven.

Still on the Antipodes was written for and dedicated to Tod Kerstetter (bass clarinet) and the Kansas State University Percussion Ensemble, Kurt Gartner, director, who gave its premiere November 30, 2004. From the initial idea to the premiere, these friends and colleagues went to the antipodes to bring this music to life and to meet its considerable demands. For that I am honored and indebted.

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Ethereal Tincture (2003): 12-part trumpet ensemble. Duration: about 3.5 minutes.

Listen to Ethereal Tincture

Program Note for Ethereal Tincture:

Ethereal Tincture is in many ways everything you don't expect a trumpet piece to be: a quiet, understated, subtle color piece. It reflects my fascination with perpetually shifting colors and unbalanced, "fragile" textures, which is made possible by the use of different types of mutes within the ensemble.

 

One can think of this as like electronic music for acoustic instruments: the action in the melodic and harmonic domains is subtle and unfolds very slowly, while much of the compositional craft traditionally applied to these domains is applied to the treatment of sound color.

 

Ethereal Tincture was written for the Kansas State University Trumpet Ensemble for their performance at the International Trumpet Guild conference in May, 2003.

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If Just for Once (2002): Choir (a capella). Duration: about six minutes.

Listen to If Just for Once

Program Note for If Just for Once:

Just as Denise Levertov's stunning poem deals with one kind of reality "breaking through" mundane reality, a large array of textures break through one another in this piece: not just once, as in the text, but perpetually. The overall fragility of the choral textures heightens this effect: one often gets the feeling that the texture might easily "break" and be supplanted by a different kind of texture. Special attention is paid to a few key phrases in the text, whose meaning and consonantal sounds lend themselves to the motoric, multi-layered treatments of this piece.

 

If Just for Once was commissioned by Cantori, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY, Robert Cowles, Director, and premiered on their New York City tour and their Geneva campus in April, 2003.

 

Variation and Reflection on a Theme by Rilke

 

If just for once the swing of       cause and effect,

                                                cause and effect,

would come to rest; if casual events would halt,

and the machine that supplies meaningless laughter

ran down, and my bustling senses, taking a deep breath

fell silent

and left my attention free at last...

 

then my thought, single and multifold,

could think you into itself

until it filled with you to the very brim,

bounding the whole flood of your boundlessness:

 

and at that timeless moment of possession,

fleeting as a smile, surrender you

and let you flow back into all creation.

—Denise Levertov

(used by permission)

 

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Aix (2002): Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Marimba, and Piano. Duration: about six minutes.

Program Note for Aix:

Through a mix of part preference, mostly coincidence, a large portion of my work in recent years has tended toward the contemplative, expansive side. So I knew right away when I received the invitation to write for Peoria Lunaire that I would use this opportunity to write something much different: a short, intensive burst of swirling polyrhythmic energy that leaps forth from the ensemble with an almost tantric qualityųlike the slightly dangerous way that the sheer joy of life occasionally bursts forth, incorrigible, from our otherwise appropriate and decidedly corrigible lives.

Now then, why Aix? (It rhymes with "yikes.") For the soggy residents of the Pacific Northwest (I used to be one), at no time is the sheer joy of life more likely to burst forth than in June, when, if you are lucky, the drizzly winter of your discontent is made glorious summer by the first of three or four blissfully dry months of heaven on earth. Northwesterners savor summer with a passion! A June ritual which we observed whenever possible was the ascent of Mt Aix, the predominant peak in the William O. Douglas Wilderness, a relatively lonesome area of stunning alpine beauty a few miles east of Mt. Rainier. Because Aix lies in the rainshadow of Rainier, and because its approach is over south-facing slopes, those wishing to expend an intensive burst of tantric energy may haul their not-yet-in-summer-shape bodies a vertical mile or so to the top weeks before the high-country hiking season begins elsewhere. It was our ritual to make camp near the bottom, begin the trek early in the morning, linger in the otherworldly snow and ice world of the summit, and stagger back into camp, the body spent but the spirit nourished, late in the evening (Ah, youth!)

This is not program music: for me, the music always comes first, and as it takes form, metaphors and ways of explaining it to others occur to me. The way that this piece bursts forth, burns bright, and spends itself over its brief life (and the slightly extravagant zeal with which it does its thing) reminds me of that wonderful June ritual from years past.

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Credo (2001): Choir, String Quartet, and Piano. Duration: about six minutes.

Program Note for Credo:

Official confessions notwithstanding, it seems to me that most people believe that the world is (mostly) a good and beautiful place, inhabited (mostly) by (mostly) good and beautiful people. On September 11, 2001, that belief was shattered. Where mere words fail, art often finds it place. Nearly every artist I know has felt the need to address these events through their art in some way—this setting of Denise Levertov's Credo is my commentary on the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and our struggle to regain our faith in a good and beautiful world.

This text captivates me because it is so personal and ordinary, whereas the typical Credo text begins with "I believe," but, ironically, goes on to present not personal belief, but officially sanctioned belief in rarefied  official language. Although I am sure that Levertov's text expressed very specific beliefs for her , the words themselves, beautifully ordinary, should be able to communicate the struggle of belief more universally.

The opening, recurring, "I believe" motive of the piece captures the overall fragility of the work: it is tentative, perhaps even pleading: sounding as much like a question as a statement. The piece is sparse and delicate overall, as if it could be easily broken. Suggestions of ancient modality and contemporary chromaticism mingle and co-exist throughout, just as belief and doubt do in the text, engaging in a swirling contrapuntal dance in the climactic passage.

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The River Bridged and Forgot (1999): Orchestra. Duration: about 10 minutes

Listen to The River Bridged and Forgot

Program Note for The River Bridged and Forgot:

The River Bridged and Forgot takes its name from a Wendell Berry poem which explores the complex relationship between man and nature. It is the "prologue" to a planned larger work with chorus, setting other nature poetry. Although none of the musical imagery is directly programmatic or metaphoric for natural phenomena in any intentional way, the moods of the piece easily invoke a wide array of possible connections with the outdoor world. 

The three sections of the piece are impossible to miss: The opening slow music is like an extended orchestral shimmer, which gives way to a vigorous "dance of joy," which, like many dances of joy, gets a little carried away, leading the piece to a somewhat frenzied dramatic high point. More slow music emerges from the cataclysm: this time, it is lyrical, with the shimmering music of the opening re-appearing from time to time, especially as the calm closing approaches.

The poetic inspiration for this work, both in its present form and as a part of an eventual larger whole, is pondering the nature world, not as "purple mountain's majesty," but more as a restorative tonic for the ailments of the human mind and spirit.

The River Bridged and Forgot  was composed in 1999 for the Iowa State University Symphony Orchestra, who gave its premiere in February, 2000. The piece utilizes an orchestra of modest size and is specifically intended to be accessible to community and university orchestras as well as professional groups.

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Texture Study no. 1 (1998): Digital Sounds. Duration: about five minutes.

Texture Study no. 1

Program Note for Texture Study no. 1:

Texture Study no. 1 was commissioned by the Brunnier Museum for the Robert Hillestad "Threads of Celebration" exhibit. This short work began its life as a work for dance, but plans changed. I took advantage of that new-found rhythmic freedom to explore the "large spaces" that computer music seems to so often avoid: a slower pace which perhaps draws the listener more into the sound-world itself than the way in which those sounds add up to something. If you've been lucky enough to see the exhibit, think of it as like one of Hillestad's wonderful "wearable art" pieces, but blown up way larger than life, so that those tiny threads are really huge cords, and the tiny spaces between them now much larger gaps.

 

Texture Study no. 1 was realized on a Macintosh computer. The technique of granular synthesis is used extensively, which I programmed in Lisp, in conjunction with John Rahn's Lisp Kernel.  Synthesis was done both directly in Lisp with Common Lisp Music, and in CSound, using Lisp as a front-end.

 

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Unbroken Lines (1997–1999): Flute and Clarinet. Duration: about 10 minutes.

Listen to Turning (Unbroken Lines, movement 1)
Exercizing the Rite (
Unbroken Lines, movement 2)
Repose (
Unbroken Lines, movement 3)
Sparring (
Unbroken Lines, movement 4)

Program Note for Unbroken Lines:

The title Unbroken Lines does not allude to any aspect of the construction of the piece, but rather to the idea I had as I worked on the piece that is was unfolding as a kind of homage to the composers whose works have influenced me most. There is little direct imitation, however—what is personal style, after all, if not absorbing what one admires most in those who have gone before and making it one's own?  That, not imitation, is truly the sincerest form of flattery.

"Turning" bears the fingerprint of Stravinsky and Bartok in its scales and patterns, of VarŹse in its gestural language, and of Ligeti in one particular pitch grouping which takes on a cadential role in this movement. "Exercising the Rite" gives away in its title the most blatant act of near-theft in the piece (from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring). "Repose" attempts to re-cast some of the motives of the other movements in a completely different mood. "Sparring" is so named because it reminds me somewhat of the kind of virtuosic verbal banter that is common among some spouses or in other kinds of close relationships: it is ostensibly adversarial, but actually requires very close cooperation and mutual interdependence. The insistent melodic gestures in this movement are strongly suggestive of VarŹse, while the rhythmic relationships between the parts take as their point of departure the "polyrhythmic" ideas for which Elliott Carter is well known.

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...into all crevices of my world (1997): Solo Piano with Digital Sounds. Duration: about 9 minutes

Program Note for ...into all crevices of my world:

The title, ...into all crevices of my world, comes from the closing line of William Carlos Williams's epic love poem, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower":

...As I think of it now, after a lifetime, it is as if
a sweet-scented flower were poised and for me did open.
Asphodel has no odor save to the imagination
but it too celebrates the light. It is late
but an odor as from our wedding has revived for me
and begun again to penetrate into all crevices of my world.

In setting out to write this piece, my thoughts began, as always, with the instruments and which of their qualities I wanted to exploit. I wanted to create a ringing, resonant quality, which meant lots of pedal for the piano; which meant lots of the ephemeral upper register and the rich bass notes, with much less of the middle range, which becomes a muddy jumble when the pedal is used extensively. A leisurely pace, for the most part, seemed fitting. The sounds of the tape part and the tuning relationships between the two parts contribute to the ringing quality.

(An aside: this is an ideal combination for exploring intonation relationships—the complete flexibility of the computer synthesis environment allows one to create changing relationships with the fixed intonation of the piano.  The human performer has the luxury, of course, of remaining more-or-less happily oblivious to all of this!)

As the work progressed, it struck me as having a very sensuous quality. This brought me to the beautiful poem, in which Williams pairs the two most sensuous things I know: a lingering sweet smell and love. (It is said that of all the senses, it is smell that is most directly connected to our emotions!) The repeating parallel thirds of the opening music, especially, seem to me like the metaphoric Asphodel for Williams: they eventually seem to penetrate, in one form or another, into all crevices of the piece.

...into all crevices of my world was commissioned by the Iowa Music Teachers Association. The digital sounds were created in Csound on a Power Macintosh using Lisp as a front-end compositional environment. It was recorded by Jeri-Mae G. Astolfi on her CD Melange: New Music for Piano on Capstone. (Buy it at Amazon or CD Universe.)

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Archaic Torso of Apollo (1997): Choir (a capella). Duration: about three minutes

Program Note for Archaic Torso of Apollo:

Rilke's poem, "Archaic Torso of Apollo," for me, illustrates beautifully how direct and sensuous the aesthetic experience can be, even while fully engaging our intellect.  There is a wonderful paradox in the intense visceral reaction of the speaker of the poem to an image of Apollo, traditionally associated with the cerebral side of human life. Art speaks directly to the intellect and to the sense. The easy flow of the lines is tightened only in the final revelation of the poem: "You must change your life."

This setting was commissioned by the Central Michigan University School of Music in 1997, in honor of their new music building.

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... is to ..., digital sounds only version (1996). Duration: about 12 minutes.

Program Note for ... is to ..., digital sounds only version

... is to ... exists in several forms—the original, for computer-generated tape and two percussionists, was premiered in 1994 at the University of Missouri New Music Festival.  A more virtuosic solo percussion version will be premiered by ISU faculty percussionist Barry Larkin later this year.  There is no attempt to fill in the "missing parts" (played by human percussionists) in this tape only version, but rather to transform the tape part into a different, more "contemplative" piece.

The tile ... is to ...reflects the "organic growth" of form in the piece: the tendency for the perceived sections to become proportionately longer as the piece progresses, until the form "outgrows itself," in a sense.  As would be expected in (what began as) a percussion piece, the idea of time proportion (i.e. rhythm) in general plays a prominent role in the piece, in both large- and small-scale ways.  The basic rhythmic material consists of a few rhythmic clichés, but they are seldom heard in isolation, but rather in combinations that result in more complex patterns.  At the point where the form "outgrows itself," this tapestry of rhythmic strands unravels, and the basic units (clichés) are briefly heard in isolation—as if the piece has been "laid bare."  The climax grows out of the "re-weaving" of these basic elements.

The computer-generated component of ... is to ...  was created at the University of Washington School of Music Computer Center (SMCC—pronounced "smooch") in 1992.  The technique of granular synthesis is used extensively, which I programmed in Lisp, in conjunction with John Rahn's Lisp Kernel.  Synthesis was done on a NeXT computer, both directly in Lisp with Common Lisp Music, and in CSound, using Lisp as a front-end.
The 1996 revisions were done in csound on a Macintosh computer.

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Nightsongs and Glacial Runes (1994): String Quartet. Duration: about six minutes.

Program Note for Nightsongs and Glacial Runes:

The "passing of time" is a central element in Nightsongs and Glacial Runes:  The words of the title come from two poems that I encountered for the first time while composing the piece: Goethe's "Wanderer's Nachtlied II" ("Hiker's Nightsong II"), and Alan Shapiro's "Rock Pool," in which swirling currents of water are called "glacial runes."  (I have since begun a choral setting of "Rock Pool," with computer-generated tape.)  While both of these are nature poems, it was the treatment of time—eternity, the present, and mortality—in both poems which struck me as similar to the treatment of time in the piece.  (The piece is not in any way a "setting" of the poems—for me the title always comes last!)  The brief duration of this piece makes it possible to hear the rhythmic flow not only in the usual moment-to-moment way, but also, paradoxically, as a whole: as if the whole thing were somehow happening at once.  The listener becomes aware that the individual rhythmic streams are progressing toward an inevitable climactic junction, although this moment, near the end, passes surprisingly quickly—just as "now" always does, ultimately turning our attention back to the whole.  These independent rhythmic streams, woven throughout the four parts,  give the impression that the quartet is more like one "super instrument" which requires four people to play it.

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... is to ... (1992): Two Percussionists with Digital Sounds. Duration: about 12 minutes.

Program Note for ... is to ...:

The title ... is to ... reflects the predominant element of form in the piece: the tendency for the perceived sections to become proportionately longer as the piece progresses, until the form "outgrows itself," in a sense.  As would be expected in a percussion piece, the idea of time proportion (i.e. rhythm) in general plays a prominent role in the piece, in both large- and small-scale ways.  The basic rhythmic material consists of a few rhythmic clichés, but they are seldom heard in isolation, but rather in combinations that result in more complex patterns.  At the point where the form "outgrows itself," this tapestry of rhythmic strands unravels, and the basic units (clichés) are briefly heard in isolation in the computer part , while the percussionists are silent—as if the piece has been "laid bare."  The climax grows out of the "re-weaving" of these basic elements.

The computer-generated component of ... is to ...  was created at the University of Washington School of Music Computer Center (SMCC—pronounced "smooch") in 1992.  The technique of granular synthesis is used extensively, which I programmed in Lisp, in conjunction with John Rahn's Lisp Kernel.  Synthesis was done on a NeXT computer, both directly in Lisp with Common Lisp Music, and in CSound, using Lisp as a front-end.

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Avatars (1990): Orchestra. Duration: about 11 minutes

Listen to Avatars

Program Note for Avatars:

Avatars is so named because the material consists not so much of themes or of formal units (although one can certainly hear these things in places), but of ideas which are themselves largely ineffable, but become "embodied" in various ways throughout the piece.  (The word "avatars" originally comes from Hindu theology, although the piece has nothing to do with Hindu theology, unless, of course, you choose to hear it that way!  For me, the title always comes after the piece is written, and is a description of what is in the music, not vice versa.)

Of the three "avatars" in the piece, the opening fanfare-like music represents the first and most easily recognizable, while the other two have less specific identities, and occur in greatly varied  "embodiments."  The deliberate use of cliché, most notably in the brass writing, helps draw attention to the comings and goings of the materials of the piece.  As the piece progresses, the three "avatars" overlap and co-mingle more and more, until they eventually fuse, at the most still moment of the piece (about two-thirds of the way through).  At this point, the fanfare-like music of the beginning takes over, and continues, machine-like, to its inevitable climax.

Avatars seems to look pastward, in a way, to orchestral music as a genre, although its conception is thoroughly contemporary.  This is due in part to the incorporation of cliché, the "bigness" of its gestural language, and the extensive use of tutti orchestration (most or all of the orchestra playing most of the time, but in ever-shifting combinations).

Avatars  won the 1992 Norwalk (Connecticut) Symphony Quinto Maganini Award in Composition, and was premiered in that year by the Jesse Levine and the Norwalk Symphony.

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Soliloquy (1989): Solo Guitar. Duration: about six minutes

Listen to Soliloquy

Program Note for Soliloquy:

Soliloquy, as one might expect, sometimes has the affect of sounding more improvisatory than "composed out."   This affect is achieved by the way in which the melodic and gestural material constantly "spin off" into new, sometimes distantly related gestures.  Soliloquy , the second in a planned series of solo instrument pieces, was composed for Seattle-based guitarist David Gorgas, who performed it throughout South America on a 1990 tour.

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Essential Departures (1989): Solo Viola. Duration: about 11 minutes

Program Note for Essential Departures:

Essential Departures plays off that tired old stereotype of the viola as suitable for only the ponderous, lugubrious, and melancholy.  Each movement plays off of (and departs from) the stereotype.  The opening movement comes closest to embracing the caricature—it is the essential point of reference.  The forceful second movement reflects a bravura style much more commonly associated with the violin.  The third movement, presto soto voce  (whispered), is unlike any convention of "classical" playing: it is more like some strange, unknown sort of fiddling.  The fourth movement is dance like, in fact it could be considered an homage to Bach's famous Chaccone in D Minor.  The final movement returns to a slower tempo, although it is in a lyrical style, impetuous but almost playful in a funny way—anything but lugubrious.

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