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moon east: klang

Klang for viola & chamber ensemble       Buy Now
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I. After a wild introduction, the movement erupts into a rush of activity, with the emphasis on the frenetic solos of the viola. After a brief reminder of the opening, the movement ends with a frenzied toccata.

II. Adagio features long, flowing lines, and gentle counterpoint. There is rarely any sense of accompaniment from any of the instruments, with the viola functioning as a “1st among equals.” The movement is a very loose rondo, but the form is quite free, even meandering.

III. Teaching Piece introduces a very different kind of procedure from the rest of the work. In this movement, the viola introduces a motive or idea and “teaches” it to the next instrument, who picks it up and fashions the idea to make it their own. As the soloist introduces more and more ideas, they are gradually subsumed into the texture. Only occasionally does the soloist emerge to guide the ensemble to the next idea. After briefly losing the initiative in a violent shift of texture, the soloist reemerges as the teacher.

IV. The fourth movement is attacca from Teaching Piece. This somewhat ironically titled movement, Aria semplice, crashes between a simple, folksy motive and a series of highly charged dramatic gestures. The bulk of the movement consists of an immense cadenza. Even when the ensemble is playing, the viola is usually in a completely different sonic world. The movement ends as it began, with a long clarinet tone.

Klang is the German word for “sound.”

moon east: london thoroughfare, 2am

London Thoroughfare, 2AM for tenor, horn, violin, & piano       Buy Now
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moon east: broken consort

Broken Consort for pipa, flute, percussion, & pianoBuy Now
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moon east: ravening

Ravening for string quartet       Buy Now
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moon east: invocation

Invocation for 7 solo brass       Buy Now
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Although this work is clearly the descendant of a long history of antiphonal brass pieces, it has little in common with Gabrieli. First, rather than positioning themselves into two or three antiphonal groups, the performers are isolated both spatially and musically. The work begins and ends with long solo by the principal trumpet. Rather like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the soloist whips the other players into an flurry of activity before gradually losing all control. Gestures are passed around from player to player. Every member of the ensemble must take part in conducting duties, cuing each other from across the space.

The title “Invocation” does not refer to an opening prayer, but rather to an invocation of the trumpet fanfare from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. The soloist plays a near-quotation at the beginning and end of the work, and it is used as a generative motive throughout.

moon east: a gauze of misted silver

A Gauze of Misted Silver for string quartet & harp       Buy Now
sample score

A Gauze of Misted Silver takes its title from the Amy Lowell poem Venus Transiens. I try to capture some of the sepia-toned elegance of the poem, but the reference, however, goes deeper still. Each of the outer movements is a word-for-word setting of the text. The second movement stands in notable contrast to the other. Rather than a primarily melodic work, it is primary rhythmic, with overlapping ostinati forever evolving in complex patterns. The first draft of this movement used an African thumb piano formula. Although I later replaced it with an original pattern, it retains a similar sensibility. In the central section, the strings strum their instruments like guitars. The complexity of the rhythms gives the effect of a single guitar player standing in the old section of an island city, surrounded by stone walls. The echoes reflect back to create a complex, yet soothing counterpoint.

Venus Transiens
Tell me,
Was Venus more beautiful
Than you are,
When she topped
The crinkled waves,
Drifting shoreward
On her plaited shell?
Was Botticelli’s vision
Fairer than mine;
And were the painted rosebuds
He tossed his lady,
Of better worth
Than the words I blow about you
To cover your too great loveliness
As with a gauze
Of misted silver?

For me,
You stand poised
In the blue and buoyant air,
Cinctured by bright winds,
Treading the sunlight.
And the waves which precede you
Ripple and stir
The sands at my feet.
-Amy Lowell

moon east: trio

Trio for violin, cello, & piano       Buy Now
sample score

Immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves his well-beloved imprisonment,
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for him, hath th’ inn no room?
Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars, and wise men will travel to prevent
Th’ effect of Herod’s jealous general doom;
See’st thou, my Soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how he
Which fills all place, yet none holds him, doth lie?
Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss him, and with him into Egypt go,
With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
-John Donne

moon east: the day florestan murdered magister raro

The Day Florestan Murdered Magister Raro       Buy Now
for violin, clarinet, cello, & piano
sample score

The Day Florestan Murdered Magister Raro was the winner of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Composition Competition and received its West Coast premier by that ensemble. Florestan and Magister Raro are characters found in Schumann’s piano character pieces. Florestan is the wild, free tune that perhaps needs to be put in its place. Magister Raro, actually Schumann himself, is the wise, controlling voice that made sense of the proceedings. It does seem at times in this work as though the tunes have overtaken the good sense of the composer. The quick cuts and tiny quotes (mainly Schumann and Messiaen – the quartet’s namesake) reflect the quick-cutting, hyperactive attention spans of television, especially cartoons.

moon east: sturm und drang

Sturm und drang for percussion ensemble       Buy Now
sample score video
recorded on the album Everything Entangled

“Sturm und drang” is German for “storm and stress”. It is the name for the late 18th century literary movement that included the early works of Goethe and Schiller. In music, it is most associated with Haydn, but also Mozart and Gluck.

Sturm und drang begins with a very long, slow introduction that combines moody, timbre-based effects with gigantic builds. It is a weird landscape of sound without pulse or direction.

This gives way to a frantic toccata that focuses obsessively on a single, mechanistic line. Although this line throughout is in the keyboard instruments, I treat it like an organist with a giant percussion organ. In particular, I use organ registration techniques to create unexpected color effects by combining instruments in ways that alter the composite spectrum by reinforcing certain overtones. In addition, I use a technique I derived from organ fingering to create the illusion of legato between multiple instruments.

moon east: ithaka

Ithaka for violin, clarinet, cello & piano       Buy Now
sample score upcoming description

Notes on the Program
According to the Poetry Foundation, “C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) is widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the twentieth century,” yet for most of his life he was an obscure clerk at the Ministry of Public Works in Alexandria, Egypt, specializing in irrigation. Many of his writings reveal his love for ancient history. In an essay, E.M. Forster admired Cavafy’s renderings of ancient Greece and called the poet’s perspective “intensely subject: scenery, cities and legends all re-emerge in terms of the mind.”

Cavafy’s poem Ithaka, the inspiration for this music, is clearly born of his fascination with ancient cultures. The central reference for the poem is of course Homer’s Odyssey, which tells the story of Odysseus’ ten-year journey home to Ithaca after the battle of Troy. The poem’s narrator tells the traveler that what really matters is not the destination, but the journey, which must be experienced and enjoyed thoroughly, with the intellect and all the senses fully engaged: this is life’s true reward.

The musical work Ithaka, scored for a chamber ensemble, begins with a bittersweet, nostalgic introduction that gives way to the recitation of the first stanza. This stanza is about the hero’s struggle and victory over creatures such as the “Laistrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon” that stand between him and home. Here the violinist takes the role of hero in a wild, high-speed cadenza. Cavafy reminds us that most of life’s greatest problems are self-created, and most of life’s battles are internal.

The second stanza begins to unspool the central message of the poem: enjoy the journey; don’t expect the destination to make you happy. Soak in every drop of pleasure, experience every exotic location as a fresh adventure, and never stop learning. I set this stanza as an ancient, Mediterranean inspired dance. From a slow and sensual beginning, it builds gradually to an ecstatic frenzy.

I set the final stanza as a song of remembrance for a life fully lived—by one who has seized every opportunity offered and met every challenge with an open heart and a courageous spirit. Recognizing the wealth of experiences life has given us, and emerging unbowed from its struggles, we will reach our final destination knowing that we have lived each moment to the utmost.

all posts

16pierrot loops
16the halloween blizzard
16steps into stillness
16the sixteenth floor
16on seeing weather-beaten trees
16november night & triad
16may evening in central park
16london thoroughfare, 2am
16five prophecies
16the bookshop
16the aviary
16drum break
16broken consort
16album leaves for trumpet
16album leaves
16monkey king versus the spider wizard
16monkey king battles the generals
16house on the hill
16still harbor
16bar for hans sachs
16standard deviation
16cube dance
16rococo suite
16chaconne mercy endures
16blender project
165 preludes
16a gauze of misted silver
16the day florestan murdered magister raro
16sturm und drang
16the path
16adoro te devote
16hay dias
16agnus dei
16miles and miles
16corde natus
16janus mask
16river of blood

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