July projects

July ended with a flurry of fun projects, including music prep and orchestration work for a Christmas record, a lullaby record, a new musical about Princess Diana, and sending over charts for sessions with the London Symphony at AIR Lyndhurst and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road.

ALIAS Chamber Ensemble performing Autumn Quince

Composed for the ALIAS Chamber Ensemble Winter 2019 Concert February 24th,
Ingram Hall at Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

English Horn: Jared Hauser
Clarinet: Lee Levine
Horn in F: Jennifer Kummer

Voice: Patrick Dailey

Violin I: Jun Iwasaki
Violin II: Louise Morrison
Viola: Marie Winget
Cello: Kaitlyn Raitz

“And which one is real? / The music in the composer’s ear / or the lapsed piece the orchestra plays? / The world is a blurred version of itself— / marred, lovely, and flawed. / It is enough.” In my setting of these words from Jane Hirshfield’s Autumn Quince, I tried to portray something of the complexity of daily life, with every note bearing, or at least aware of, the weight of Hirshfield’s opening line: “How sad they are, the promises we never return to.” There are a lot of half-step resolutions, small moments of tension resolved, but not many big cadences or grand resolutions to be found. There’s even some polymodal chromaticism showing up in the interlude in an attempt to portray some of that tension of life lived vs. life hoped for, and realizing there is no other life. In the pensive stillness that fills the room after the words “it is enough” are sung—the singer is instructed in the delivery of this line to convey being thankful/hopeful, not celebratory—followed by a slightly modified restatement of the introduction from the French horn, English horn, and clarinet, I hoped to capture some of that yearning restfulness.

Echo: Chamber Music at the Parthenon

Finishing up a new piece this week for string quartet with two French horns, for the Centennial Park concert series Echo: Chamber Music at the Parthenon (presented by Lockeland Strings). Having fun thinking of ways to play with the seven-second echo in that room. Concert is March 24th. 

Music Notation

Happy to have found a first edition copy (1964) of the Gardner Read notation bible to go along with Elaine Gould’s invaluable contribution to the field. If you do anything with music notation, I can’t recommend these highly enough!

ALIAS Chamber Ensemble – Live in Studio C

First time I’ve been on the radio since that time I worked as a disc jockey for three years in high school! Got to recite Jane Hirshfield’s “Autumn Quince” and play a piano reduction of an excerpt from my setting of it for the ALIAS Chamber Ensemble’s upcoming concert on 91 Classical’s Live in Studio C this afternoon. Fun to be there alongside fellow composers Cristina Spinei, Peter Bradley Adams, and Timbre Cierpke.

Listen to the program archive here.

Brandi Carlile

I’ve fallen into the habit of pairing the first listen of a much-anticipated album with a good bottle of something fitting. For the release last year of Brandi‘s “by the way, I forgive you” I choose a London Gin because of conversations during the album’s string sessions with engineer @edwardspear about what we were into at the moment. So happy to have been able to do the music prep for arrangers Kristin Wilkinson and the late legendary Paul Buckmaster on the project, and thrilled to see Brandi and the twins winning Grammys for it tonight!

Alicia Enstrom’s Frenzied Whispers


These two books have been tremendously helpful to me recently in thinking about how to approach orchestrating Alicia Enstrom’s composition for solo violin with electronics, “Frenzied Whispers.” In considering ways to have a chamber orchestra interact with loop pedals and the generated repeated patterns, Bachelard’s chapter on miniatures has provided plenty of food for thought, like his musings about how “as soon as the imagination is interested by an image, this increases its value,” and this quotation from a Botany dictionary, of all things: “Reader, study the periwinkle in detail, and you will see how detail increases an object’s stature.”
Ben Ratliff’s thoughts about recordings where “the air around the music becomes an almost tangible quantity” have helped me think about how pizzicato notes from a string section and harp harmonics and the decay around a note produced by soft yarn mallets striking a marimba can compliment the space created by the reverb in samples triggered by a solo violin. And this: “Feeling the rhythm is not too far from playing the rhythm, and one’s response to a repeated tone is to replicate the tone for yourself, hold it in your head, think along with it or sing along with it, and experience the musician darting above it and below it, putting it against other notes and chords.”

I think we’ve come up with something pretty cool that should be fun to witness. We’re performing it with a great group of musicians this Saturday at 3:00 at West End United Methodist, under the auspices of the Nashville Concerto Orchestra. I hope to see you there!