She Speaks is a choral song cycle composed by Alice Dryden and Amy Gordon, which sets the text by Sharon Goldstein. It weaves together the experiences and voices of different women, both artistically and literally. The text and the music were a result of a close collaboration among the composers and the poet. The cycle is a progression through generations of strong women. Each woman throughout history has been able to build on the strength and courage of her ancestors.
Movement 1, She Is Silent, represents a past generation that endured hardship and suppression for the sake of the next generation. The thread from the woman’s sewing machine becomes the motivic thread that weaves throughout the other movements, anchoring future generations in her quiet resolve.
In Movement 2, She Dreams, the next generation spends her days trapped, speaking other people’s words and ideas. Yet inside her, she holds dreams of her own stories and her own identity, and being recognized for her own worth.
Movement 3, She Speaks, explores vocal percussion and extended vocal techniques. The women gradually find their voices and speak out, with difficulty and first but with increasing confidence- This. Is. Wrong! This movement honors those who would no longer stay silent in the face of injustice.
Movement 4, She Rages!, is the most specific and direct response to current events. The voices of women, silenced for too long, break free- and they are furious! Each voice demands to be heard as they build on one another. The movement transitions into a triumphant march honoring the women that came before them, referencing each of the previous movements in both text and music.
The ending, co-written by both composers, ties off the thread that wove through each movement. All the voices, men and women, speak together to convey one unified message: It is more important now than ever to find the courage to listen and to speak out.
Mars in Retrograde, commissioned by Kat Anderson and dedicated to The Los Angeles Belles, is a 3-part vocalise for SSA and Piano based on planetary motion and gravitational orbits. The voices represent the orbits of the planets (S1 as Venus, S2 as Earth, and Alto as Mars) around the sun, which is represented by the Piano. Each planet (voice) has a distinct repeating rhythmic pattern whose length corresponds to each planet’s sidereal period (how long it takes the planet to fully orbit around the sun). The repeating rhythmic pattern uses the musical technique of isorhythm, where a repeating rhythmic pattern (called the talea) is combined with separate pitch material (called the color). Venus’s sidereal period is roughly .616 Earth years, corresponding to a 7.5 measure talea. Earth’s sidereal period is 1 Earth year, corresponding to a 12 measure talea (based on the 12 months in a year). Mar’s sidereal period is roughly 1.9 Earth years, corresponding to a 22.75 measure talea. The rhythmic activity increases until the mid-point of each talea, after which the rhythmic value decreases again. This represents how planets increase in speed as they approach their closest point to the sun (perihelion) and decrease in speed as they approach the farthest point from the sun (aphelion).
The entire piece is tuned to the fundamental of Bb, as the lowest recorded note in the universe is a black hole that vibrates at a Bb 57 octaves below Middle C. The piece exclusively uses the Bb Lydian Dominant scale, also referred to as the acoustic scale, which can be created by assembling the first 12 partials of the overtone series based on the fundamental of Bb.
My brand-new piece Lotus Flower for SA and Piano, commissioned by Ruth Ballenger, is receiving its world premiere next Thursday April 26th by the Ramona Convent Secondary School Chamber Singers. This piece was particularly exciting for me to compose because it sets the anthemic text by Analisa Vanegas (’18), who is an RCSS graduating senior this year. It … Continue reading April 14th, 2018
Lotus Flower, commissioned by Ruth Ballenger and dedicated to The Ramona Convent Secondary School Chamber Singers, sets the beautiful poem by Analisa Vanegas (Ramona Convent Secondary School, ’18) for SA Choir and Piano. The use of body percussion and rhythmic vocal lines bring out the anthemic nature of the text, which calls the younger generation to “value the oppressed” and “influence inspirations” as they grow into adults.
This piece is suitable for any treble voiced ensemble, high school choir, or choir looking to explore body percussion and syncopated rhythms.
Premiere: April 28th, 2018 at San Marino Community Church
Continue reading Lotus Flower
As Time Stops To Rest is a three-movement song cycle for SSAATTBB Choir and Piano, with featured soprano and tenor soloists. The cycle is dedicated to the composer’s late aunt Susan Jordan. The works sets three poems from a larger set of poetry entitled As Time Stops To Rest, also written by Susan Jordan. The song cycle has an overall arch form of peace followed by tragedy and loss, ultimately giving way to a final sense of peace.
The first movement, Two Friends, paints a peaceful scene of two friends losing track of time as they sit by the ocean enjoying their time together. The piece opens with serene rolled chords in the piano, which continue throughout almost the entirety of the movement. The constant rolling of the piano creates a sense of ocean waves continuously ebbing and flowing. The opening tenor solo describes the tranquil setting and is then joined by the full choir as “warmth and happiness intermix to form an afternoon shared by two close friends”. The movement features lush harmonies and detailed ensemble interplay. The movement concludes with the continued rolled chords in the piano and a final soft low cluster, as if the texture is sinking into the ocean.
The second movement, Storm’s End, opens with violent and flurried storm-like arpeggios in the piano, in stark contrast to the peaceful character of Two Friends. The tenors and basses open with a rigid imitative texture asserting how “the storm raged across the bliss field”. The piano then mimics raindrops falling more and more violently before finally giving way to a calmer texture. After the “storm” has ended, the full choir enters in a mostly homophonic, hymn-like texture describing an overwhelming peace that sometimes follows after an intense tragedy or loss. The piece climaxes on the words “day” and “fire”, alluding to the feeling of being in love with one’s life despite (and perhaps because of) the pain and suffering one has endured.
The third and final movement, Magic, describes how the narrator senses the closeness of “the spirit kingdom” all around him or her, but only has fleeting glimpses of it. The piece opens with an a cappella dialogue between the altos and tenors, who are then joined by the sopranos and basses. The a cappella opening features lush and tightly packed harmonies that lead to a soprano soloist cueing in a lyrical piano arpeggio. The piece then builds to the joyous climax of the whole song cycle: “But oh, for a moment I grow flowers with my hands!”, alluding to how powerful and wondrous these brief glimpses of the spirit kingdom are. The texture then drops down to lulling a cappella chords in the lower voices as two featured soprano soloists “dance on wings uplifted”. The narrator then finally enters “the kingdom of all” he or she has been sensing, possibly through death. The movement concludes peacefully as the narrator “enter[s] the kingdom of all and AM”. The piano concludes with a peaceful postlude recalling motives used throughout the movement.
This song cycle would be suitable for an advanced high school, college, or professional choir. The movements may be performed as stand-alone pieces or as part of the full cycle.
NEW SUMMER SHOWS! Here are a few highlights of my upcoming summer performances: Sat July 22nd at 7pm at The Coffee House Gallery in Altadena: The Los Angeles Belles will be performing a few of my pieces, including “Shadows“. More info here. Sunday July 30th at 4pm at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale: The Los … Continue reading July 19th, 2017
Shadows, commissioned by Kat Anderson and dedicated to The Los Angeles Belles, is a meditative piece for SSSAA, Piano, and Singing Bowl (with E tuning). Incorporating elements of minimalism, meditation practices, and modal inflections, “Shadows” creates a reflective and introspective mood. The setting of the text is meant to showcase the entire ensemble and each individual member. The text is passed around between parts, creating fun ensemble interplay.
The text describes the “lingering shadows” in “majestic purples, with touches of gray”, perhaps describing the deep colors left at the end of the day, particularly at dusk. The darkness and “cold winds” described in the text allow us to experience “the power of our lust” as “two souls touch in an explosion of being”. The ensemble highlights these changing moods through both subtle and surprising dynamic shifts and harmonic colors.
“Shadows” is a great piece for any intermediate to advanced women’s ensemble. It may be performed without the piano, if desired.
Bring Me Home is a folk song with darker undertones that tells the story of a narrator who longs to return home, possibly after having witnessed or done something haunting.
This SSA arrangement would work well for a high-school, college, or small chamber ensemble of female voices.Continue reading Bring me Home
My Candle Burns at Both The Ends is a bittersweet poem by Emily Dickinson describing a narrator who gives so much of him or herself that he or she will burn out quickly but still believes it is worth it. The poignant musical setting of the poem would be perfect for a middle school or high school all-female choir.
It can stand alone or may be paired with If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking, also by Dickinson, to form a short song cycle.Continue reading My Candle Burns at Both the Ends
If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking is a poignant poem written by Emily Dickinson about the good one individual can do through their actions. This heartfelt musical setting of the poem would be perfect for a middle school or high school all-female choir.
It can stand alone or may be paired with My Candle Burns at Both the Ends, also by Dickinson, to form a short song cycle.Continue reading If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking