Ruminations & Affirmations was commissioned by Jackson Thomas for a culminating doctoral study at the University of Kansas centered on the pedagogy of minimalist vocal techniques. The piece is inspired by elements of Minimalism, as well as the composer’s personal experiences with anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The first half, Ruminations, features an incessant motor and an “obsessive thought” in the piano that keeps restarting, followed by frantic intrusive worries sung by the choir. The Ruminations section climaxes into a slowly building wall of anxiety featuring counting and various obsessive thoughts from which the singers may choose. This gives way to the choir taking a breath, holding it, and slowly exhaling along with the slowing motor in the piano, resting on B Major.
The second half, Affirmations, begins in the calmer Parallel E Major with a slower, more peaceful motor in the Piano. The choir then sings meditative observations based on their senses, which is adapted from the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique, often used to calm an anxious mind (it asks the person to name 5 things they can see, 4 things they can feel, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste). The idea is to gently bring one’s consciousness back into the present and immediate physical world. The section concludes with the choir singing repeating affirmations, often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat anxiety and OCD.
This piece would fit well in any concert, particularly on themes of mental health, awareness, and advocacy.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from anxiety or OCD, know that help is available. Reach out to a licensed professional or one of many resources available, such as the International OCD Foundation (https://iocdf.org/) to be connected to someone who can help.Continue reading Ruminations & Affirmations
We are the Voices, commissioned by Dr. Kyle Weary and dedicated to the South Middleton School District Choirs, is an anthemic text that calls upon both the singer and the listener to sing: for ourselves, for those who have passed, and for the future we would like to create. This piece is full of rhythmic drive in the piano, creating an exciting bed for the singers.
This piece is also designed to use limited pitch and rhythmic materials in order to build singer confidence and solidify learned concepts. The melody only uses Major Pentascale (do-re-mi-fa-sol) and simple rhythms in simple meters (whole, dotted half, half, quarter, & paired eighth Notes, as well as whole, half, and quarter Rests).
A Guitar may accompany the Piano using the provided chord symbols. An optional Bongo Drum part has also been included and may be used or omitted as desired.
This piece is suitable for any Treble Choir looking for an accessible setting and anthemic text.
The music and lyrics of Songs of Hope in Strange Times: In Times of Hibernation was written during the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020-onwards and was commissioned by SACRA/PROFANA, directed by Juan Carlos Acosta. The overall song cycle is five movements long, with each movement reflecting on how to find hope and meaning during strange and unknown times of life. After the first scary and frenetic days in March, 2020 when the severity of COVID-19 started to become apparent in the USA, the world then seemed to enter a deeper state of hibernating and waiting, but it was not always clear exactly what was being waited for. In this second movement, In Times of Hibernation, the text asks whether we can find meaning in times of deep hibernation and seemingly-endless waiting. The answer may be that we have to simply wait and hold our breath along with time as the events unfold. It may be that the deepest meaning may be found during the quietest of times.
Commissioned & Performed by: SACRA/PROFANA
Conductor: Juan Carlos Acosta
Audio & Video Editing by Rumley Music & Audio Production
The music and lyrics of We Have a Choice were composed as a reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. The piece explores aleatoric and performer-based textures that can be sung remotely through video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom. The text explores our ability to choose our own paths and reactions in every situation, hopefully ultimately choosing to embrace the story with love, joy, hope, and peace.
The piece alternates between mostly-unison chant-like textures and aleatoric branching textures, in which the performers may choose their own path.
This piece is suitable for any Mixed-Voice Choir interested in exploring virtual singing and limited- aleatoric textures that give performers ownership of the material.
I Celebrate Life (the second and last movement of the Light Cycle suite), commissioned by Jennifer Gaderlund for the Graham Middle School Choirs, sets the beautiful poem by Rhoda Gordon, the composer’s late grandmother, for SA (SSA divisi) Choir and Piano. The piece opens with an excited yet hushed ostinato in the Piano. The Choir sings the first four lines of the poem by repeating the beginning line and adding the next line un.l it is complete, utilizing the modern technique of additive processes popular in Minimalism. In the more pensive middle section, the ostinato transforms into a more poignant texture as the Choir “realizes the joy of being through seeing the glorious creation” they are a part of. The ostinato then speeds up and returns to the hushed excitement heard in the opening. The piece concludes with the Choir building up to the most important line of the text: “The most powerful light to celebrate by is love.”
Light Cycle was premiered on December 12, 2019 by the Graham Middle School Choirs conducted by Jennifer Gaderlund in Mountain View, CA.
Light Cycle is a two-movement suite for Intermediate to Advanced Treble ensembles. The suite, commissioned by Jennifer Gaderlund for the Graham Middle School Choirs, sets two beautiful poems by Rhoda Gordon (Light Up and I Celebrate Life), the composer’s late grandmother, for SA (SSA divisi) Choir and Piano.
Light Up is the first movement of the Light Cycle suite. The Piano features a constant rhythmic motor, representing our hopefully constant dancing throughout life. The Sopranos and Altos begin in unison and then break into harmony as the texture unfolds. The middle section contains a round between the Sopranos and Altos, with the Altos offset by two beats. A third (optional) descant part sings above the round between the Sopranos and Altos. The opening material returns with the repeated text “Think light rays” but develops the material further with a few moments of divisi. The piece dramatically builds as the choir repeats the word “glow”, finally resolving with the call to “glow and dance”. The Piano’s rhythmic motor finally comes to a rest at the last measure.
I Celebrate Life is the second and last movement of the Light Cycle suite. The piece opens with an excited yet hushed ostinato in the Piano. The choir sings the first four lines of the poem by repeating the beginning line and adding the next line until it is complete, utilizing the modern technique of additive processes popular in Minimalism. In the more pensive middle section, the ostinato transforms into a more poignant texture as the Choir “realizes the joy of being through seeing the glorious creation” they are a part of. The ostinato then speeds up and returns to the hushed excitement heard in the opening. The piece concludes with the Choir building up to the most important line of the text: “The most powerful light to celebrate by is love.”
Light Cycle is suitable for any Treble-voiced ensemble. The pieces may be may be performed together or as stand-alone pieces. Both pieces explore imitative polyphony and would be a great way for any Treble- voiced ensemble to explore polyphony and part independence. The SSA divisi may be included or omitted as suited to the needs of the ensemble.
Light Cycle will receive its premiere on December 12, 2019 by the Graham Middle School Choirs conducted by Jennifer Gaderlund in Mountain View, CA.Continue reading Light Cycle
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