Reflections on Chirality explores the concept of mirror symmetry, negative harmony, and inversional relationships in melody and harmony. Chirality is a term used in chemistry to describe a molecule that cannot be superimposed on its mirror image. The term chiral is derived from the Greek word meaning hand. In “Reflections on Chirality”, this term is applied to music by utilizing mirror motions and contrary lines around a central axis, such as C. Harmonic progressions also explore symmetry in their distance from a central axis, such as tonicizing Eb and A, which are both a minor 3rd apart from C. The middle section features harmonic mirror images built from C as the central pitch. The piece also explores complementary contours in both hands. The role and directions of the lines in the left and right hand are switched from the opening A section in the return of the A section.

This modern and technically challenging piece would be a suitable as a solo piece or as an addition to any concert featuring 20th- and 21st-century repertoire.

Continue reading Reflections On Chirality

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.

Continue reading Shadows

Nurse’s Song (Songs of Innocence), commissioned by Jennifer Gaderlund and dedicated to The Graham Middle School Vocal Ensemble, sets the poignant poem by William Blake from his set of poems “Songs of Innocence and Experience”. While there are actually two “Nurse’s Song” poems, this piece sets the “Nurse’s Song” poem contained in the first set of poems associated with innocence, which deal with youth and childhood. The latter half of “Songs of Innocence and Experience” deals with the loss of childhood innocence that accompanies growing up and gaining experience.

The text alternates between the nurse, who wants the children she is caring for to return from play, and the children, who of course want to play as long as possible. The setting of this poem has an overall palindromic form of ABCBA (the first stanza is repeated at the end). The B section, representing the nurse, is slower and more triadic. The C section, representing the children, is playfully defiant and features a lot of fun dialogue between the soprano, alto, and tenor lines.

This piece is a great fit for any intermediate to advanced middle school choir. The tenor part range is limited, so it is also possible to use this piece for SSA ensembles.

Continue reading Nurse’s Song

Winking Waking Wishes Wail is a pensive and sometimes dark art song for soprano and piano. The text is by Susan Jordan, who was the composer’s late aunt. The poem’s text deals with the struggle between reason and dreams. It explores the relationship and interaction between the conscious and subconscious world. The music alternates between dreamy (and perhaps whimsical) and darker, brooding sections. This piece calls for exquisite dynamic control and subtle, expressive tempo alterations.

This song is perfect for a recital or chamber concert.

Continue reading Winking Waking Wishes Wail

Loki’s Tale is a rhythmic and occasionally swinging piece for Bass Clarinet, Marimba, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin, and Cello. It uses low-pitched ostinatos and interwoven ideas that pass between the instruments, making this a rewarding piece for an ensemble.

This short piece would be a great concert opener or closer.

Continue reading Loki’s Tale

Frenzy is a short and light-hearted piece for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Piano, Violin, and Cello full of energetic melodic flourishes and rhythmic outbursts. This short piece would make for a fun concert opener or closer.

Continue reading Frenzy

Dialogue for Flute and Piano portrays a dialogue between two instruments or characters. The dialogue opens with the central four-note motive of the piece. The flute and piano exchange melodic material until they play together in a more lyrical line. The piano and flute continue to develop upon the four-note motive throughout the piece until they arrive at a slower, andante section. The flute engages in a twelve-tone melody (along with its retrograde and two inversions) and the piano employs a more traditional accompaniment, alluding to how differently the flute and piano are conversing (the flute very logically and the piano more emotionally). The piece concludes with various presentations and inversions of the four-note motive.

This piece would work well in any chamber or instrumental recital.

Continue reading Dialogue for Flute and Piano

Crystal is a three-movement vibraphone and piano duet (Adagio, Moderato, and Presto) centered around the suspended chord, which does not clearly define a major or a minor tonal world. Similar to Marginalia, Crystal relies on tonally ambiguous harmonies such as the second and seventh.

It begins and ends with a dissonant, bell-like vibraphone idea, referencing chord clusters often used in Balinese Gamelan.

Adagio employs a rhythmic canon between the vibraphone and the left and right hand piano parts. Parallel sevenths and cross-rhythms are the building blocks of this movement.

Moderato uses a repeating rhythmic ostinato throughout the movement, which is first introduced by the vibraphone and then taken on by the piano.

Presto opens with a folk-like melody in the vibraphone and then leads into a more lyrical, quartal melody. It uses the parallel sevenths and cross-rhythms found in the first movement. The coda basically repeats the piece’s introduction with slightly less dissonant vibraphone chords. Throughout the entire piece, it is never firmly established whether the piece is in major or minor.

Continue reading Crystal

The Contemporary Child: A Set of Eleven Contemporary Pieces for the Beginner to Intermediate Piano Student introduces various 20th-century techniques, such as polymodality, aleatory (chance music), and additive processes to the beginner to intermediate piano student. These pieces are designed to be playable by younger hands while still teaching important modern musical concepts. Each piece can be played by itself, as part of an abridged set, or as part of the full set.

 

  1. Lemonade at Home
  2. Shadow Melody
  3. Folk Song
  4. Black Forest
  5. The Elephant and the Mouse
  6. Choose Your Own Adventure! No. 1
  7. The March of Memories
  8. Choose Your Own Adventure! No. 2
  9. Grasshopper
  10. Add On (Additive Processes)
  11. The Enchanted Castle (Duet for 4-hands)
Continue reading The Contemporary Child

I. Whirlpool
II. Tritonic
III. The Golden Spinning Wheel
IV. Cell-Phone Symphony

Solo Piano Suite is suite for solo piano containing four contrasting short pieces. Each movement can stand alone, as part of an abridged set, or as part of the entire suite.

Whirlpool is based on a flourishes of color inspired by Claude Debussy. It is in the Mixolydian mode, which lacks the tension-filled raised leading tone found in the major scale. This gives the piece a calmer and more soothing feel.

In sharp contrast to Whirlpool, Tritonic is harmonically jarring and unsettling as it is based on quartal stacks of tritones, an interval which has long been viewed in the music world as unstable. The piece also uses the cross-rhythm of three-against-two, creating a syncopated feel between the right and left hands.

The Golden Spinning Wheel utilizes fast, pianistic turns to represent the mechanics of a spinning wheel.

Cell-phone Symphony is a Prokofiev-inspired piece with a simple theme accompanied by odd and sometimes wandering harmonies. This piece explores fast registral shifts, short melodic ideas inspired by cell-phone ring tones, and advanced piano techniques, such as hand overlapping.

Continue reading Solo Piano Suite