Advice from a Kitten in Spring, commissioned by the South Bay Children’s Choir, directed by Julie Corallo, is a playful exploration of a day in the life of a kitten in spring. We would be wise to take some life advice from this lighthearted kitten, especially the piece’s concluding words of wisdom: “love, live, listen”. The melodic content and text were inspired by several composition workshops with the singers in the South Bay Children’s Choir in preparation for this commission.

This piece is suitable for any Treble Choir and would fit well on a concert about animals or nature.

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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.

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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.

This movement could be performed as a stand-alone piece or as part of the entire Songs of Hope in Strange Times song cycle.

See other movements:

I. In Times of Descent
III. In Times of Stasis
IV. In Times of Re-Emergence
V. In Times of Rising

Commissioned & Performed by: SACRA/PROFANA
Conductor: Juan Carlos Acosta
Audio & Video Editing by Rumley Music & Audio Production

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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.

Continue reading We Have a Choice (SATB Choir)

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.”

This piece is suitable for any Treble-voiced ensemble. It may be performed as a stand-alone piece or paired with Light Up as the complete Light Cycle suite.

Light Cycle was premiered on December 12, 2019 by the Graham Middle School Choirs conducted by Jennifer Gaderlund in Mountain View, CA.

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Light Up (the first 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 (Opt. SSA) Choir and Piano. 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.

This piece is suitable for any Treble-voiced ensemble. It may be performed as a stand-alone piece or paired with I Celebrate Life as the complete Light Cycle suite. The round in the middle section is a great way for any Treble-voiced ensemble to explore polyphony and part independence. The descant and divisi parts may be included or omitted depending on 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.

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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.

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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.

Continue reading She Speaks (Choral Song Cycle)

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.

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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