If you are curious, and would like to hear some samples, look below. There are also some complete works on Soundcloud. You can also find a beautiful performance of the chamber version of Remembering the Night Sky with Diane Hunger-Zumwalt on YouTube. Don’t be surprised when the video freezes about 3/4 of the way through. As is typical with any video of my performing, the battery in the camera died while recording. (The audio is from a separate high quality source.)
FYI, the audio players do not turn off when you switch from tab to tab, so you will have to stop it manually.
NOTES ON THE SAMPLES
NOTES ON THE COMPLETE WORKS
This work for alto saxophone was recently expanded for saxophone and chamber ensemble, and in some way represents a stylistic diversion for me in which melodic content is dominant over texture. Harmonic progression is defined in the first movement by the melody and proceeds more quickly than in my earlier works. After improvisations for both saxophone and piano, the second movement is a traditional melody and accompaniment texture with a strong rhythmic drive, except in the short contrasting section in the center of the movement.
Remembering the night sky,
Flashes of the past storm still on the horizon;
The sea, charged, yet unmoved,
Still boils, but remains unchanged.
The eerie calm after the deluge
Appears out of place, temporary.
The sky above, devoid of stars,
Could again unleash its fury at any moment. SF, 2001
This concerto for alto saxophone is, I feel, one of my best works. It is based loosely on Book XI of Milton’s Paradise Lost. I was considering a series of works based on the other books, but to date I have completed only Chaos, a work piano and orchestra, based on Book I.
The first movement of this concerto begins with Eve, going off into the garden alone, meeting the serpent, and eating the forbidden fruit. After an improvised cadenza and short interlude, it proceeds directly into the second movement, which begins as Adam eats the fruit, and they commit the seven deadly sins. The work ends with an epilogue, as they lament what they have lost.
Like my first symphony, Symphony No 2 is a programmatic work. It is loosely based on the first two books of Frank Herbert’s Destination: Void series. (The later novels had not been written yet, and it wasn’t clear at the time that there would be more.) The first movement is a sketch of the main character of both novels, Raja Flattery, and depicts no specific action. He is a complex character with a frail but disciplined nature. The second movement, loosely a passacaglia, begins the second novel (The Jesus Incident), but is again more symbolic of the vast period of time between the two books. The final movement reflects more of the action of the second book, as well as the development of the Flattery character.
Woven throughout the work are a chorale representing Flattery himself, which undergoes constant transformation until its final climactic statement at the close of the work, and a militaristic element (a march in the first movement) that is fragmented and finally overcome by the chorale. This sample demonstrates some of the fragmentation of both elements leading to the climax. The superimposition of metric and aleatoric events also permeates the work.
Inner Sanctum was a response to a commission for an unusual ensemble of flute, oboe, saxophone, violoncello, and piano. I concentrated on the expansion and contraction of the alto register, starting with a sustained unison and expanding, initially utilizing quartertones and bent notes, then tremolos, through to harmonies of growing complexity. Likewise the rhythmic texture becomes increasingly complex, sometimes seeming aleatoric but with an underlying pulse, to which all instruments contribute but rarely dominate.
The second movement is in some ways similar to the first, but here a melodic line is embellished, shared, and expanded upon by the individuals. Finally, melodic and metrical ambiguity is resolved when the cello announces the highly rhythmic closing section. The kaleidoscopic fragments of the first two movements gather into an exciting climax.
Oyre’s Garden arose from my involvement with the dance department at Northwestern University. Originally a 5-part 40-minute ballet, the production fell through and the piece was shelved for 2 years. In 1986 I decided to resurrect the work, reorchestrating it for double orchestra by enhancing some of the multi-divisi string writing. Sadly, after finishing the reorchestration of the first tableau, the original manuscript and all the sketches were lost. In 1990 I revised the surviving rescoring of Tableau I to make it sound like a complete work rather than a single movement, and more recently I have adapted it back into the original single orchestra format.
The complete ballet told an allegorical narrative of a girl becoming a woman. In Tableau I Oyre wanders in a forest and loses her way. Terrified and exhausted, she sits down, falls asleep and starts dreaming. The rest of the ballet is a dream where she meets a young man who teaches her the ways of the forest (i.e. adulthood), relieving her fear. In the end she awakens more confident, and remembers her way home. Musically, the lost ballet score started simply and became gradually more complex as Oyre developed. The first tableau is some of the simplest music I have written and is based on a progression of chords, heard first in the strings after the opening cello solo.
Inferno was composed in 1988 for the Northwind Ensemble in Chicago and has undergone two revisions, the first was very minor, rescoring the tenor saxophone for soprano, the second adding piano, “metrifying€” some of the aleatorics, and increasing rhythmic interest towards the end of the piece. This work, in its orchestral version, is the opening piece of my 3 Pieces for Chamber Orchestra.
The work as heard here features a cornet, soprano saxophone, and (nominally) a bass trombone. About two-thirds of the work was originally aleatoric and is therefore texture-based, though the featured instruments frequently arise from that texture with melodic fragments that seem both to “direct traffic”€¯ and to comment on what is happening. The climactic vocal texture, which propels the work to its close, is sung by the instrumentalists from within the ensemble, who resume their normal duties at the resolution.
Phoenix was realized at the Northwestern University Electronic Music Studio in 1985 primarily on Moog and other custom sound modules. It had its genesis as a filler for a videotape of the dance work, Sundays, choreographed by Lynn Anne Blom. to music by Liz Story. About a third of the dance was originally silent and not suitable for videotape. The outer portions of Phoenix were composed to accompany the dance and fill the silences. They were mostly electronic, but included heavily manipulated fragments of the Story.
The central portion of the new work was derived from a wind ensemble work Julianby Jay Kawarsky. Its use came through a fortuitous accident. While I was composing Phoenix, I was asked to make a dub of a reel-to-reel tape of Julian onto cassette. The tape had been left head out (rather than the standard end out), and I therefore played it backwards at first. While it is a fine work forwards (I later conducted it at the New Music Chicago Spring Festival), I wondered at the amazing sounds it produced backwards. With Kawarsky’s permission of course, I decided to use the backwards version, again with heavy manipulation, as the sound-bed for the center of Phoenix. The title therefore represents the rebirth of the two previous works in a wholly new guise.
Free Fall (aka Free Flight) was realized in 1987 in the Electronic Music Workshop at the Aspen Music Festival using only a Buchla and a Yamaha DX7. It was premiered there and was later choreographed for dance by Anne Doctor at the University of Michigan. I had never really made a final decision on the title, and it has been performed under both names. The title (whichever you choose) refers to the floating/flying quality inherent in the music. In the 4-track version the music appears to float or fly from speaker to speaker.
Solomon’s Seal is a mobile form piano piece, including 6 nocturnes and 6 etudes. The Nocturnes utilize extended playing techniques, including harmonics, dampened strings, auto-harp, plucking, and strumming, as well as knocking on various parts of the wood and metal of the piano.
This is a complete recording of the piece in the following order: 1, 7, 2, 8, 3, 9, 4, 10, 5, 11, 6, 12, 1
As it runs up to 20 minutes in length, individual sets of movements may be excerpted for performance.
This is one of my most performed pieces and is my last complete work for jazz ensemble. My earlier jazz works began as arrangements for an unlucky jazz/rock band, Ariousse, that I briefly played in around 1980. Our first (and only) gig got flooded out, which was probably a good thing, since our lead singer had come down with laryngitis that morning (from water-skiing the previous day). It was never rescheduled, and we never had another rehearsal. The Storm, on the other hand, was always meant for a large ensemble. Like its immediate predecessor, Fission, it has multiple elements: a funky melody and contrasting Latin section followed by some free jazz and an open solos. It is also opened and closed by a chorale.
At the time of writing, I was in the middle of composing my first symphony, and it perhaps exhibits my change in focus towards contemporary classical music.