LUNG (2017), for orchestra
mammal (2016), for solo prepared piano
Eroding (2017), for sextet
Fljótandi (2017), for multi-tracked cellos and voice
Premiered on December 7, 2017, Woolsey Hall, New Haven, CT
I love the dual idea of a lung as a really fragile organ, but also as a rugged balloon that keeps on expanding and contracting no matter what we do. In the piece, the players of the orchestra work together to create a kind of lung: a pulsating, biological, musical mass. While I was writing Lung, I was thinking a lot about the art museum in Graz, Austria, which is this amazing blobular building which looks a lot like an organ, maybe a lung or a stomach. It's really gross and wonderful! When you look out at the skyline of Graz, the art museum seeps over the surrounding medieval architecture, polluting it with its slime. I wanted Lung to feel like that—an uncontainable, constantly transforming hulk.
Cue spots: 0-2:12 (mm. 0-37), 3:38-4:11 (mm. 62-71), 5:23-6:41 (mm. 91-116), 7:40-end (mm. 133-end)
For prepared piano solo
Commissioned by Vicky Chow with the support of the Ontario Arts Council
Premiered on October 27, 2016, Roulette, NYC
Performed by Vicky Chow at the Banff Centre For the Arts, August 2017
As a piece for solo piano, mammal doesn't explore melody or harmony in the traditional sense. Instead it searches for a way to make the whole giant installation-of-an-instrument hum to itself; to make the cavity of the beast sound in as many different ways as possible. It is a kind of duet between the piano's speaking notes and their resulting resonances; a moment of eaves-dropping on the instrument's interior dialogue, and an attempt to answer the question “what does the piano hear when it sings to itself?”
Cue spots: 2:42-4:17 (mm. 60-96), 6:44-7:53 (155-178), 9:11-10:49 (197-218)
Movements: I—0:00, II—5:25, III—9:27, IV—12:44
Maria Luisk, alto flute
Michael Moy, bass clarinet
Matt Keown, vibraphone
Sophiko Simsive, piano
Kyungah Oh, violin
Yiqiu Chen, cello
Commissioned by Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting
Premiered on June 24, 2017, during the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab, Ojai, CA
Over thousands of years the glacial river Hvítá in Iceland has carved a deep gorge into the surrounding rock. At one particular twist in the river, the erosion has left several huge pillars of hyaloclastite rock, which look as they were flung haphazardly into the riverbed. In fact they were revealed slowly over time from the process of the river carving away their surroundings. In Eroding, the players create a dense mass that gets worn down over time in order to reveal the spiky formations beneath the surface.
There is no full score to Eroding, instead the piece consists of six independent parts. Each player moves through the music at their own tempo, and repeats measures at will. It is as if they are six soloists playing to their own pacing, but somehow they are all playing in the same room and sounding as one fragmented whole. By having the performers decide the temporal unfolding of the piece, I explore the musicians' sense of time and development. Rather than being focused on hearing specific cues from each other, the players are viscerally experiencing the larger form of the music, and making their own choices to influence the development of that form. I am curious to learn if making these changes can spur new ways of listening for both the performers and the audience.
Cue spots: 0:00-0:40, 1:39-2:35, 7:52-9:01
For multi-tracked cellos and voice
Performed and recorded by Fjóla Evans
As an acoustic instrument, a cello can get really loud. In Fljótandi, I wanted the cello to be as resonant and voluminous as possible in order to create a sort of physical meditation on sound. Because of its structure and focused trajectory, this piece is very easily taught to performers and audience members. I love playing this piece with groups of people, getting everyone to drone and hum with me. Fljótandi is built on the dissonance between the drones of the lowest string (tuned to a low A), and the high harmonic partials. By constantly shifting the timing and textures of these elements, my aim is to slowly reveal new facets of the sound world.