Holding Your Breath

I wrote this piece, Hold Your Breath, at the end of 2013 and “rediscovered” it in the recordings on my computer. I’m very proud of it as I was venturing out into strange meters and opposing two-handed rhythms while experimenting with the range of the piano.

But beyond any compositional features, I think what really gave this recording life was the amazingly expressive playing of Blair McMillen.  I was so impressed with his rendition upon the first read I really had no comment or correction. He basically nailed it. On top of that, he’s such a nice guy.

Here’s his second take, recorded on a Steinway at Juilliard:

New Composition Performed

Last night I had a new piece, Always, Ghosts, played by the Composers’ Collective ensemble at the National Opera Center in NYC. Written for piano, cello, clarinet and horn, its a relatively short piece. The musicians were amazing and I look forward to getting the audio and video we had captured posted here. Here are my notes on the composition:

Always, Ghosts was composed as an intention to be a short film. In four parts, entrance, searching, realization, and exit, the music follows the plot of a ghost experiencing these moments and thoughts. The piano is the foundation of the scenery while the cello, clarinet, and horn together act as its observations. In the story, the ghost comes into reality floating, pre-dawn, over the Hudson, returns home to find its child asleep in bed, finds its own body in the woods, concludes its wife was the murderer, and then leaves this plane resigning itself to confusion, sadness, and helplessness. Set in a summer scene on the Hudson River, the composer found inspiration from very early train trips. He would listen to solo string music between New York City and his childhood home in Albany, seeing the sleepy old towns in the grey morning light.

Nocturne for Trumpet and Cello

With this piece, I used a non-repeating 12-tone pattern twice. This means there is an A and a B section, but since there was no repetition of a melody, you won’t notice it without counting tones. But the repetition of notes is allowed, so I used rhythm more as a compositional tool in this.

The structure itself hides the A – B idea in that there is simply a point where I finished all twelve tones and then used another twelve tones. In all, this piece only uses 24 tones.

The idea that it is a nocturne-style composition comes from the slow and hushed nature, using muted trumpet and cello.  The title “Sleepy Hollow” has no reference to the children’s story, instead alluding to that feeling of waking up sleep deprived before the sun is up and you can’t seem to form thoughts yet.