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Senior Composition Recital

Saturday, May 1, 1999
Beall Concert Hall, School of Music
University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon)

Photos
Program Notes:

Piano Suite
I began writing the Piano Suite in the fall of 1997. The first movement, Anxiety, is a study in rhythm. The main theme is stated by the right hand at the opening of the piece. During the restatement of the theme, the inversion is presented, only this time, rhythmically altered. (The title actually comes from the state I was in when my computer was crashing every five minutes the night before the piece was due!) The title Locked in a Cell is a little punny I’m afraid. I based this piece on Schoenberg’s favorite cell of a major and minor third. Escape is a bi-tonal piece that utilizes open fifths to project an expansive feeling. Trip the Light Fantastic is a dancing movement in B Lochrian (the scale that goes from B to B along the white notes of the piano). The title comes from a ‘Dennis the Menace’ cartoon where Mr. Wilson demonstrates how to trip the light fantastic.

String Quartet
This piece focuses on children--their expansive imaginations, fears, and experiences. I remember that as a child my imagination was extremely active (there was a monster behind every door!) This is an attempt to capture the spirit of children, and a few of their experiences, as they discover and grow in their world.

Home Alone: “Uh...Mom is in the Shower, Can I Have Her Call You Back?” is a pointillistic setting of the children’s tune “Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word.” This movement reflects some of the sounds a child may hear while at home alone for the first time. The title comes from the fib that kids are told to tell those who call when they are home alone: “Mom is in the shower.” Strange knocking, echoes, and other “house” noises can be rather unnerving for a child who is trying to feel brave the first time they are home alone. The simple accompaniment of whole notes with pizzicato in the left hand fills the texture while adding a sense of stability.

The second movement, Surprises: Jack, The Birthday Present, is based on a birthday party. The tune "Pop Goes the Weasel" is passed between the instruments. Each entrance becomes more experimental, as if a child’s first introduction to a Jack-in-the-Box. The first playing is very straight-forward, with only a simple pizzicato accompaniment in the other strings. On the third “pop,” a dissonant chord will resound followed by a short silence. A whimpering child is represented by the wailing double-stops. A semi-stretto section begins in the upper strings on the whole-tone version of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” The tune “Happy Birthday” cuts through this chaos on the cello.

The third movement, Dream Sequence: From the Land of Nod, is based upon a dream sequence. As in a strange dream that jumps around, unexpected things often happen as the dreamer (or listener in this case), jumps from land to land. It will open with a melody in the violin accompanied by pizzicato in the lower three strings.

Cluster No. 1
This is an experimental piece utilizing aleatoric principles that allow the players freedom to do a little composition of their own. The text appeared on our refrigerator one day at home and it seemed fitting. It is as follows:

“And after they had explored all the suns in the universe
and all the planets in each sun they realized they were alone,
and they were glad, because they now knew
they would have to become all of the things
they had hoped to find.” — Lanford Wilson.

Four Poems for Robin
This work was commissioned by and is dedicated to Kathryn Hallor. It is scored for soprano and viola; the text is by Gary Snyder, and may be read by following the hyperlink (title).

Woodwind Quintet
I have had a love/hate relationship with my woodwind quintet for over a year now. However, while writing the Minuet and Trio, I fell in love with the woodwind quintet. Each of the instruments has such a distinct color and personality in each of its ranges that it can be quite difficult to write effectively for this genre. Each of the movements explores a different mode: Minuet and Trio, explores the sharp-4, flat-7; Passacaglia, whole-tone; and Rondo, dorian. When writing this piece it was my goal to use standard forms like the minuet and trio, passacaglia, and rondo, in non-traditional ways.

I began with the Minuet and Trio last spring--thus the light, dance-like quality. It is a compound ternary form where each section is a binary form. The minuet is predominately homophonic, although a melody and accompaniment does develop as the movement progresses. The trio section utilizes hocket (rapid alternation of two or more voices of single, or groups of notes) as one of the main melodic ideas.

I wrote the Passacaglia this fall as summer was fading. It was very dark and rainy (as much of the year is around here!), and it seemed as if the rain would never end. When I ran across the e. e. cummings poem, it struck me. The recurrence of the “Now i lay . . . ” theme is skillfully woven into the texture of the poem, like the bass line of my piece. The way cummings expresses things with parentheses also inspired me as I wrote the passacaglia. I wanted the other instruments to play around, take over, and explore the different, inherent characteristics of the passacaglia line. The passacaglia is based on the whole-tone bassoon line. As each voice enters, a new rhythmic concept is introduced (eighths, sixteenths, etc.). Each section is primarily based upon the passacaglia, but I do take some liberties.

The Rondo is actually ABA’CB’A”. This piece began its life as a set of theme and variations for string trio. I believe it is much more effective as a woodwind quintet movement.

Each movement of the work is very contrapuntal. There are several recurring figurations that appear in all three pieces: the hocket in the transition section of the passacaglia corresponds to the trio section of the minuet and trio. Such figurations work to tie the movements together.

* * *

I would like to thank the following:
my family and friends, for their love and support;
my teachers for their kind words and helpful comments:
Dr. Robert Kyr, Dr. Jack Boss, Dr. Harold Owen, Kathryn Lucktenberg;
my fellow composers: thanks for the inspiration and patience
— you guys are rockin’!
my players: without you, this would not be possible!