Chamber Instrumental

track changesfor string quartet (2016)

Commissioned in 2016 by the University of     
     Wisconsin - Eau Claire
One movement work
Full duration: 10 minutes
Premiered on October 8th, 2016 in Eau Claire,
     WI by the L.E. Phillips String Quartet:      
     Hannah Kennedy and Cally O'Leary,
     violins; Michelle Miller, viola; and Susanna
     Ray, cello.

Recording from the premiere.

Program note: When I was first approached to write this piece for the 100-year anniversary of my alma mater of the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach it. There are so many great things about Eau Claire that could fuel a piece – how could I choose one, or do it justice? Eventually, I decided to focus on the concept of time and how one’s perception of things alters through an experience. To accomplish this, I play with time in various ways – mainly through tempo and form. There are several sections which feature rapid changes of tempo, resulting in a fragmentary texture, disorienting the listener. In regards to form of the piece, there are parts that feature no specific tempo or overarching beat. The performer instead is given a small cell to repeat over a given period at their whim. The resulting sound is much freer and offers stark contrast to the more rigid fragmentary sections. All of these small micro elements are designed to alter the perception of the music. Throughout the piece motives are introduced, and then varied and repeated in such a fashion that one might not realize they have experienced it before. The variation happens melodically, harmonically, texturally, and rhythmically, producing a lively sonic environment that should both entertain and intrigue. Track Changes is dedicated to the L.E. Phillips Quartet and was commissioned in honor of the 2016 University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Centennial Gala Celebration.

four atmospheres, for brass quartet (trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba) (2015)

Four movement work: "Flashes of Light,"
     "Articulated and Forceful," "Expansive and
     Desolate," and "Pulsing"
Full duration: 15 minutes
Premiered on February 22nd, 2016 by Michael
     Leavens, trumpet; Mitchell Hansen, horn;
     Daniel Quinn, trombone; Joseph Ready,

Recording from the premiere

Purchase the score

Program note: Four Atmospheres is a piece that explores different sonic worlds through a brass quartet. The work is in four movements: 1. Flashes of Light, 2. Articulated and Forceful, 3. Expansive and Desolate, and 4. Pulsing. In the first movement, the instruments play very sporadically, as one would imagine seeing shooting stars in an otherwise black sky. Motives and musical material are introduced, but not developed. The second movement provides a stark contrast, built with powerful dissonant chords, fast rhythms and randomly improvised noise. The third movement is built primarily with long tones, exploring timbral change with mutes. The fourth movement builds the energy back up through pulsing chords to a climax that cannot be sustained for long until it collapses into the improvised frenzy of the second movement.

Capricefor flute, guitar, and percussion (2015)

One movement work
Full duration: 6 minutes

Premiered on March 18th, 2016 in Eau Claire, WI, by Kateri Farrell, flute; Will Lindstrom, guitar;
     and Joe Hujet, percussion

Recording from the premiere

Program note: The inspiration for writing this piece came from the Hungarian composer György Kurtág, specifically a piece I played by him a couple years ago for piccolo, guitar, and trombone. I liked the composer’s unique, playful style, and thought I could play around with his sort of gestural style while still making it my own. The piece is therefore very whimsical, going back and forth between different styles, tempos, time signatures, dynamics, and soloists as if the players were all improvising on stage together. Completely free of time sections are contrasted with styles of rock and jazz music, and different gestures and motives are transformed and developed through these stark contrasts.

Movements on a Painting, for clarinet in Bb (doubling bass clarinet), percussion, and piano (2014)

Five movement work: "First Glance,"
     "Chiaroscuro," "Tanz," "The Lower Right
      Hand Corner," and "The Man Under the
Full duration: 23 minutes

Premiered on September 7th, 2014 in
      Minneapolis, MN, by Patrick O'Keefe,
      clarinet; Adam Rappel, percussion; and
      Mary Jo Gothmann, piano

Recording from the premiere

Program note: The painting these movements are based on is a piece by Salvador Dali, entitled “The Broken Bridge and the Dream.” This music details the various ways one looks at a painting. The first movement, entitled “First Glance,” is the feeling one gets by looking at the painting as a whole: the general feeling inspired by the use of color, the shading, the objects, and then the individual parts that one begins to notice. The next four movements all deal with specific aspects of the painting: the second with the contrast of light and dark imagery, the third with the dancing angelic figures, the fourth with the images in the lower right hand corner, and the fifth with the man under the bridge, the only person painted in a realistic fashion. If possible, the painting should be displayed or projected while the piece is played, to get the full effect of the imagery.

Musings from an Old Student, for double bass  
     ensemble (8 basses), 

Two movement work: "Horizontal Stripes Aren't Slimming," and "Let Me Love You Orphan Boy"
Full duration: 8 minutes
Premiered by the UWEC Bass Ensemble

recording from the premiere

Program note: Musings from an Old Student is taken from two short sentences that I found written on my bass locker, written somewhere along the line by someone who possessed it before me. The piece is in two movements, each based off of one of the statements. The first, “Horizontal stripes aren’t slimming,” is characterized by two themes, usually in some sort of constant perpetual motion forward, much like a horizontal stripe. The juicy low end of the bass is utilized to make the sound anything but slimming. The second movement is based off the sentence “Let me love you, orphan boy.” This movement takes on the form of a single melody, the plea to the orphan boy, stated in three distinct sections, and portrays the isolation and lack of fulfillment of the speaker. 

String Quartet No. 1for string quartet (2014)

In one movement
Full duration: 10 minutes
Premiered by the L.E. Phillips Quartet, Hannah
     Kennedy, Cally O'Leary, violins; Michelle
     Miller, viola; Kaitlyn Witherspoon, cello

Recording from a reading session by the
    Ciompi Quartet

Program Note: The genre of string quartet encompasses around 300 years of repertoire. In dealing with a repertoire so large, it is important for the modern composer to ask, “Why write a string quartet at all?” I try to address this question in this composition. The string quartet is a powerful ensemble capable of spread of dynamic contrast, timbral variety, serious consternation, light humor, and pure emotional expression. It is these qualities that drew me to write for string quartet. In addition to the use of these musical qualities, there is also a historical component very prevalent in this piece. The BACH monogram, as well as quotations from Mozart and Mahler (encompassing the three great eras of Baroque, Classical, and Romantic) roam freely, cascading from the foreground to the background, intermingling and battling for dominance, all within the context of a modern musical vocabulary. In this music, all elements are equal; consonance, dissonance, tonality, atonality, homophony, polyphony, strict notation and free of time aleatory are all considered tools with which to most directly (or indirectly) express the idea. The two quotations used in this piece are from Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 by Wolfgang Mozart and the first song of Kindertotenlieder, “Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n” by Gustav Mahler.

A Northern Winter, for oboe and double bass (2013)

Four movement work: "Fall," "Christmas,"
     "January," and "Spring"
Full duration: 12 minutes
Premiered by Jordan Jenkins, bass; and Katie
     Johnston, oboe

Recorded by OboeBass! Rolf Erdahl, bass;
     Carrie Vechionne, oboe

Program note: Having in lived in Minnesota or Wisconsin all my life, I am used to exceptionally cold winters. After last winter being very long and hard, and lasting until April, I had the idea to write a piece trying to capture musically what a winter in the Northern United States is like. While the instrumentation of oboe and double bass duet is unusual, the instruments blend quite well together and have a variety of unique timbres to explore. The piece consists of four short movements each detailing a section of the winter season. The first movement, “Fall,” is a prelude of sorts, apprehensive in nature, a harbinger of the cold and lifelessness to come. The second movement, “Christmas,” is light and happy, though still in conflict, as the holiday season distracts from the discomfort of the cold. The two instruments fight over which key to play in, ultimately deciding on a key and tune together. The third movement, “January,” is composed using 12-tone serialism, and utilizes more harsh timbres of the instruments, including knocking of the body of the bass and using multiphonics in the oboe. This movement is meant to express the biting cold and disconnect that one experiences during the coldest month of the year. The fourth movement, “Spring,” represents the melting of the snow and the blooming of the flowers. 

Volcano, for open instrumentation (2013)

One movement work
Full duration: 8 minutes
Premiered by the UWEC Contemporary

Recording from the premiere

Program note: Volcano, for open instrumentation, is a semi-programmatic piece, detailing the eruption of a volcano. The piece begins with an ostinato bass line based on the whole tone scale, representing the little tremors caused by boiling magma near the surface of a volcano. After some development of this theme, the piece’s tone shifts from frantic rhythmic drive to more open chordal swells, based on the natural harmonic series. This section is meant to convey an ethereal, uneasy state, representing the forces of nature but also the uncertainty and apprehension that comes being near an active volcano. After this, the small tremors pick back up again, and the piece is thrown off kilter by uneven repeats and odd techniques, crescendo-ing into the chaos of the eruption.