Lazybones, for string quartet
A theme and variation strongly dependent on the improvisational capabilities of the performers. The instrumentalists were given a contemplative 7/8 theme alongside a list of iterative instructions for elaboration. In addition to change in tempo and bowing techniques, at certain times in the piece, they were asked to improvise by interval, melody, then rhythmic modulation, then ornamentation, and finally free improv. The piece was performed several times by ensembles of various size at CalArts. The success of this particular recording from the Dizzy Gillespie Studio is due to the dedication of performance by string players Mona Tian, Yu-Ting Wu, Andrew McIntosh, and Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick.
Ajams wa Maqam al-Rast, for string trio
A short study on the oud playing style of Farid El-Atrache, which focuses on Middle Eastern modes (maqamat) which are built on note sets (ajams). Rast is a Persian word (راست) meaning "right" or "direct". Rast is regarded as the basic maqam in most Middle Eastern music, similar to the major scale in Western music, though the two are quite different in detail (the major scale is in fact more like maqam Ajam). Rast features a half-flat third and a half-flat seventh.
Swarm of the Raxion Gruntle Bugs, for prepared piano
My first year MFA studies at CalArts saw a fascination with John Cage's works, and this piece for prepared piano comes as a direct result. Utilizing pennies, clothespins, steel screws, magnets, and at least one Tibetan singing bowl, it was performed in earnest by Christoffer Schunk at my mid-residence recital. Video here.
ASTEROZOA, MFA graduation recital
This is my MFA Performer-Composer Graduation Recital, presented by the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in the Roy O. Disney Concert Hall. All performers are CalArts students or alums. Special thanks to Marc Lowenstein, my composition professor and conductor of the third movement. It's dedicated to the memory of Shane Summers, a colossal talent and good friend who performed in it. The composition exhibits five meditations on the numeral five, which is the smallest possible sum of different real prime numbers. These two primes happen to be the building blocks of all rhythm in the human experience, 2 & 3, yet 5-meter is markedly rare in popular music.
The full movement list and credits are as follows:
Viola - Alessandra Barrett
Cello - Betsy Retig
Rehearsal direction by Andreas Levisianos
Conducted by Marc Lowenstein
Bell and shaker - Josh Carro
Kidi - Brian Foreman
Sogo - Tony Gennaro
Kaganu - Amir Oosman
All electronic processing was produced by two guitar pedals, a Digitech Whammy pitchshifter and a Boss DD20 Giga Delay.
Asterozoa is a subphylum in the phylum Echinodermata. Characteristics include a star-shaped body and radially divergent axes of symmetry. The word is Greek for "star animal", but in modern vernacular zoa is also an insult, and so can also be interpreted as "dumb person of the stars", a phrase which in my opinion covers a lot of ground. When threatened, asteroidea may also sever their own limb to escape a predator. This defense mechanism is called autotomy, a process I find remarkably similar to engaging in music. These lyrics from the opening movement are lifted from my music theater work, Lunatic Sun, Performed December 1, 2012 in the Coffeehouse Theater at CalArts.
The oldest echinoderm fossil is Arkarua adami, dating back roughly 530 million years. The imprint preserves a five-lobed central region representing five ambulacral grooves, which are characteristic of echinoderms. It was discovered in the Flinders Ranges of Australia, home to the Adnyamathana people for tens of thousands of years and counting. It takes its name from Arkaroo, their version of the enormous Rainbow Serpent that inhabits the Dreamtime. Referred to as either male or female, Arkaroo came from far beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains, rivers and gorges as it pushed upward. It battled other mystic spirits, protecting the region from drought and famine, drinking dry and then replenishing the water of the salt flats. As it rests, Arkaroo’s belly rumbles, shaking the Flinders Ranges to their core. The instrumentation for Ambulacral Groove is for five Ghanan Ewe drums.
The purpose of this recital composition is to take an open approach to my personal rhythmic aesthetic while diversifying from 3 and 4 metered exploration. I grew up with electronic music, but (just like you don’t need an oud to make Arabic music) you don’t always need electronics to make electronic music. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at CalArts, it’s that my aural landscape isn’t tied to any specific timbre, genre or instrumentation. It’s tied to something more fundamental that I haven’t found any suitable name for yet (but it seems to have a lot to do with post-minimalism). From RJD2's remix of Steve Reich to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, the only thing I'm sure of is that music is just another path toward deeper understanding. Video here.
Music for Dance
Compositions for Choreographers, for fixed media
I strongly experience kinesthesia, meaning visual cues correspond to phantom sound for me. Thus I'm fascinated by the marriage of movement and music, and my favorite incarnation of this is composing for choreographers. I've worked with many, and have included a short list of selections here. Video here.
Mad Apple Demo
These are songs from my band, Mad Apple. I've never been good at genre, but this is something like hard folk blues burlesque rock. We have a music video, which you can find here.
These are from the workshop performance of my musical, Lunatic Sun, performed December 2012 in the Coffeehouse Theater at CalArts. Select videos here.