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Program Notes: M, N

Memorial uses selected texts from Memorial Day, a short story by Ann Kilkelly. The Memorial Day parade ends in the cemetery, where the onlookers and marchers gather amidst the gravestones for speeches and testimonials. Soprano and alto soloists sing together their own versions of In Flander's Field: while a child stumbles through her recitation, a grown woman, years ago chosen for the same honor, silently remembers the words, her version eloquent and mature with understanding and passion. As the recitation ends, "all of them standing there feel the connection of the living to the dead." Published by Arsis Press.  College; Adult women.

The Muse, the Stove, and the Willow Plate
Each of the three pieces presents a woman of strong character or action. In The Muse, a poet bemoans the fact that her muse is a bit more eccentric and troublesome than most. Two sections alternate, one slow and flexible with a harmonic emphasis, the other faster and more imitative. In The Stove, a woman rebels against her cantankerous old stove by pounding it to bits. The mixed meters exemplify the pounding of the sledge hammer used to do the dirty deed. And in The Willow Plate, a woman uses the images in a willow plate to sing a love song. The three vocal parts share the melody role, with the altos taking special responsibility. The songs may be performed separately or together. Published by Earthsongs.  The Stove recorded by Amasong.  Advanced high school; College; Adult women.

Music: A Love Story

Many books and movies share the title format of Music: A Love Story—Capitalism: A Love Story, War: A Love Story, Drinking: A Love Story, etc--and each one expresses more than a little irony about its primary topic.  This musical love story includes a “lamenting” section, made of traditional phrases and clear cadences, that reappears with great determination; a couple of duets, full of longing; sections of intense counterpoint; and even what I consider to be a creepy lullaby.  There is love, there is irony, there is music. 

Nature's Chopsticks
  A striking picture of a sandhill crane using its astoundingly long beak to eat a worm, along with its caption of “Nature’s Chopsticks” released a riot of musings about chicken-egg and life-imitating-art relationships.  How odd to use chopsticks as a metaphor for this long beak! Surely Nature did not design the beak in the image of the chopsticks! If anything it would be the other way around.  But what if we know far more about chopsticks (or art!) than sandhill crane beaks (or life!), so that we come by this kind of reverse metaphor honestly? 
  Nature’s Chopsticks intermixes materials from “real” life (phone numbers, current quotations from newspapers and Facebook statuses) with indeterminate musical materials (high-as-possible pitches and clusters), and minimalist textures, pitches, and rhythms.  It was written especially for the JFCA Composers Orchestra with its eclectic and changeable instrumentation.  It is a piece that can be performed by a group as small as a dozen or so and as big as a large orchestra or band.

Night of Blue Magic, a story in haiku
Libretto especially written for this project by the wonderful novelist Karen Hesse. A woman is held against her will in a secret place in the center of a lake. A horseman, assigned to guard her and prevent her escape, may also be the man to whom she has been sold. The woman’s dreams give her a chance at escape, but the horseman intercedes. A terrible battle ensues as the horseman seeks to destroy the power of her dreams. Both falter as they “drop into the soundless lake.” But the struggle and seeming defeat has transformed the horseman, and they are now able to encounter each other free of the past. The opera ends with the hope of a new beginning.


No Longer Suitable for Framing, Seven Snapshots for Clarinet and Trombone
Was written in 1999 for Sandra Potkay Jackson, clarinet, and David Jackson, trombone.  It was premiered by Sandy and David the next summer on an Interlochen Arts Camp faculty recital.  
    I re-used the same pitch material in each of the seven snapshots, but with the instruments in different relationships each time. Those musical relationships drew to a certain extent on relationships in marriage--I was aware that Sandy and David had recently married, and my own marriage was near its end, so I had many positive and negative images to work with.  The snapshots are each very short and intense and the relationships are not always positive (one person talking, the other not listening, for instance), but some are playful and connected. It's important not to take this programmatic image too seriously though! I consider No Longer Suitable for Framing to be very virtuosic, both in terms of the demands on the individual instrumentalists and in terms of their very intense chamber music relationship.  Published by JOMAR Press.

Now and Then, Variations for Orchestra
The “now” and the “then” refer to the two different musical characters that permeate the whole piece.  The “now” theme is forceful, somewhat angular, and has a touch of “Hindemith” in its design.  The “then” theme is unabashedly tonal, complete with tonic pedal and root position dominant.  The variations are both traditional (the “then” approach to variation form) in that each clearly delineated section has a new sort of approach to the thematic material, and non-traditional (the “now” approach) in that the two characters increasingly influence each other, intermix, and intertwine.  Is now so different from then?  Now cannot exist without then, and the more we understand then, the more our sense of now is changed.  Composed in 2004.

Nudged Along On Time's Notched Stick
The saying "nudged along on time's notched stick" sets up a notched stick as a metaphor for our experience of time.  I imagine the smooth parts of the stick to be those periods of our lives which are somewhat static, schedules are in place, and things are predictable; the notches in the stick are the events which force us out of our routine and change the patterns of our lives.  This composition is in three short movements, each of which nudges us along the notched stick in different ways.   I wrote Nudged for violist Chris Rutledge.  Published by JOMAR Press.

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