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Program Notes: O, P, Q

Ockeghem Today
Ockeghem Today was originally the first of three movements but is now freestanding. It was inspired by a lovely description in an early edition of Grout's The History of Western Music: "Ockeghem gives us a dense texture, without any clear phrase breaks, where all the free voices weave complex arabesques of sound around the cantus firmus and around each other. The music becomes an endless flow of melodies, seamless and seemingly beyond rational analysis reinforced by the character of Ockeghem's melodic lines, which are spun out in long-breathed phrases, in an extremely flexible rhythmic flow much like that of melismatic plainchant, with infrequent cadences and few rests." I wrote a kind of music which seemed to fit Grout's description of the music, without attempting to replicate Ockeghem's pitch or rhythmic procedures. Commissioned and premiered by the Walker Chapel Brass in Evanston, Illinois, Don Lovejoy, conductor. 

Our Hands Were Tightly Clenched
Our Hands Were Tightly Clenched was written in 2003 for La Catrina String Quartet, a graduate student quartet from Western Michigan University.  The phrase "our hands were tightly clenched" is for me metaphor for sustained, embedded tension and anger, and the material of the piece explores the rise of this tension and ways in which its persistence might be diffused or relaxed. Published by Arsis Press. 


Play Up A Storm
Around my house we connect the phrase "...up a storm" to any activity done with intensity, verve, or commitment. We might play up a storm, eat up a storm, sing up a storm, complain up a storm, or even, occasionally, sleep up a storm. Play Up A Storm draws inspiration from this notion of doing an activity with intense focus. 

Projectual attempts to bridge minimalism and serialism in about four minutes. At the outset it is unabashedly minimal, with requisite tonality, repetition, pulse orientation, and small increments of change. The changes, however, gradually transform the pitches to a row, and the rhythms, octave displacements, dynamic extremes, and timbral variety associated with he sound of serialism take over. Recorded by Centaur.

Pronto, Lamento, Casino
Each short movement has a singular character: Pronto has high energy expressed without delay; Lamento is, of course, a lament, slow, reflective, and sad; Casino has lots of jingling sounds that suggested to me the manic sound of many active slot machines in a casino.

Quantum Stew Anew
    The title whimsically borrows from the vocabularies of physics and the culinary arts. Quanta are finite, indivisible units of energy and a stew, of course, is a variety of ingredients simmered together. The quanta are presented, then developed, separately at first, then they are thrown together in a big pot in which, though they fiercely maintain their own quantum characters, cannot help but be influenced by the overall mix. They all contribute to the final stew. QS may be performed by wind groups with instrumentations ranging from a minimum group of 25 to a full concert band. Level 4.5


Quartet Ablaze  
    Quartet Ablaze has two structural features in common with my experience of Facebook, the social networking site: the sense that a posting is rarely static, because over time it becomes embellished by comments of increasingly greater separation from the original; and the notion that seemingly unrelated steps on a Facebook “path” are, in fact, related by the intervening series of clicks, however tangential and numerous, that connect them.  In Quartet Ablaze, there is a significant number of musical themes or characters linked into larger musical units.  These themes return multiple times, but always in a new guise—a new order of connection (thus reconfiguring the unit of which they are a part), more embellished, re-orchestrated, and so forth.  Although Quartet Ablaze is like Facebook in interesting ways, it is not, in fact, inspired by it--they have analogous features.  But the title was inspired by a friend’s Facebook status: imagine your first name followed by Ablaze, as in Zae Ablaze, or Astrid Ablaze.  It suggests that you are inspired, on fire, motivated, on the move.  Insert Quartet in that space, for obvious reasons, and you have the title.  The metaphorical fire/energy/direction builds, roars, dies down, smolders, crackles again.


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