This concert is made possible by a grant from the Somerville Arts Council.
I composed Water Songs for Soprano Mary Hubbell in 2011 in conjunction with percussionist Danny Mallon. Danny had a particular interest in middle eastern percussion instruments that are featured throughout the work. Mary recommended the poetry of her friend, Brian Penberthy, a poet I once heard in Charleston, SC when I lived there. The first movement, Endtown, explores the floating dreamlike atmosphere of the text which also makes illusions to Einstein's universe. I was influenced by the irony of one of Einstein's principles of light speed and black holes: as matter approaches a black hole, it will speed up to the speed of light although the perception, if possible, of the matter entering the black hole is time slowing down. Musically, the conflicting perceptions of time passing verses actual movement reminded me of Jaipong music from West Java, which is a form of indigenous popular music that uses a gamelan ensemble to accompany a female singer. The music seems to slow down and speed up at the same time in many songs which reflects the major theme of Einstein's understanding of black holes. These temporal undulations also seem to have a water-like quality. Melodically this piece emulates the singing style of Jaipong with many long notes with embellished turns. The final movement, Thanks, envisions a singer thanking the audience at the end of a set of singing jazz standards.
Everyone, staring at everyone else
All of the time
It's made me a midnight
crowded with brilliant junk
it makes me weep like Jesus
Einstein was tortured calculating the world's operations
figuring out how the celestial static is somehow
He puzzles over how in time's dust-veiled basement
all things bend to greater forces than themselves
how all things end
yet the water above is mirrored in the water below
These days, I maintain my counsel.
The night fires are wide and lonely;
they keep the dark away
for a time they curl to embers
they curl to embers, tiny stars
tiny star, tiny stars
Thank you for the moon tonight.
Thanks for the gasoline holding out.
Thanks for no crows on the lawn.
Thank you again, three times over for that book being right where I needed it.
I don't need to say which one I mean, you put it there.
Thank you for inventing silly language.
Oh, thanks also for the leftovers I'd forgotten.
I'm giving thanks for fields of wheat gone autumn,
brittle as frozen lakes, ice in January.
Promises flown too early south for a season.
But thanks for excuses.
and before I forget, thank you for wind, for bark.
For branches that break.
For clouded night skies, but not so much that the stars can't get through.
Thanks once more for the thunder with no rain.
And thank you for the blanket you left behind.
Liebeslied is dedicated to the memory of composer Jonathan Kramer. The song is set to a poem by Rilke that was a favorite of Kramer’s. The instrumentation includes a clarinet, Kramer’s instrument. Music and time were lifelong preoccupations for Kramer, and in this piece, the music plays with the notion of time passing at varying rates.
This song was written for soprano Tony Arnold.
I am especially grateful to the excellent musicians and staff of the Boston New Music Initiative for allowing me the opportunity to present my small piece. Their commitment to new music and their perseverance throughout extraordinarily rough times is both humbling and inspiring. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, daß
sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
Ach gerne möcht ich sie bei irgendwas
Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
nicht weiterschwingt, wenn deine Tiefen schwingen. Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
der aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Geiger hat uns in der Hand?
O süßes Lied.
How can I keep my soul in me, so that it doesn't touch your soul?
How can I raise it high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote lost objects,
in some dark and silent place that doesn't resonate
when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin's bow,
which draws one voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
The closer you come to is a non-linear setting of an excerpt from Don DeLillo’s White Noise. Murray, a to-the-point colleague of the protagonist, has some blunt things to say about collective nostalgia, the dangers it poses, and the violence it creates. Murray begins his thoughts by stating “I don’t trust anybody’s nostalgia but my own.” I agree. In the work I segment words, truncate sentences, and rearrange the structure of the original text to find new and similar meanings to Murray’s original statement.
Murray said, “I don ́t trust anybody ́s nostalgia but my own. Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It ́s a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country.”
Senderos Que se Bifurcan was the winner of the 2002 Atlanta Clarinet Association competition. It was commissioned by the Chicago duo Wagner Campos and Richard Ferguson who subsequently premiered it. The title is a reference to Jorge Luis Borges' "The Garden of Forking Paths." The unison clarinet piano figure is somewhat analogous to Borges' idea of multiple existences that result from a path splitting at key events. The music also relates to Borges with its rhythmic hints at Latin American dance and the idea of a hidden motive emerging late in the piece.
From "The Garden of Forking Paths" by Jorge Luis Borges; translated by Andrew Hurley "Jorge Luis Borges Collected Fictions" Penguin Books, 1998.
"I imagined a labyrinth of labyrinths, a maze of mazes, a twisting, turning, ever-widening labyrinth that contained both past and future and somehow implied the stars. Absorbed in those illusory imaginings, I forgot that I was a pursued man; I felt myself, for an indefinite while, the abstract perceiver of the world. The vague, living countryside, the moon, the remains of the day did their work in me; so did the gently downward road, which forestalled all possibility of weariness. The evening was near, yet infinite.
The road dropped and forked as it cut through the now-formless meadows. A keen and vaguely syllabic song, blurred by leaves and distance, came and went on the gentle gusts of breeze. I was struck by the thought that a man may be the enemy of other men, the enemy of other men's other moments, yet not be the enemy of a country--of fireflies, words, gardens, watercourses, zephyrs."
Moments Sweep Past: three poems of Tracy K. Smith: What I find most remarkable about Tracy K. Smith’s poetry is its ability to unassumingly blur the line between a profound contemplation of life’s biggest questions and a probing of the simpler experiences in ordinary life. It is at once universal and highly personal, intangible and yet so familiar. Written in 2011, Life on Mars confronts the “fundamental unknowables” of this “large and mysterious system we belong to,” while acknowledging that our usual answers - religion, science, art - all invariably fall short.
Moments Sweep Past sets three poems from this collection without pause - “The Weather in Space,” “It & Co.,” and “Us & Co.” Despite their contrasting moods - from sprawling and pensive to whimsical and coy - these poems share the same broad contemplativeness of Life on Mars at large, meditating on our search for the answers to these great unknowables.
The music likewise aims to at once capture each poem’s individual character while drawing a single thread throughout, with shared motives, harmonies, and textures constantly evolving into new expressive contexts. The reflective, resonant first poem gives way to a more active and playful second before arriving back at the original mood, now tinged with wistfulness and reverence. While the poetry leaves us with more questions than answers, it still manages to both challenge and nourish. I hope to have captured a little bit of that in this piece.
1. The Weather in Space
Is God being or pure force? The wind
Or what commands it? When our lives slow
And we can hold all that we love, it sprawls
In our laps like a gangly doll. When the storm
Kicks up and nothing is ours, we go chasing
After all we're certain to lose, so alive -
Faces radiant with panic
2. It & Co.
We are a part of It. Not guests.
Is It us, or what contains us?
How can It be anything but an idea,
Something teetering on the spine
Of the number i? It is elegant
But coy. It avoids the blunt ends
Of our fingers as we point. We
Have gone looking for It everywhere:
In Bibles and bandwidth, blooming
Like a wound from the ocean floor.
Still, It resists the matter of false vs. real.
Unconvinced by our zeal, It us un-
Appeasable. It is like some novels:
Vast and unreadable.
3. Us & Co.
We are here for what amounts to a few hours
a day at most.
We feel around making sense of the terrain,
our own new limbs,
Bumping up against a herd of bodies
until one becomes home.
Moments sweep past. The grass bends
then learns again to stand.
The Flowers That Close at Night follows a 24-hour period in the life of a California poppy plant. It is a species of flowering plant on which the blooms close when the sun goes down. This is a common behavior known as nyctinasty: the bottom-most petals grow quicker than the upper petals, forcing the flower shut. The work begins in the morning, passing through daytime into the night, in which the blooms shut. Night passes and the flowers open up again as the sun rises. One theme permeates the entire piece, representing the poppy. Other themes can be found in each section as time passes through different parts of the day.
Christopher Buchenholz is an American composer whose orchestral, chamber, vocal, and piano works have been most favorably received in the United States and abroad. His compositions are best known for their extraordinary blend of traditional musical sound worlds, relentless counterpoint, intricate rhythmic aggregations, and innovative harmonic motion. His music incorporates tonal structures and tonally influenced relationships within fundamentally twelve-tone designs. Dr. Buchenholz’ music reflects an intense and ongoing investigation of formal musical structures, created in a twelve-tone pitch-space, which itself is modeled after a more conventional, tonal pitch-space. This lends his music a familiar, yet strikingly new sound.
Dr. Buchenholz, currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at Hunter College of the City of New York, recently served as Special Projects Coordinator for The Leonard Bernstein Office Inc. and as a Visiting Lecturer at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. He has also taught at Columbia University, Yeshiva University, The Juilliard School, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, the Association to Benefit Children, and New York University. A native New Yorker, he began his musical career at the age of seven on CBS Sunday Morning. He also performed as a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera from age eight to fourteen. He has performed at The Public Theatre, and The Kennedy Center, and has toured with the Philadelphia Oratorio Society.
Dr. Buchenholz studied at the High School of Music and Art. He studied composition at Carnegie-Mellon University with Lukas Foss and Leonardo Balada, and with Milton Babbitt at the Juilliard School, where he received both a Bachelor and a Master of Music. Thereafter, he studied Clarinet with Allen Blustine, and Composition with Joseph Dubiel, Jonathan Kramer and Fred Lerdahl at Columbia University where he was awarded a Doctorate with distinction.
Dr. Buchenholz’ Commissions include Speculum Musicae, The Frelinghuysen Foundation, The Arditti Quartet, The Carnegie-Mellon Baroque Chamber Ensemble, The Carnegie-Mellon Philharmonic, Cuarteto Latinamericano, All Saints Church in Pasadena CA, The Disney Family Foundation and The National Arts Club.
Christopher Buchenholz has received awards and honors from The American Prize, The Schubert Foundation, The George Gershwin Memorial Scholarship, The Gretchaninoff Memorial Prize in Composition, The American Academy of Arts And Letters, The Dr. Boris and Eda Rapaport Prize, and The Henry Mancini Fellowship in Composition.
Trevor Weston's music has been called a “gently syncopated marriage of intellect and feeling.” (Detroit Free Press) Weston’s honors include the George Ladd Prix de Paris from the University of California, Berkeley, the Arts and Letters Award in Music and a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and residencies from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the MacDowell Colony and a residency with Castle of our Skins at the Longy School of Music. Weston co-authored with Olly Wilson, chapter 5 in the Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington, “Duke Ellington as a Cultural Icon” published by Cambridge University Press. Weston’s work, Juba for Strings won the Sonori/New Orleans Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition. Trevor Weston won the first Emerging Black Composers Project sponsored by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the San Francisco Symphony.
Weston’s Flying Fish, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall for its 125 Commission Project and the American Composers Orchestra, was described as having, “…episodes of hurtling energy, the music certainly suggested wondrous aquatic feats. I was especially affected, though, by an extended slower, quizzical episode with pensive strings and plaintive chords.” (New York Times). The Boston Landmarks Orchestra commissioned Griot Legacies for choir and orchestra, a work created with four innovative arrangements of African American Spirituals. Griot Legacies demonstrates Weston’s “knack for piquant harmonies, evocative textures, and effective vocal writing.” (Boston Globe) The Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street, under the direction of Julian Wachner, recorded Trevor Weston’s choral works. The Bang on a Can All-Stars premiered Weston’s composition Dig It, commissioned by the group for the Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC.
A list of ensembles performing Trevor Weston’s compositions include Roomful of Teeth, The Boston Children’s Chorus, St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue Choir, The Starling Chamber Orchestra, Mallarme Chamber Players, The Providence Singers, Chicago Sinfonietta, Seraphic Fire, The Tufts Chamber Chorus, Ensemble Pi, The Amernet String Quartet, The UC Berkeley Chamber Chorus, The Washington Chorus, Trilogy: An Opera Company, and The Manhattan Choral Ensemble. In addition to his creative work, Weston completed the re-orchestration of Florence Price’s Piano Concerto for the Center for Black Music Research in 2010.
Nathan Courtright is a composer and music educator based in Philadelphia. His music focuses on personal and collective memory. He explores the ways bits of familiar music or musical objects in a disparate musical context can represent the way powerful memories and the emotions attached can suddenly manifest with the smallest of stimuli or triggers in everyday life. Recent projects include pieces for Sō Percussion, TAK Ensemble, and a concerto for the Daedalus Quartet and chamber ensemble.
Beyond music, Nathan’s interests include spending too much money on coffee and obsessing over all things sport. When he isn’t writing or teaching, Nathan is likely to be found watching reruns of The Office with his wife or Blues Clues with his daughter.
Charles Norman Mason, winner of the 2005 Rome Prize, has been recognized for his originality and attention to color. Steve Smith of The New York Times writes “’Additions’ offered a nearly seamless integration of electronic and acoustic sounds…” Peter Burwasser of Fanfare writes Mason’s music speaks in a “boldly, original voice”. High Performance Review states his music is “full of invention…funky and colorful…consistently ingenious.” Among his awards are the Rome Prize, the Dale Warland Prize, a National Endowment Individual Artist Award, the American Composers Orchestra “Playing it Unsafe” prize and he was an invited guest composer for the Visiones Sonoras 2015 festival. His music has been performed throughout the world including the Foro Internacional de musica nueva, Quirinale in Rome, piccolo Spoleto, the Aspen Summer Music Festival, Tanglewood Summer Festival, and Nuova Musica Consonante. His music (string quartet) has been featured twice on “Performance Today” (NPR). Mason is chair and professor of composition at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
Patrick Andrew Thompson is a composer of dramatic musical narratives. Described as “a musician bursting with ideas,” (Atlanta Journal Constitution) he strives to carefully craft works of great emotional breadth and immediacy, marked by colorful, poignant harmonies, rich textures, and constant evolution. His works draw on a broad range of disciplines, from poetry and visual art to his background in math and science.
Patrick’s pieces have been performed by a wide range of ensembles including the Sinta Quartet, the Zodiac Trio, Pure Winds, the Beo String Quartet, the Khaos Wind Quintet, and the Peabody Concert Orchestra. Current projects include pieces for the Inscape Chamber Orchestra, Con Vivo, and the Aletheia Piano Trio. Recognition for his work includes the Macht Prize, P. Bruce Blair Award, and prizes from the Foundation for Modern Music, Third Millennium Ensemble, and the American Prize. He has also received honorable mentions from New York Youth Symphony’s First Music, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, and the Riverside Symphony, as well as a runner up mention in the 2019 Sinta Quartet composer competition.
Patrick has a master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Institute, where he studied with Kevin Puts, and a degree in mathematics from Princeton University.
Madeline Barrett (b. 1998), based in Los Angeles, CA, is a contemporary composer and pianist striving to create music that evokes imagery of nature and genuine human emotion. Raised in Phoenix, AZ, she often draws inspiration from the world around her, whether it be the oceans of the west coast, the deserts of Arizona, or the softly bustling streets of Boston. In her compositions, Madeline employs a language of interwoven tertian and non-tertian harmonies, microtonality, and complex rhythmic landscapes, a language which derives from an eclectic group of influences, from Baroque counterpoint to French impressionism to 1980s American pop music.
Celestial Songs, a song cycle written for soprano Michelle Rice, explores three missions of space exploration and was recently performed in virtual recital. Madeline’s works have also been played by PHACE Ensemble, Ensemble Inverspace, loadbang, Eclipse Quartet, and Lyris Quartet, and performed in the United States, Italy, and Austria.
Madeline has a Bachelor of Music in Composition from Chapman University, and past composition instructors include Jeffrey Holmes, Sean Heim, Vera Ivanova, and Richard Danielpour. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in composition at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, where she studies with Ian Krouse.