Dokkodo was inspired by Arvo Pärt’s work The Beatitudes. In it, Pärt sets the text of Jesus’ sermon in his tintinnabuli style. It is very simple and very elegant, and the declamatory, almost matter-of-factness of the Beatitudes lends itself to a more “pattern-oriented” setting as opposed to a flowery one. The text I used here is from 17th century Taoist warrior Miyamoto Musashi. On his deathbed he wrote Dokkodo, which translates roughly to “The Way to Be Followed Alone.” This is a string of 21 precepts on self-discipline. I read these simple, ceremonial mantras and immediately thought of them as a perfect text for an experiment in the tintinnabuli style.
Double Ozymandias : 2010
Soprano / Alto / String Quintet
Double Ozymandias was inspired by two poems, on the same subject and of the same form, but are very different. In 1818, Percy Shelley and his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith made a friendly wager to both write a sonnet on the same theme - the rise and inevitable fall of the greatest civilizations - using a statue of Ramses II as the central focus. The poet whose poem was published first would win; Shelley’s poem won, which is why it is so famous to us today. It begins with a colossal quintal chord (a chord built entirely of perfect fifths) in the strings. Traditionally, fifths are perceived as having a “hollow” quality, and to have them stacked so high suggests a sort of “empty skyscraper,” once full but now just a shell, a remnant of a long-forgotten way of life. This chord recurs several times throughout the piece, underlying the name “Ozymandias.” Long, stretched phrases in the strings and many repeated notes in the voice parts depict long expanses of time, the kind of time it takes for a civilization to rise and fall, until all thats left is a fragment of what was the pinnacle of human existence.
Dust : 2015
Dust was written in August of 2015 for the Sine Nomine Choral Ensemble’s call for scores. The text was inspired by a YouTube video by Phil Hellenes, an astrophysicist whose brilliantly poignant philosophical monologues have had a great influence on my life and how I see our place in the universe. The “dust” referred to in the score is actually the stardust from which we are all made, we, in turn, are “dust that sings, dust that loves, dust that dreams.” He ends the video with a thought that has resonated with me for many months as of this writing: “Some things are as close to miracles as to make hardly any difference at all.”
On the Deaths of Cathedrals : 2012
Soprano / 2 Cellos / Piano
On the Deaths of Cathedrals is a set of three sonnets by Trumbull Stickney exploring the relationship between God and modern man. It was written for soprano Joannah Ball.
Prometheus : 2014
Prometheus was inspired by the Lorelei Ensemble, a Boston-based women’s choir. Their artistry and immaculate performance was the impetus for this work. In the spring of 2012, I acquired a volume of Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound paired together. I chose twelve words from both play and poem according to the Fibonacci sequence and set each the number of times corresponding to their place (i.e. in 'Bound,' the word “father” is the thirteenth word in Prometheus Bound, and is set thirteen times). While on the surface the words seem random and unrelated, there are deep connotative connections - almost a story told with vivid images rather than gregarious script. On a large scale, the word field from 'Bound' is set in an angular and stark sound world, reflecting the high degree of action in the original play. The field from 'Unbound' seeks to unlock the romantic emotional content hidden in that action, and is set in a much softer and flowing texture. In both, there is no word that is inherently more important than the other, rather it is their juxtaposition, frequency, and musical weight that allows these images to highlight different aspects of each story.