These Worlds In Us
Performed by the Yale Philharmonic
The title "These Worlds In Us" comes from James Tate's The Lost Pilot, a poem about his father's death in World War II. (In the last line of the poem Tate writes, "misfortune placed these worlds in us".) "These Worlds In Us" (2006), for orchestra, is dedicated to my father, who was a soldier during the Vietnam War. The theme, a mournful line first played by the violins, collapses into glissandos almost immediately after it appears, giving the impression that the piece has been submerged under water or played on a turntable that is grinding to a halt. The melodicas (mouth organs) played by the percussionists in the opening and final gestures mimic the nostalgic wheeze of a broken accordion. The rhythmic structures and cyclical nature of the piece are inspired by the unique tension and logic of Balinese music, and the march-like figures on the snare drum and hi-hat bring to mind the militaristic inspiration for the work. "These Worlds In Us" was premiered by the Yale Philharmonia and subsequently performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, South Carolina Philharmonic, Spokane Symphony and Albany Symphony.
Still Life With Avalanche
Performed by eighth blackbird.
Still Life With Avalanche (2008) was commissioned and premiered by chamber ensemble eighth blackbird. The piece is essentially a pile of melodies collapsing in a chaotic free fall. The players layer bursts of sound over the static drones of harmonicas, sketching out a strange and evocative sonic landscape. Halfway through the process of writing the piece I received a phone call telling me my cousin had passed away. There's a moment in this piece when you can hear that phone call, when the piece changes direction and the shock of real life works its way into the music's joyful and exuberant exterior. This is a piece about finding beauty in chaos, and vice versa.