Solo and Chamber
select a title below for audio sample, score sample, and more information

String Quartet No. 2 (2017)
string quartet, 21'

link to recording

Dover Quartet:
Joel Link, violin
Bryan Lee, violin
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
Camden Shaw, violoncello

Commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music for the Dover Quartet
Premiered March 11, 2018 by the Dover Quartet, at the Leo Rich Theater, Tucson, AZ

As with a few other recent works, my interest in the classical and folk music of Romania served as a kind of springboard to launch work on this quartet.  I used various folk tunes as points of departure for selected melodic material in each of its three movements, although the piece sometimes developed in other directions during its composition, seemingly of its own accord.  Nevertheless, especially in the final movement, something of the Romanian folk element shines through.  This piece was written for the Dover Quartet, whose members I have known since our shared student days in Philadelphia, and above all, it was their superb playing that provided the most profound and lasting inspiration for me to compose this work.

String Quartet No. 2 was commissioned for the Dover Quartet by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, sponsored by Michael Spino and Susan Henderson, Wendy and Elliott Weiss.  Additional thanks are due to Donald Allison, Teodorian Velicu, Melissa Franklin of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and the MacDowell Colony.  Each of these individuals and organizations played an instrumental role in supporting the creation of this piece.





Songs of Spring (2016)
piano quintet, 10'


The 6821 Quintet:
Mayu Kishima, violin I
Eric Silberger, violin II
Meng Wang, viola
Clancy Newman, violoncello
Michael Djupstrom, piano


video recording

Commissioned by the National Cherry Blossom Festival
Premiered March 26, 2016 by The 6821 Quintet, at the Warner Theatre, Washington, DC

Songs of Spring was written on a request from the National Cherry Blossom Festival for a celebratory work to be included among the music performed at the 2016 festival's opening ceremony.  I first intended the work to be a kind of fantasy upon the well-known Japanese folk song "Sakura, sakura," which invites the listener to observe the beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom each spring and which are the festival's namesake.  In researching the melody, however, I was delighted to discover the great richness of Japan's folk song heritage, and as a result, I decided to weave a number of traditional melodies into my piece, creating a lively, varied musical tapestry.  At its center, however, still stands the elegant "Sakura, sakura," which receives the most elaborate treatment of any of the songs.





Lăutar (2015)
violin solo, 6'


Luosha Fang, violin

video recording

Commissioned by Astral Artists for violinist Luosha Fang
Premiered December 2, 2015 by Luosha Fang, violin, at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

The Romanian word lăutar describes a kind of professional folk musician traditionally hired to provide entertainment at weddings, dances, or other celebratory occasions.  This piece takes its inspiration from music of the lăutari and could perhaps be described as a reimagining of the genre for the modern virtuoso solo violin.  It is structured in two large sections: a slow, improvisatory song followed by a series of increasingly wild dances.





Beyond the Forest (2015)
flute, piano, 13'

I. Andantino


II. Alert

Amy Porter, flute
Dianne Frazer, piano

III. Delicate, pointed

Jeffrey Khaner, flute
Charles Abramovic, piano

IV. Very slow, freely


V. Not slow

Amy Porter, flute
Dianne Frazer, piano

score sample

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
Premiered October 19, 2015 by Jeffrey Khaner, flute, and Charles Abramovic, piano, at Settlement Music School, Queen Street Branch, Philadelphia, PA

In recent years, I have become increasingly interested in the music of Romanian classical composers, and studying their works has led me in turn to discover the rich folk music tradition of the country, a tradition still very much alive today.  Eventually, I became curious to know how this music might sound when heard through the filter of my own creative personality.  This work is my first experiment in this direction.

Each of the movements of Beyond the Forest utilizes music from the Transylvanian plain of central Romania, albeit in very different ways (the region's name comes from a combination of the Latin trans, "over, across, beyond," and silva, "forest").  Some movements contain complete phrases of folk melodies, while others fragment a tune and subject it to a more-or-less classical development.  In some cases, I've juxtaposed contrasting material of my own invention against the Romanian content, and in others, I've deliberately blurred the line between the two, so that a listener would never know exactly where the fantasy emerges from the original.

For this project, the commissioners were seeking a work challenging enough to be of interest to professional musicians but one that might still be played by a skilled amateur.  I was given a list of piano repertoire to suggest the work's level of technical difficulty; as a result, I have generally avoided virtuosic display in writing the keyboard part.  For the most part, the flute follows suit, with the notable exception of the final movement, in which I sought to more directly evoke the wild, flamboyant brilliance typical of the folk musicians whose playing inspired the composition of this piece.





The Last Little Chick (2014)
narrator, flute, trumpet, viola, percussion, piano, 15'

audio sample #1


audio sample #2

Charlotte Blake Allston, narrator
Loren Lind, flute
Darin Kelly, trumpet
Kerri Ryan, viola
Anthony Orlando, percussion
Lio Kuokman, piano

score sample

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association for performance on its educational outreach concert series, Sound All Around
Premiered March 29, 2014 by the musicians of Sound All Around, with Charlotte Blake Allston, narrator, at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, PA

Inspired by a classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, this is a story of self-discovery that suggests we celebrate our differences.





Little Suite (2013)
violin, guitar, 12'30"

I. Sing


II. Dance


III. Play


IV. Remember

Zoë Martin-Doike, violin
Gideon Whitehead, guitar

score sample

Commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music in honor of Laura and Ken Mitchell
Premiered April 18, 2013 by Zoë Martin-Doike, violin, Gideon Whitehead, guitar, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA

The last movement of this piece was written long before the others, originally existing as a separate work for flute and guitar.  It draws upon a traditional sevdalinka folk song from the Balkan region for much of its melodic material.  The preceding three movements were more freely conceived and represent a gradual increase in energy: the initial "Song" is reflected by the "Dance" of the second movement, only to be followed by the even quicker "Play."  Nevertheless, I feel that the overall spirit of this work is perhaps best captured in the lyrics of the song that first gave rise to the final movement:

Sejdefu majka buđaše:
Ustani, kćeri moja Sejdefo!

Zar misliš, majko, da ja spim!
Ja ti se mlada s dušom dijelim.

Zovi mi, majko, komšije,
I prvo moje gledanje.

Što smo se, majko, gledali,
U šajku, lađu na more.
Sejdefa's mother wakes her:
Rise, my daughter Sejdefa!

Do you think, mother, that I'm asleep?
I'm parting with my soul.

Call the neighbors, mother
And my first love.

The one whose eyes met mine
On the boat out at sea.





Daydreams and Nightvisions (2011)
violin, violoncello, 14'

I. Moderato


II. Vivace


III. Molto lento


IV. Turbulent


V. Elegante


VI. Rubato – Molto vivace

Nikki Chooi, violin
Natalie Helm, violoncello

score sample

Commissioned by Music from Angel Fire
Premiered Sept. 4, 2011 by Nikki Chooi, violin, and Natalie Helm, violoncello, Angel Fire Community Center, Angel Fire, NM

My favorite time of day is the late afternoon, when the sun's light turns golden and I often find my mind wandering in daydreams.  I decided to write a series of miniatures inspired by these thoughts – a set of small pieces of distinct and contrasting characters.  After finishing one of them, however, I realized that the turbulent nature of what I'd written seemed a little at odds with my original idea, and when the second piece also turned out darker than I'd anticipated, I decided to amend the title to reflect the dual nature of the work.

I. A bold, declamatory movement with extensive canonic writing.
II. A sprightly dance in which the violin and cello trade melodic and accompanimental roles.
III. An introspective movement, full of quiet sadness.
IV. Agitated, the most nightmarish of the set.
V. Begins as a proper, elegant dance.  This mood gradually unravels, leading to an impassioned climax in the cello, and then recedes to a shadow of the initial material.
VI. A wild, folk-inflected finale, full of highly virtuosic writing.





Walimai (2011)
viola, piano, 14’


Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola
Michael Djupstrom, piano

score sample

Delius International Composition Prize, Delius Society, 2012
Maurice Gardner Award, American Viola Soceity, 2012

Premiered May 8, 2011 by Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola, and Michael Djupstrom, piano, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia

Much of Walimai inhabits the dark, mysterious world that lies concealed beneath the rainforest canopy.  This vast, timeless landscape is also the setting for the powerful short story of the same name found in Isabel Allende’s fascinating collection “Cuentos de Eva Luna.”  Allende’s work first provided the inspiration for this piece, and to some extent, suggested its dramatic and emotional trajectory, which traces a path from clarity and freedom through a terrible loss toward an eventual release from suffering and return to peace.

Allende’s Walimai is one of the Children of the Moon, a tribe of indigenous people who live deep in the forest, just beyond the reach of the outside world – a world with which contact is fleeting and often violent.  In the course of the story, Walimai is responsible for the death of a woman, thus violating the first fundamental law of his people.  As she dies, the woman’s soul enters his body, forcing Walimai to carry with him the tremendous weight of her earthbound spirit and the knowledge of his actions.

For more than a month, the two are bound to one another, and with each day, the woman’s spirit weighs more heavily upon Walimai.  As they move deeper into the forest, talking, singing to each other, sharing their histories and legends, a powerful love develops between them, only increasing Walimai’s suffering; he knows that very soon, he must help her to leave the earth.  Finally, they arrive at the appropriate site, and in the dense, black stillness of the jungle, Walimai begins the ritual fast.

As his strength slowly deteriorates, their spiritual connection weakens, and the woman’s soul begins to break away from his embrace.  Days later, she takes her first steps alone, returning quickly but venturing farther out with each successive attempt.  On the twelfth day of the fast, when the pain of their separation has reached a terrible intensity, Walimai dreams she is flying, soaring high above the forest canopy, and he wakes, his body shaken and nearly weightless.  She is gone.  All around him, the eternal forest waits in silence.

Walimai rises and walks for hours until he arrives at a small river.  After snaring a fish, he goes to hunt, so as not to return to his village empty-handed.





Salzedo's Jukebox (2011)
harp solo, 12'30"

Music Box


The Garden Hedge


Snow on Snow


Russian Dance


Scene after Boccaccio

Madeline Blood, harp

No recording of S'io credesse is currently available.

score sample

Commissioned by the Lyra Society for harpist Madeline Blood
Premiered May 26, 2011 by Madeline Blood, harp, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA

As a child, I was fascinated by the old jukebox in our neighborhood pizza parlor.  Even though I hardly knew any of the songs on its list, I would always beg my parents for a quarter so I could choose one and punch in the corresponding number on the little neon keypad.  It was exciting to think I was choosing the music that everyone in the restaurant would listen to.

The six movements of Salzedo's Jukebox cover a wide variety of musical and dramatic territory.  Some are deliberately simple, others comparatively complex, but each of them occupies only a few short pages, and like the songs in the pizza parlor, each lasts for but a short space of time.  Any or all of them can be played in any order the harpist desires.

In naming this piece, I wanted to pay respect to harpist Carlos Salzedo, whose work in codifying, clarifying, and creating a number of techniques specific to the instrument has profoundly influenced composers for almost a century now.  Each time I work with harpists, I'm impressed by their fearless attitude toward exploring their instrument's unique capabilities, and I'm certain this is due in part to Salzedo's explorations, which made otherwise "extended techniques" into part of a harpist's standard practice.





Caprice (2011)
violin solo, 5'


Elizabeth Fayette, violin

score sample

Commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music for violinist Elizabeth Fayette
Premiered April 26, 2011 by Elizabeth Fayette, violin, Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia, PA

My Caprice was written at the request of Elizabeth Fayette for a solo recital marking her graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music.  During the time we were students there together, Libby had performed a number of my pieces, and it was a joy to write this virtuosic, bravura work for a brilliant musician friend.  Just before the end of the piece, there's a quick nod to a famous violinist-composer, somebody whose writing for the instrument never ceases to amaze this non-string-player.





Three Months (2010)
flute, violin, violoncello, 3’


Edward Schultz, flute
Marc Rovetti, violin
John Koen, violoncello

score sample

Commissioned by Network for New Music (Philadelphia)
Premiered Nov. 21, 2010 by Edward Schultz, flute, Marc Rovetti, violin, John Koen, violoncello, Philadelphia Ethical Society, Philadelphia, PA

Written for a Network for New Music concert entitled “Trade Winds from Tibet,” this work was inspired by listening to recordings of Nepalese court singer Tashi Tsering as made by composer Andrea Clearfield and anthropologist Katey Blumenthal while on a trek to the remote Himalayan region of Lo Monthang in late May, 2010.

Of the many recordings that Andrea sent me, one piece in particular stuck out as my favorite: "Shuktar Ki Gar Lu."  I had been asked to compose a work based in some way upon the Nepalese music, but after repeated listenings, I came to realize that without doing some serious study, I couldn't hope to understand what was truly important or intrinsic to the music, especially as someone coming from outside the culture that had produced it.  When I read the translation of the lyrics, though, I felt an immediate resonance with their message: a kind of vigorous "call to action," balanced by a recognition of the ephemeral nature of all life.

From that point, I simply wrote a brief piece that reflected that feeling, a kind of personal musical response to one of Tashi Tsering’s recordings.  I did choose to cast the piece in ABA form (which is also how the original song was structured), but beyond that, there is very little resemblance between the two pieces.  My work's title comes from the lyrics at the end of the original song's first verse:

    The rays of the sun shine brightly
    The party goers are wearing golden dresses
    Take a round to the right
    Take a round to the left
    Mother's daughters take a round to the right
    And sing and dance with energy
    Boys, dance actively for the brave ladies
    We only have one life,
    As fleeting as the flowers' three months.





The Seahorse and the Crab (2010)
narrator, flute, trumpet, violoncello, percussion, piano, 10’


Charlotte Blake Allston, narrator
Loren Lind, flute
Jeffrey Curnow, trumpet
Lloyd Smith, violoncello
Anthony Orlando, percussion
Bonnie Wagner, piano

score sample

A version for chamber orchestra and narrator also exists - see "Orchestral and Wind Ensemble"

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association for performance on its educational outreach concert series, Sound All Around
Premiered February 27, 2010 by the musicians of Sound All Around, with Charlotte Blake Allston, narrator, at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, PA

Using the trumpet and the cello to represent the story's two main characters, this underwater adaptation of a well-known fable stresses the importance of believing in yourself and reminds us to never give up.  As Aesop said, "Slow and steady wins the race."





Impressions du Languedoc (2008)
soprano saxophone, harp, 8’30”

I. Plage de l'Espiguette



II. Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière

Brian Sacawa, soprano saxophone
Coline-Marie Orliac, harp

score sample

Commissioned by saxophonist Christopher Creviston and harpist Francis Duffy
Premiered January 15, 2009 by Creviston and Duffy, Greenwich House Music School, New York, NY

The Languedoc is a region in southern France that I had the opportunity to visit late in the summer of 2008.  Rather overshadowed by its cousin Provence just to the east, it is not a common travel destination or even terribly well known, but I found it to be a remarkable area of surprising diversity.  Two of the many places I explored there made such an impression upon me that they found their way into my music, though I don’t claim that these two movements in any way accurately or objectively depict the settings that inspired their composition.  Instead, they reflect my personal reactions to these landscapes, focusing on and perhaps magnifying what I found most striking about these beautiful places.

L’Espiguette is a long stretch of Mediterranean coastline which has been protected as a natural area.  As a result, the area is completely undeveloped and thus incredibly peaceful; gazing down the shore, one sees nothing but an endless succession of sand dunes stretching down the edge of the water.  Despite the pristine condition of the area, there were very few people on the beach the day I was there.

Saint-Jean-de-la-Blaquière is the name of the tiny village where I spent my nights in the Languedoc, sleeping at the house of a friend.  The roughness of the natural environment there astonished me: massive sheer cliff faces, scrubby, twisted vegetation, and everywhere one looked, the deep, rusty color of exposed earth.  If certain parts of the second movement strike the listener as wild or harsh, it is certainly a reflection of the village’s incredible natural surroundings, and not at all of the warm hospitality I experienced while staying there.





Puck (2008)
trumpet solo, piano reduction (string orchestra), 11’30”


Terry Everson, trumpet
Shiela Kibbe, piano

video recording

score sample

See "Orchestral and Wind Ensemble" for orchestral audio and score samples

Orchestral instrumentation:
(strings: minimum 4, 3, 3, 3, 2) (solo trumpet)

Commissioned in memory of Derek Abraham by private consortium, Los Altos, California
Premiered Dec. 13, 2008 by Rick Leder, trumpet, and the Los Altos High School Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ted Ferrucci, Los Altos High School, Los Altos, CA

This work was created in response to the tragic death of Derek Abraham, a 2007 graduate of Los Altos High School.

It was clear from the beginning that I had to write something that would reflect and celebrate Derek’s energy and enthusiasm for life – there was enough bleakness already – but it was at first difficult for me to find a way “into” the piece.  As someone coming from outside of the Los Altos community, somebody who had never had the chance to know Derek, how could I attempt to truly understand and express in music something as personal and unique as a human being?

One day, I happened upon a copy of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in my local library, a work I hadn’t read for many years.  I’m not sure why the play struck me as being potentially appropriate, but I checked it out and read through it again.  Almost immediately, the character Puck (who had always been my favorite) sparked something in my imagination, and I realized that I’d found my answer.

Of course, Puck’s a brilliant trickster, the master of mischief himself – which certainly rang true with almost everything I’d been told about Derek – but he also has a heart and a real sense of sympathy, even for those that he’s toying with.  Beyond that, something else appealed to me: Puck acts as the primary link between the fairies and the mortals of Shakespeare’s play, operating in both their respective worlds but not really belonging to either one.  He is thus not inhibited by the social restraints which limit the behavior of both groups, and this freedom gives him an unusual perspective, a remarkable sense of insight.  Puck even manages to step outside of the framework of the play itself several times, addressing the audience directly to share his wisdom.

During one of my visits to Los Altos, somebody told me that Derek never seemed caught up in the rules and patterns of our daily existence, that he too could move simply and easily past certain boundaries of our world, including those limits that other people were unable to transcend themselves.  Besides the numerous stories of his pranks, it was this boundless impression of freedom and the sense of a joyful, compassionate spirit that connected my understanding of Derek with the character Puck.





Sejdefu majka buđaše (2007)
flute (or clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon or violin), guitar (or piano), 5’


Nigel Armstrong, violin
Michael Djupstrom, piano

score sample

Commissioned by the Cavatina Duo (Chicago)
Premiered by Christopher Creviston, alto saxophone, Oren Fader, guitar, Greenwich House Music School, New York, NY

Recorded by Mimi Stillman, flute, Charles Abramovic, piano – Odyssey: 11 American Premieres for Flute and Piano, Innova Recordings, 2011
Recorded by Christopher Creviston, saxophone, Oren Fader, electric guitar – Thrash, White Pine Music, 2013

This work is a free setting of a traditional sevdalinka folk song from the Balkan region.  In creating this instrumental version of a vocal work, I tried to preserve the spirit of the original lyrics, which deal with universal themes of love and loss.  These are the traditional themes of sevdalinka songs, a genre which originated through contact with the Turks, and fuses elements of European, Middle Eastern, and Sephardic music.  The original song's structure was preserved in making this transcription, but I treated the harmony and the melodic line more freely, taking advantage of the extended range and agility of both instruments.

Sejdefu majka buđaše:
Ustani, kćeri moja Sejdefo!

Zar misliš, majko, da ja spim!
Ja ti se mlada s dušom dijelim.

Zovi mi, majko, komšije,
I prvo moje gledanje.

Što smo se, majko, gledali,
U šajku, lađu na more.
Sejdefa's mother wakes her:
Rise, my daughter Sejdefa!

Do you think, mother, that I'm asleep?
I'm parting with my soul.

Call the neighbors, mother
And my first love.

The one whose eyes met mine
On the boat out at sea.





Long, long ago (2007)
string quartet, 8’30”

audio sample #1


audio sample #2

Benjamin Beilman, violin
Luosha Fang, violin
Vicki Powell, viola
Jeonghyoun Lee, violoncello

score sample

Commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program
Premiered April 30, 2008 by the Harmonnia String Quartet, Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY

“Long, long ago” was so named to evoke associations with the past.  I tried to capture a bittersweet, nostalgic yearning in the slow music of the piece, while in the fast sections, I wanted to suggest the energy and impetuosity of an imagined folk music, perhaps music from a culture that no longer exists.  Finally, because much of the music in this piece is based upon fragments of an early string trio of mine, writing this piece gave me many opportunities to reflect upon my own past as a composer.





Prelude (2006)
piano solo, 5’30”


Quentin Kim, piano

score sample

Commissioned by pianist Quentin Kim
Premiered in October 2006 by Kim, Paul Recital Hall, the Juilliard School, New York, NY





Beneath a Quiet Sky (2005)
3-octave handbell choir, 5’

score sample

Commissioned by David and Carol Lui for the handbell choir of St. Odilia Catholic Church, Shoreview, Minnesota
Premiered April 2006 by the St. Odilia Handbell Choir, St. Odilia Catholic Church, Shoreview, MN





Walimai (2005)
alto saxophone, piano, 14’


Brian Sacawa, alto saxophone
Michael Djupstrom, piano

score sample

Lee Ettleson Composer’s Award, Composers, Inc., 2007
MTNA-Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year, Music Teachers National Association, 2005

Commissioned by the Michigan Music Teachers Association and saxophonists Donald Sinta and Brian Sacawa
Premiered October 16, 2005 by Sacawa and Wenli Zhou, MMTA Annual Conference, Ann Arbor, MI

Recorded by Jonathan Wintringham, saxophone, Michael Djupstrom, piano – Walimai, Equilibrium, 2010
Recorded by Jeremy Justeson, saxophone, Michael Djupstrom, piano – Pimpin', American Modern Recordings, 2011
Recorded by Stacy Wilson, saxophone, David Hughes, piano – L'incandescence, Teal Creek Music, 2012

Much of Walimai inhabits the dark, mysterious world that lies concealed beneath the rainforest canopy.  This vast, timeless landscape is also the setting for the powerful short story of the same name found in Isabel Allende’s fascinating collection “Cuentos de Eva Luna.”  Allende’s work first provided the inspiration for this piece, and to some extent, suggested its dramatic and emotional trajectory, which traces a path from clarity and freedom through a terrible loss toward an eventual release from suffering and return to peace.

Allende’s Walimai is one of the Children of the Moon, a tribe of indigenous people who live deep in the forest, just beyond the reach of the outside world – a world with which contact is fleeting and often violent.  In the course of the story, Walimai is responsible for the death of a woman, thus violating the first fundamental law of his people.  As she dies, the woman’s soul enters his body, forcing Walimai to carry with him the tremendous weight of her earthbound spirit and the knowledge of his actions.

For more than a month, the two are bound to one another, and with each day, the woman’s spirit weighs more heavily upon Walimai.  As they move deeper into the forest, talking, singing to each other, sharing their histories and legends, a powerful love develops between them, only increasing Walimai’s suffering; he knows that very soon, he must help her to leave the earth.  Finally, they arrive at the appropriate site, and in the dense, black stillness of the jungle, Walimai begins the ritual fast.

As his strength slowly deteriorates, their spiritual connection weakens, and the woman’s soul begins to break away from his embrace.  Days later, she takes her first steps alone, returning quickly but venturing farther out with each successive attempt.  On the twelfth day of the fast, when the pain of their separation has reached a terrible intensity, Walimai dreams she is flying, soaring high above the forest canopy, and he wakes, his body shaken and nearly weightless.  She is gone.  All around him, the eternal forest waits in silence.

Walimai rises and walks for hours until he arrives at a small river.  After snaring a fish, he goes to hunt, so as not to return to his village empty-handed.





Canopy Dances (2005)
flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, 6’


Daria Binkowski, flute
Micah Heilbrunn, clarinet
Stephen Miahky, violin
Elinor Frey, violoncello
Sydney Hodkinson, conductor

score sample

Premiered July 14, 2005 by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, conducted by Sydney Hodkinson, Harris Hall, Aspen, CO

This work was inspired by thoughts and images of the Amazonian rainforest.  The incredible profusion of life that exists in even the smallest segment of a rainforest suggested to me a music that was highly energetic and rhythmic from nearly start to finish.  Something inhabits almost every square inch of the rainforest environment, and I’d like to imagine that my piece is a kind of dance music for all of those creatures, for everything that’s alive in the rainforest.

Near the end of the work, I attempted to translate into music the image of one lone bird bursting through the treetops and being able to float effortlessly above the canopy, looking down at the enormous sea of green below.





Incidental music for "King Lear" (2003)
various small ensembles, 15'

Written for July/August 2003 productions by Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Massachusetts




To the Eastern Sea (2003/revised 2005)
violin, viola, violoncello, piano, 12’

audio sample #1


audio sample #2

John Holland, violin
Chi-Yuan Chen, viola
Tomoko Fujita, violoncello
Jacob Greenberg, piano

First Prize & Audience Prize, Great Wall International Composition Competition, Chinese Fine Arts Society, 2006
Victor Herbert/ASCAP Young Composer Award, 2005
Morton Gould Young Composer Award, ASCAP, 2004

Commissioned by the Sylvan Quartet
Premiered in May 2003 by the Sylvan Quartet, Ann Arbor, MI

Of the many popular Chinese tales and legends associated with the Great Wall, one of the most beautiful and affecting must be the story of Meng Jiang Nu.  During the reign of Emperor Qin Shi huangdi, many thousands of laborers were conscripted to aid in the construction of the Wall.  When her husband was taken to join the workforce, Meng Jiang was crushed.  She waited anxiously for some word from him, but nothing ever came.  Slowly, the seasons passed; the flowers blossomed, withered and died.  Winter came, and Meng Jiang had still received no news.  And so she set off in search of her husband.

Meng Jiang left her home in Shaanxi province and headed north toward the cold border region where the Great Wall was being built.  All alone, she traveled thousands of miles through the wilderness, crossing river after river and climbing mountain after mountain.  Despite the enormous difficulty, she continued unwaveringly on her journey, led always onward by her sincere love and devotion to her husband.  At last, she arrived at her destination: an enormous, snakelike construction that disappeared into the mountains.  But her initial relief quickly gave way to anxiety, for when Meng Jiang asked every worker she met about her husband’s whereabouts, nobody seemed to know him.  Day after day she persisted, and finally, she heard that he was working not far to the east.  With great excitement, she hurried to meet him.

A tremendous shock awaited Meng Jiang upon her arrival at the worksite, where she learned that only days ago, her husband had died from the backbreaking toil.  Grief-stricken, she let out a terrible cry, one filled with such bitter anguish that the sky turned black and the Great Wall itself shook and then shattered.  Meng Jiang was left with an immense sadness.

News of the event reached the Qin court, and the Emperor himself demanded to see the woman responsible for the destruction.  When he confronted her, he was so struck by her beauty that he ordered her to make a choice: she could remain with him as a lady of his court or be killed upon the spot.  Meng Jiang, ever faithful to her husband, had an idea, and consented to stay upon three conditions: first, that her husband be given a state funeral, second, that all the military officers and officials of the court go into mourning, and finally, that the funeral ceremony itself take place on the shores of the Eastern Sea.  The Emperor, pleased by Meng Jiang’s submission, agreed readily to her wishes.

The funeral was exactly as Meng Jiang had requested it.  Behind a golden coffin followed the Emperor and all his ministers and generals, walking in formal procession to the cliff overlooking the Eastern Sea which Meng Jiang had chosen as the funeral site.  When the ceremony was over, Meng Jiang thanked the Emperor and his court for their presence at the funeral, and, kneeling before the tomb, she prayed, “My husband, wait for me in the other world, so that we may go before the king of that place together.”  Then she rose to her feet and jumped into the foaming sea.

The Great Wall, for all its majesty, stands today as a silent monument to the thousands of laborers who perished during its construction, working in a climate of terrible suffering, cruelty, and starvation.  But it is also a powerful reminder of the great love of Meng Jiang Nu, whose absolute loyalty and courage in the face of tyranny has inspired people for many generations.





Aglaope (2003)
clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, 9'30

Arthur M. Platsis Prize, University of Michigan, 2005

Aglaope was one of the Sirens, creatures from Greek mythology who dwelt on the flowery island of Anthemoessa, where they lured men to their deaths with irresistible music – music so beautiful that passing sailors leapt from their ships or crashed heedlessly into the rocks surrounding the island in a desperate attempt to draw nearer.  It was prophesied that when any ship was able to sail past the island without succumbing to the sweet song, the Sirens would leap into the sea and drown.

Odysseus is thought to be one of the only travelers who was able to hear the voices of the Sirens and yet withstand their deadly allure.  By plugging his crew’s ears with beeswax and ordering himself bound to the mast of his ship so tightly that he could not move, Odysseus and his vessel sailed safely past Anthemoessa.  The Sirens, defeated, flung themselves into the depths of the sea and perished.





Test, for four saxophones (2001)
saxophone quartet, 9’30”


Erik Rönmark, soprano saxophone
Jonathan Kammer, alto saxophone
Jacob Chmara, tenor saxophone
A.J. Lockwood, baritone saxophone

Morton Gould Young Composer Award, ASCAP, 2003

Premiered in November 2001 by Erik Rönmark, Jonathan Kammer, Jacob Chmara, A.J. Lockwood, Britton Recital Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI