Amethyst is a musical pas de deux. The work features many duets, sections with two contrasting ideas, two larger contrasting sections (marked by different tempi), and an ongoing argument between two key areas (D-major and F-Major). After going back and forth between contrasting sections, the piece finally relaxes in a coda that synthesizes both themes and key areas.
The sultry tangos of two Argentine Composers, Astor Piazzolla and Osvaldo Golijov, served as models for this piece. I wrote Tango while studying with Narcis Bonet in Paris, a city that has greatly embraced the Argentine tango as well as the rise of modernity in the early 20th century. Tango was premiered on the stage of Salle Franck at La Schola Cantorum, Paris.
The Sonoran Desert is a place of supreme beauty, grandeur, calmness, and intensity.Some of my most transformative moments have been while wandering the Sonoran Desert. Sonora evokes certain feelings, sounds, and images of the desert. Large, complex, sustained sonorities represent the colorful paint-brushed appearance of the desert sky, the wideness of the desert, and the confident command of the Saguaro Cactus which towers over her expansive territory. After some calm expository material, the work becomes more vigorous, being a depiction of not only the quiet intensity of this dry place, but of the psychological intensity of being in a desert, finding oneself surrounded by immense loneliness.
Windmills is a soft piece that presents short melodic gestures over two swaying sonorities. A sense of subtle movement and expansiveness are a result of repeating these gestures, each time colored slightly differently by moving to distantly related keys. I have drawn from three different works by 20th century American composers: Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, John Corigliano's Fern Hill, and Ingolf Dahl's Sinfonietta: "Notturno Pastoral." These pieces have a simplicity and tasteful lilt to them that remind me of the countryside. I began living in this pastoral sound and found that the musical gestures I had been sketching evoke windmills in their circular motion. At the same time, I was considering how I might acknowledge St. Olaf College. "Windmills" seemed a perfectly fitting title because St. Olaf College has a wind turbine visible from everywhere on campus and is seated beautifully next to a pond in a wheat-colored field. As my piece progressed, it became an expression of my feelings when standing before this grand structure in the idyllic setting.
I discovered the poetry of Paul Valery while studying composition in Paris. I immersed myself in the poetry of the great French Symbolists: Mallarmé, Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Valéry. When I discovered Valery's collection Charmes, I knew immediately that I wanted to set portions to music.
Each poem in this collection uses objects and experiences to describe a poet waiting for his inspiration. Very often in French Symbolism the poet chooses words and sounds that have many different meanings, which inform one's interpretation of the poetry. For example, "Les Grenades," the title of the first of this cycle, means both "the pomegranates" and "the grenades." While these are completely different objects, the poem reveals Valéry's implication of both meanings. The poet is awaiting inspiration, which comes in the form of a grenade exploding with ideas, or a pomegranate bursting with creative juices. Similarly, on the surface level, "Les Pas" suggests "footsteps;" however, "pas" is also a word used for negation. This expresses an existential question: was it the footsteps of a lover approaching a vigilant bed, or was it a nonexistence contained only in the mind of the poet? Again this poem is a metaphor for inspiration, now coming to the poet seductively in the night. "Le Vin Perdu" describes a scene in which the poet tosses wine into the sea (for reasons of which he is unsure) and in a trance, watches as the translucent red becomes enveloped in the salty water. "La Ceinture" describes a sash fluttering gracefully in the dim evening's light, which disappears as the night darkens. The double meaning here is "the belt," referring not only to the sash, but the band of light at a sunset.
To underline the double meanings that happen so frequently in these texts, my settings of these texts employ many musical "double meanings." Cross relations (chromatic contradictions between two simultaneously sounding tones) play an important role in the entire work by suggesting not either major or minor sonorities, but both. Likewise, the dialectical argument between key areas, as well as the way I chose to settle in tonalities that synthesize these arguments, suggests multiple intentions and musical meanings. All of these compositional devices exist within a sound world of gestures, harmonic patterns, and styles that allude to music of the great Fin de Siècle French composers, contemporaries of Mr. Valéry, and my own poetic muses: Debussy, Ravel, and Lili Boulanger.