Chansons Innocentes

SATB a cappella, 3 Movements, (1993) ca. 5’
e.e. cummings, Text.
Premiered by the Plymouth Music Series Ensemble at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Finalist in the 1995 Chautauqua Choral Composition Contest.

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in Just     

I.
in Just
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hopscotch and jump-rope and
it’s
spring
and
the
goat-footed
balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee.

hist whist     

II.
hist whist
little ghostthings
tip-toe
twinkle-toe

little twitchy
witches and tingling
goblins
hob-a-nob hob-a-nob

little hoppy happy
toad in tweeds
tweeds
little itchy mousies

with scuttling
eyes rustle and run and
hidehidehide
whisk

whisk look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she’ll do to yer
nobody knows

for she knows the devil ooch
the devil ouch
the devil
ach the great

green
dancing
devil
devil devil
wheeEEE

Tumbling-hair     

III.
Tumbling-hair
picker of buttercups
violets
dandelions
And the big bullying daisies
through the field
wonderful
with eyes a little sorry
Another comes
also picking flowers

Program Note:

These short poems by e. e. cummings contain a wonderful, compact interplay between images that reflect a child’s naiveté and playfulness and an adult’s fear of aging and death. These poems find particular poignancy in the compression of these dual meanings into single images. “In Just- / spring” is the magical moment when the world reveals most strongly its process of renewal, bringing with it sunshine and mud. But here spring also reflects an adult’s perspective (the balloon man’s perspective – he is a figure similar to a pied piper beckoning the children to their inevitable future), one who sees In-Just-[ice] in the cycle of life; spring is a metaphor for time past. “hist whist” is replete with ‘scary’ images: little ghost things, twitchy witches, itchy mousies and worst of all, the old woman that knows the devil himself. “Tumbling-hair” is both the untamed, abundant locks of youth and the loss of hair. In this poem the daisies bully their way through the soil shared by other flowers, representing the relentless push of one generation after another. In the face of these dualities, the narrative voice of the poems belongs to children, and cummings infuses the poems with a childlike charm and vibrancy. The musical settings of these poems aim to infuse a similar charm, with subtle hints at the embedded double-meanings.

Do Not Go Gentle

Two Pianos, 3 Movements (1993, minor revisions later) ca. 13’

Premiered by Amy & Sara Hamann at the University of Minnesota.


















Program Note:

Written as a memorial for my mother, Constance Mary Barrett, who had recently died from lung cancer three months shy of her fiftieth birthday. The sonata takes its title from a poem by Dylan Thomas. Do Not Go Gentle Sonata was premiered by Amy and Sara Hamann on November 15, 1993 at Ferguson Recital Hall in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Winner of an ASCAP Grant to Young Composers in 1994.

Jazz Suite (Clarinet & Piano)

Bb Clarinet and Piano, 3 movements, (1992) ca. 8′
Premiered by Benjamin Coleman, Clarinet & Kee Poh Lim at Queens College, 1992.

Listen to the 2nd Movement, performed by Jen Gerth and Tracy Bradshaw:

jazzsuiteii.mp3     

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Program Note:

I wrote this piece for my friends Ben Coleman & Kee Poh Lim while we were students at Queens College, and it’s one of the few pieces from my student days that I’m still proud to have in my catalogue. It has been performed in several U.S. venues, but also in Canada and Europe. I began the piece as part of a jazz composition class that I was taking with the famous saxophonist and composer, Jimmy Heath. I was only a sophomore, and the rest of the class were all graduate students who knew the vocabularly of jazz forwards and backwards. I spent much of the semester playing catch-up, but got the basics down by the end.

Heart! We Will Forget Him!

Emily Dickinson, Text.
High Voice and Piano, ca. 2′
Premiered by ToniAnn Notarfrancesco & Kee Poh Lim at Queens College, 1991.

Heart! We Will Forget Him!     

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Heart! We will forget him!
You and I – tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave –
I will forget the light!

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim!
Haste! lest while you’re lagging
I may remember him!

Nightsongs (Clarinet Quintet – Clar. & String Quartet)

Clarinet and String Quartet (2007), One Movement, 9’
Premiered by The Griffin Ensemble at Liepāja Symphony Concert Hall, May 2007.

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Here’s a video with Uldis Lipskis (clarinet), Baiba Lasmane, Ginta Alžane (violins), Tatjana Borovika (Viola) and Dina Puķite (Cello), from their performance with my ensemble at Rigas Jaunais Teatris on June 18, 2007 in Riga, Latvia:

Program Note:

This piece was originally a setting for baritone and string quartet of five short poems by the American poet, Langston Hughes, in one continuous movement. The majority of the piece is based on various transformations of a three-note, bluesy figure. I rearranged and also revised the set in late 2006 in preparation for a five-concert tour in Latvia with my ensemble in May and June 2007. Here are the original poems, in the order of their original appearance:

Night: Four Songs
Night of the two moons
And the seventeen stars,
Night of the day before yesterday
And the day after tomorrow,
Night of the four songs unsung:
Sorrow! Sorrow!
Sorrow! Sorrow!

Border Line
I used to wonder
About living and dying –
I think the difference lies
Between tears and crying.

I used to wonder
About here and there –
I think the distance
Is nowhere.

Drum
Bear in mind
That death is a drum
Beating forever
Till the last worms come
To answer its call,
Till the last stars fall,
Until the last atom
Is no atom at all,
Until time is lost
And there is no air
And space itself
Is nothing nowhere,
Death is a drum
A signal drum,
Calling life
To come!
Come!
Come!

Suicide’s Note
The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

End
There are
No clocks on the wall,
And no time,
No shadows that move
From dawn to dusk
Across the floor.

There is neither light
Nor dark
Outside the door.

There is no door!