Near the end of his career, Erik Satie wrote five pieces for piano designated as nocturnes. Contrary to most of his oeuvre, these five pieces lack the satire, wit, and non-conformity Satie usually exhibited. Still, they are unmistakably Satie: soothing,floating, and very French. This work is a straightforward arrangement of Satie’s 4th Nocturne, applying the color and dynamic ranges of the orchestra to his piano writing while maintaining the enchanting dance-like character of the original work.
8 Ball is an exploration of the emotional swings of grief — shock and sorrow, emptiness and isolation, pain and finality — mixed with wistful, treasured memories recognizing the blessing of sharing life with a loved one, and added to this the hope of eternal reunion. It’s written in memory of my brother, Tex, who we lost to COVID in 2020. In homage to his passion, dirt track racing, there is a contrasting section of paint-swapping, fender-bending frenzy, which comes to an all too sudden end as did his life. The title has nothing to do with billiards but refers to his long-tenured racing number and logo. The music uses unconventional scales which are actually six-tone pitch sets treated as different key centers that produce a lush mixture of consonance and dissonance that at turns feel comforting and unsettling. Writing 8 Ball was a cathartic experience to explore my own emotions, cement my brother’s proper place in my memories, and produce a tangible expression of my love for him. It was written as an assignment in the 2023 summer composition workshop at Tarrant County College. I’m grateful to my instructor, Dr. Aaron Kline, the music department at TCC, and the musicians of our performing quartet for their part in bringing this music to life.
The Hellroaring Plateau is a landmass on the northeast extremity of the Absaroka mountain range straddling the Montana-Wyoming border. Its relatively flat topography and high elevation lead to intense winds and unpredictable storms bestowing the plateau’s colorful moniker. Contrary to the title, the music reflects a compilation of impressions from multiple visits over a decade’s time, gathered with my son’s first-hand reports of overnight stays, rather than a single day’s experience. My original objective for the music was to portray the stark and stony landscape alternatively caressed and buffeted in a stew of breezes and gales, sunshine and storms. However, as I was writing the piece it became apparent the true theme of the music is rather a daily high-altitude drama between light and darkness, a drama staged on the plateau’s rocks, meadows, streams, and lakes depicting a perpetually shifting kaleidoscope of distinctive lighting unlike any I have experienced elsewhere. The transparent, thin air reveals indigo blue skies and scalding-white clouds overarching stunning vistas stretching a hundred miles or more. The landscape glitters under the radiance of high-latitude sunlight. The only word I can think of to describe the golden glow of sunbeams slicing through a summer snow squall is ethereal. The utter absence of artificial light makes for the darkest night skies and brightest stars one can experience on earth.
Of course, it is impossible, or at least beyond my meager skills, to capture all of this in a few minutes of music. Still, the lasting impression this singular example of creation has made on my heart compels me to make the attempt. I hope the result lets you experience at least a touch of the sensation of being there.
Looking for a sacred bassoon solo? Well, you’ve found it! Utilizing the melody from Morning Has Broken(the traditional Gaelic tune BUNESSAN) A Hymn of Beginnings presents a familiar yet fresh treatment of the tune in this setting for solo bassoon and piano. Suitable as a prelude, postlude, offertory, meditative, or other functions in a sacred service it is also at home in a recital or concert program.
A Prayer of Beauty is a re-imagining of “America, the Beautiful” written for professional, college, or advanced high school brass quartet. Independent lines, mixed meters, and adventurous harmonies will challenge musicians. But the familiar melody, rich colors, and glowing resolutions provide a delectable reward for the effort. The pathos, introspection, and hope found in the music will also leave listeners feeling enriched for the experience.
The music’s message is timely and urgent and works well for programming as commentary on current events but is also sufficiently broad and deep to complement varied concert themes. It has sufficient artistic merit to hold its own with other art music while still holding wide audience appeal.