multiple voices / choral

2012 Three in, ad abundantiam ('solo e pensoso') for two sopranos and alto

Commissioned by EXAUDI     ::     Duration: ca. 5′
Premiere: EXAUDI – 21 October 2012, Wigmore Hall, London, UK

I. “solo e pensoso” – ca. 12 canons
II. “la mia vita” – three madrigals
III. “et io con lui” – solo accompagnato

Three in, ad abundantiam – tentative supplements; insecure, mumbled marginalia to another work (vo mesurando for four high voices); three denied attempts at entry. Fragments of text from Petrarch: “Solo e pensoso,” a hymn in sonnet form to ineloquence and to refusal, which admits the possibility of communication only unwillingly, and only because communication is what happens.

“Alone and pensive…”; “my life, which is hidden from others…”; “with me, and me with it…”

score excerpt     ::     mp3 (Ekmeles, Brooklyn, NY, 2013)

vo mesurando for four high voices

Commissioned by EXAUDI     ::     Duration: ca. 5′
Premiere: EXAUDI – 22 October 2013, London, UK

If a madrigal is an unaccompanied chamber-scale vocal work, intimate, reliant on knife-edge unanimity of purpose and gesture, dedicated to the illustration and evocation of a poetic text, then vo mesurando is a madrigal. The Petrarch sonnet which lends detached phrases of its text, “Solo e pensoso,” describes an incommunicable state of inner torment, a compulsive evasion of connection and communication with humankind, and a denial of the possibilities of vocal eloquence—and so it is here. The material and energies of the work are private, quite often simply inaudible, and aimed if they are audible at a space as close to the singers as possible. The gently aggressive regularity of the gridded form; the fragmentary repetitions, sequences, and canons; the emergent shards of syllables and glimpsed phrases; these are all madrigalian figures that you are overhearing, but they are not for you.

score excerpt     ::     mp3 (EXAUDI, Only Connect Theatre, London, 2013)

2006 Colophons ('That other that ich not whenne'), reflecting pool / monument (2006) for six voices and violin (or eight voices)

For James Weeks and EXAUDI     ::     Duration: ca. 8′
Premiere: EXAUDI – 28 November 2007, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland

The quite extraordinarily awkward title, which refers parenthetically to a Middle English lament that has nothing to do with the piece at hand, reflects this work’s status as companion piece to Dehiscences, Lullay (“Thou nost whider it whil turne”) (2005) for piano and cassette. In the piano piece, staticky noise drowns out almost all of the sounding results of the pianist’s activity; here the tables are turned, and a flickeringly unstable drone on a detuned low violin string sets an impossible standard of quietness and fragility for the ensemble of voices that accompanies it. An intermittently repeated, fluttery “signal” from the violin beats time, demarcating a form based on bent, folded and otherwise contorted proportional structures. The “reflecting pool / monument” is in the middle.

The text is two lines from the Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale: “Ye, for an heyre clowt to wrappe me” and “Lo how I vanysshe.” It is deployed mainly to mark preexisting repetitive and affective structures in the music, but I cannot pretend that these phrases were not chosen for their semantic content. Dehiscences, Lullay (the partner piece for piano and cassette) is dedicated to the memory of my father.

[ This work received a 2008 ASCAP / Morton Gould Young Composers’ Award. ]

score excerpt     ::     mp3 (EXAUDI, Elita Bungard, vn; Edinburgh, Scotland, 2007)

2004 iij for SATB chorus

Duration: ca. 4′
Premiere: Fairfax (VA) Choral Society – 20 November 2005, Cathedral of St. Thomas More, Arlington, VA

iij is based on the “Benedictus” of Claudio Monteverdi’s Messe a quattro voci da cappella, published posthumously in 1650. The present work is a reflection on the strict, repeating three-part form of the Monteverdi, with its curiously weightless harmonic structure (g minor-D major; d minor-A major; g minor-D major) underpinning a simple descending melody; it consists of three pairs of identically structured, though differently proportioned, “chord progressions.”

Virtually every pitch in iij is taken directly from this “Benedictus,” but that is almost beside the point; rather, I have attempted to isolate and restate the striking formal aura of the Monteverdi, filtering it through my own compositional praxis of expanding and contracting proportional structures. Some of the held chords and silences are “too long,” creating a tension that inflects and underscores the beautiful disorientation borrowed from Monteverdi’s original.

The title is the indication used in medieval and pre-medieval chant manuscripts to signify three-fold repetition, e.g. of a Kyrie chant; the text is simply a threefold repetition of the word “Benedictus”.

Contact the composer to request complete scores not available here.