Duration: 9:06

performed by the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society

Duration: 11:32

performed by Ogni Suono Saxophone Duo, Phil Pierick and Noa Even

Commissioned by Ogni Suono

Recorded live at the 2015 EARSHOT BERKELEY UNDER CONSTRUCTION NEW MUSIC READINGS, in partnership with the American Composers Orchestra

Duration: 8:47 (the following recording is a 3-minute excerpt)

performed by the Berkeley Symphony; Joana Carneiro, conductor

(program notes written in 2014)

This year seems to be passing quickly. I was thinking of composing a piece about time compressing, and then I watched an interview with Richard Hoffmann, my former teacher who had come to Los Angeles in the 1940s to study privately with Arnold Schoenberg and who became his amanuensis and a close friend of the Schoenberg family. In his interview, Richard told a story of Schoenberg at the end of his life, when he could no longer walk down the stairs of his house and spent all day sitting in his room. There was a clock on the wall in front of him, and one day he asked Richard to put the clock behind him because he didn’t want to know how slowly time was passing.

Duration: 12:07

performed by Quartetto Maurice

Commissioned by Quartetto Maurice

Competing Demands is a companion piece to dolorem ipsum. The two works can be performed together (in this order) or separately.

Duration: 4:08

performed by Alexandria Le

Commissioned by Alexandria Le for her debut recital at Carnegie Hall (Weill Recital Hall) as a winner of the Pro Musicis International Music Award

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2011)

My piano music relies heavily on the sostenuto pedal (the middle pedal which is supposed to allow some notes to resonate while others are dampened). Unfortunately, the sostenuto pedal on many pianos does not function properly, allowing notes to resonate when they should not. Tonight, October 1, 2011, is one of those nights. I give up, and have resolved to take this mechanical failure as a springboard for inspiration rather than fighting against it.

Competing Demands is a companion piece to dolorem ipsum. The two works can be performed together (in this order) or separately.

Duration: 12:47

performed by the Color Field Ensemble (Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, soprano; James Fucik, saxophone; Owen Weaver, percussion; Karl Larson, piano)

Commissioned by the Color Field Ensemble

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2013)

I love the sound of the voice, and I love words; still I find it exceptionally challenging to compose vocal music. In the context of chamber music, I prefer for each member of an ensemble to be on equal footing. I know, however, that many listeners will view a work for voice and three instruments as a song with accompaniment. I also love sound at least as much as words, and I prefer a text setting that does not subordinate each musical gesture to whatever word is being sung at the time.

My first idea for this piece was to set the "lorem ipsum," a gibberish Latin text used for centuries as a placeholder when words are required but no semantic content is desired. A vocal setting of "lorem ipsum" would focus attention entirely on the beauty of the voice without incorporating any further meaning. But after learning that the text was derived by jumbling a passage from Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum, and after reading this fascinating treatise on ethics, the piece changed course. I decided to set an intact passage from Cicero's work. Of course, only listeners who understand Latin will be able to identify this text as meaningful (and the "lorem ipsum" as gibberish). But under the surface, the piece derives its structure entirely from one sentence of Cicero's prose.

This piece is part of a larger cycle of four works that can be performed together or independently: 1) Errata, 2) Midair Collisions, 3) Headless Monkey Attack, 4) Skeuomorphic Tendencies.

Duration: 9:23

performed by Emanuele Torquati

Commissioned by Emanuele Torquati for the Heidelberg Spring Festival. Premiered in Heidelberg, Germany on April 13, 2011.

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2010)

I can't play this piece. My primary instrument is piano, but primarily I compose. These days, I play for myself, by myself, for the sheer joy of playing (and I make a lot of mistakes). Errata is an attempt to publicly correct these mistakes. Musical material is transformed by my own inability to play it, then reorganized into a (hopefully) more musically compelling result.

This piece is part of a larger cycle of four works that can be performed together or independently: 1) Errata, 2) Midair Collisions, 3) Headless Monkey Attack, 4) Skeuomorphic Tendencies.

Duration: 9:09

performed by the JACK Quartet and the Mivos Quartet

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

This piece is part of a larger cycle of four works that can be performed together or independently: 1) Errata, 2) Midair Collisions, 3) Headless Monkey Attack, 4) Skeuomorphic Tendencies.

Duration: 6:26

performed by Transit (Sara Budde, clarinet; Joe Bergen, percussion; David Friend, piano; Andie Springer, violin; Evelyn Farny, cello)

Commissioned by Transit

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2011)

Headless Monkey Attack stems from an idea I had for a "band" (and the premiere may - in a sense - mark its founding). The idea is for any group of people - musicians or non-musicians; instrumentalists, vocalists, electronic musicians, dancers, video artists, pretty much anyone - to perform live with pre-produced electroacoustic tracks, which would be available as audio files and in conventionally notated score form ahead of time. Performers could compose their parts in advance (optionally with the aid of notated scores, for those performers who read music), or prepare improvised performances in advance, or improvise their parts with no preparation whatsoever. The distinctive sonic identity of the "band" would derive from the character of the fixed electroacoustic tracks, which must be carefully designed to fit cogently with a wide variety of instrument, vocal, and live electronic sounds.

This piece was composed in a similar spirit, but with Transit specifically in mind. I produced the fixed electroacoustic track to fuse neatly with Transit's specific instrumentation, and all the parts are either composed out or framed as improvisations with limited parameters. The work could, however, adapt to a different group of performers and still retain its identity. So, in a sense, all the members of Transit have just joined my new band.

This piece is part of a larger cycle of four works that can be performed together or independently: 1) Errata, 2) Midair Collisions, 3) Headless Monkey Attack, 4) Skeuomorphic Tendencies.

Duration: 8:40

performed by the Metropolis Ensemble; Andrew Cyr, conductor

Commissioned by the MATA Festival for the Metropolis Ensemble. Premiered at (Le) Poisson Rouge, New York City, on May 12, 2011.

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2011)

My program notes sometimes function as a graveyard of discarded dissertation topics, and here's one half-baked idea:

When a particular technology emerges (e.g., the harpsichord), it comes bundled with a particular set of capabilities and limitations (e.g., the ease of playing many notes quickly on the harpsichord, and the lack of dynamic control over a single note). Composers find practical solutions to these limitations (e.g., octave doublings, trills, and heightened rhythmic activity in passages that ought to sound loud), and these devices become accepted as aesthetically appealing, ensuring their continued use after the original technology has been replaced or new technologies developed (e.g., similar musical solutions in the loud passages of a Haydn piano sonata, despite the instrument's dynamic control).

According to the dictionary.com app on my phone, a "skeuomorph" is "an ornament or design on an object copied from a form of the object when made from another material or by other techniques." A feature I find in my own work and that of my peers is a tendency to be interested in connections between electronic music and instrumental music, technologically distinct but, musically, increasingly related.

Skeuomorphic Tendencies is dedicated to my partner, Doug Brooks, for our tenth anniversary (during which I was editing this score).

Duration: 5:39

performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

Duration: 9:18

performed by the JACK Quartet (Christopher Otto and Ari Streisfeld, violins; John Pickford Richards, viola; Kevin McFarland, cello)

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2010)

My work often deals with the ways in which technology has transformed how we hear, experience, and create music. This piece is inspired by an experience watching a YouTube video that was not buffering properly, resulting in a chopping and looping of short video segments. The material in too many arguments in line 17 is also manipulated by processes akin to granular synthesis, with an affinity for glitches and unexpected results. This piece is neither about how technology is destroying music as we know it, nor is it about how technology is the answer to all life's questions. It a collection of more mundane observations about easily overlooked (and potentially profound) ways in which technology has already altered our lives.

Duration: 6:47

performed by the Argento Chamber Ensemble

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2010)

This was going to be (and maybe still is) a piece about psychosis, about the interweaving of technological mediation into every aspect of our lives, about trying to control uncontrollable forces. At the time that I began composing impaired contact with reality, I was thinking about the quasi-ritualistic, quasi-psychotic relationship I have with technology. It seems that before the Industrial Revolution, the mechanisms of even the most complex technological innovations could be understood visually (even the clock - possibly the most complex pre-Industrial machine - could be opened and its gears examined) and the great mysteries that perplexed humans concerned the natural world. Rituals (i.e., complex practices designed to produce a desired outcome without requiring the practitioner to fully understand how) were developed to solve problems that we now tend to fix scientifically (e.g., medical treatments). But while scientific and technological innovations since the Industrial Revolution have greatly clarified our understanding of the natural world, it seems we've replaced these mysteries with a technological environment whose mechanisms can not possibly be understood visually and we've developed new rituals accordingly. (Just think of the highly personalized ways we debugged the original 8-bit Nintendo - blowing on the cartridge, resetting the console repeatedly, unplugging it for a precise duration before plugging it back in - which generally worked but we never knew why.) The title of this piece comes from the Random House Dictionary definition of psychosis: "a mental disorder characterized by symptoms ... that indicate impaired contact with reality." In a way, my complete dependence on technological systems that I don't remotely understand is kind of psychotic, but this is just part of the anxiety toward/fascintation with technology that underlies my work. This is not a well-researched (or even well-reasoned) argument. But I'd rather provoke than persuade; I'd rather compel people to think than tell people what to think.

Duration: 10:35

performed by the Osvaldo Golijov/Dawn Upshaw Professional Training Ensemble; Maghan Stewart, soprano; Julie Miller, mezzo-soprano

Commissioned by Carnegie Hall

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2007)

I did not write Doot. It was written by my alter ego, Professor Monkeypants, who snuck into my studio one night and commandeered a stack of manuscript paper.

Professor Monkeypants was not always a producer of upbeat electronica. Early in his life, Professor Monkeypants was an intergalactic ethnomusicologist; he specialized in the music of planet Doot (pronounced as a sudden, high-pitched beep).

The "people" of planet Doot are a gentle, patient, sanguine folk by nature, but their world is changing. The young people no longer have time for traditional song and dance and merriment.

This saddens Professor Monkeypants, so he wrote a song about it.

Written for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and 10 instruments, Doot is about a world in crisis; it is about inexorable change. The text is drawn from old Doot, an ancient and untranslatable language. Though a handful of scholars still speak old Doot, its secrets may soon be lost … perhaps forever.

Duration: 11:56

performed by Yarn/Wire (Ian Antonio and Russell Greenberg, percussion; Laura Barger and Daniel Schlosberg, piano)

This work was composed while in residence at Copland House, Cortlandt Manor, New York, as a recipient of the Aaron Copland Award.

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2007)

I began writing Filthy Machines while in residence at Copland House, the former home of Aaron Copland. The rustic, sylvan setting is surely intended to provide composers with the peace and quiet they need to work, but it also forced me to face my technology addiction.

I compose instrumental, vocal, electronic, and electroacoustic music. I am delighted by the new musical possibilities afforded by technological advancements, but I also think we should be aware of how technology is fundamentally transforming the way we experience and create music.

I observe three trends that seem to be merging toward each other. First, the capacity of computers to emulate instruments and human performance is improving. Second, the willingness of listeners to accept spurious representations of instruments and human performance is expanding. Third, the tendency of composers to write music that is better suited for computer performance than human performance is becoming increasingly common. At some point in the distant future, could these trends meet and obviate the need for human performers entirely?

I doubt it. I think humans will continue to play music because humans want to. Besides, technology still has some major shortcomings, two of which I address in this piece. First, a MIDI "performance" of a piece for multiple instruments neglects the intangible nuances of human interaction that define artistic excellence. Second, multiple parts mixed digitally will not interact in the same manner as sounds produced mechanically by instruments in a single physical space.

The opening pitches of Filthy Machines are derived from a patch I programmed in Max/MSP. A rigid, mechanical opening gradually transforms into a musical setting in which both the flexible relationships among performers and the acoustic interactions among instruments are inextricable from the musical material itself.

Duration: 16:48

performed by the Milwaukee Children's Choir and Present Music

Commissioned by Present Music with generous support from Ronald Jacquart. Presented with support from a MetLife Creative Connections Award from Meet the Composer.

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2007)

When I was commissioned by Present Music and the Milwaukee Children's Choir to write a new work for their annual Thanksgiving concert, it reminded me that the lives of composers are often exceptionally self-centered. Of course, over the years I have relied (sometimes heavily) on help from loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers; it's probably time for me to thank them.

The title of Quando consurgam? ("When shall I arise?") comes from Job 7:4. The text, which is in Latin, is drawn entirely from the book of Job, a source that surprises many people. To me, this story of unwarranted punishment and unbridled destruction offers no answers to life's great questions, but it does remind me of the fragility and tenuousness of everything we have. It's a reminder to be thankful for what we have as long as we have it.

Duration: 3:47

performed by the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra

Composed for the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra while in residence at Copland House, Cortlandt Manor, New York, as a recipient of the Aaron Copland Award.

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2006)

This is a piece for orchestra without conductor. People ask many questions about this piece, so I compiled a list of "frequently asked questions" in the score.

Here is an excerpt:

Why would you write a piece for orchestra without conductor?

I have nothing against conductors. I think conductors are terrific. I am concerned with a broader set of issues. Here's the problem: as the capacity of computers to emulate human performers improves and the willingness of listeners to accept spurious representations of music increases, I fear that the two may meet and that this could obviate the need for human performers entirely.

I endeavor to write music that can only be played by humans. In Abandoned Overture, my solution is to allow each member of the orchestra to determine (consciously or unconsciously) how his or her part will align with the rest of the orchestra. This music reflects the individual quirks and personalities of each musician; it represents a constellation of human interactions that can not be replicated in a computer realization.

Duration: 14:16

performed by the Calder Quartet (Benjamin Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook, violins; Jonathan Moerschel, viola; Eric Byers, cello)

Commissioned by the Calder Quartet, with generous support from the Carlsbad Music Festival, the La Jolla Music Society, the Harry and Alice Eiler Foundation, and a Creative Connections Award from Meet the Composer.

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2005)

For some time, my work has been concerned with rhythmic interactions between layers of sound. When writing grip, I decided to focus on rhythmic states of individual sound layers. I classified all sounds in four broad categories: continuous, periodic, gestural, and random. A single sustained pitch – though it may vary in timbre or dynamics – is considered "continuous". A rhythm with a regular pulse or subdivision is defined as "periodic". A layer of sound that avoids any regular pulse but expresses a deliberate intent (it may speed up or slow down, for example) is called "gestural". Finally, a rhythm that sounds completely chaotic is classified as "random". Gray areas exist between these categories and provide material to explore in grip. Of couse, other parameters of composition are tied to rhythm, but I suspect such connections extend beyond the scope of these program notes or the patience of its readers.

In more abstract terms, grip is about degrees of control and group dynamics. While the first two rhythmic states (continuous and periodic) tend to produce music that is fairly straightforward in terms of rhythm and ensemble, the last two states (gestural and random) open up many more possibilities. Performers are left to fend for themselves, balancing an autonomy that may border on self-indulgence with a broader responsibility to the whole ensemble. In grip, processes become windows into our perceptions and tendencies.

Duration: 3:00

performed by the orkest de ereprijs

Composed for performace by the orkest de ereprijs at the 11th International Young Composers’ Meeting in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands

(program notes written in 2004)

Like many composers of my generation, I have a split musical personality. By day, I compose instrumental and vocal music in the undefinable tradition of "art" or "concert" or "serious" music. By night, I produce hip hop and popular electronic dance music under the pseudonym Professor Monkeypants. In the past, I have felt some pressure to keep these two worlds separate, lest my concert music become too unsophisticated or my popular music too bizarre. But it occurred to me that composers have incorporated the popular dances of their times into concert music for centuries. Indulging a whim, I decided to compose I let the monkey out of his cage. It is a piece that does not merely exhibit influences of popular electronic dance music but is actually an example of drum 'n bass, a genre of fast, aggressive electronica.

Duration: 7:30

performed by Jory Vinikour

Commissioned by Philip M. Cucchiara for Jory Vinikour

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2004)

The toccata is a short, but unrelenting, display of virtuosity. Deriving its inertia in part from juxtaposing thick, dissonant sonorities with bright, consonant harmonies, the toccata uses a distinctive, but accessible, harmonic language. Pulsating ostinati in the lowest register of the instrument further define the bold, driving character of the toccata.

The fugue departs from the dark and dissonant qualities of the toccata by adhering (more or less) to the traditional form and harmonic language of a tonal fugue. The bouncing quality of the subject recalls the energetic leaping of chords in the toccata. A highly chromatic development leads into a final stretto, which superimposes the same subject in three voices, played at three different speeds simultaneously.

Duration: 6:53

performed by the Zephyr Quartet (Lydia Forbes and Jacob Plooij, violins; Elizabeth Smalt, viola; John Addison, cello)

Recorded at Felix Meritis Hall in Amsterdam, the Netherlands International Gaudeamus Music Week 2005

Preview score (full score distributed by Alexander Street Press and available from the composer).

(program notes written in 2004)

Gravity Modulations explores shifts in "metrical gravity", which is the sum of all forces that tend to synchronize ("convergent forces") and asynchronize ("divergent forces") multiple concurrent layers of rhythm. These convergent and divergent forces are further divided into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic forces are imbedded in the music itself. Extrinsic forces encompass all elements from sources outside the music. Examples of intrinsic forces include overall rhythmic complexity, the prominence of certain layers compared to others, the presence of resynchronizing devices, etc. Typically, higher levels of complexity correlate to stronger divergent forces. Examples of extrinsic forces include the training of performers, their innate rhythmic abilities, the amount of time they rehearse, etc. Normally, higher levels of training, more acute rhythmic sensibilities, and more rehearsal correlate to stronger convergent forces.

For example, let us suppose that two intermediate flute students are instructed to play a simple piece together, but one is to perform it at MM quarter = 120 and the other is to perform it at MM quarter = 118. Started simultaneously and performed correctly, these parts should immediately begin to phase. However, this exercise has an overwhelmingly convergent effect that our hypothetical students could not likely resist. They will probably synchronize, if they manage to phase at all. Now, let us suppose the same exercise is proposed to two veteran interpreters of Steve Reich's phase pieces. Their background provides an extrinsic divergent force that may balance the convergent tendencies of the exercise, and coupled with sufficient rehearsal (another extrinsic divergent force), may result in a neutral metrical gravity. In other words, they can play the exercise correctly.

Metrical gravity is present in every performance of music involving two or more human performers. In Gravity Modulations, I simply recognize these forces and use them as compositional resources.