moody

Head and Heart

For Cello Quartet
November, 2018
Duration: ~9 minutes

Commissioned by the Detroit Composer’s Project.
Premiered at the Third Place Concert Series in Ann Arbor, MI on December 16, 2018.

Premiered by the Hole in the Floor Quartet:

Kellen Degnan -- cello
Wesley Hornpetrie -- cello
Ben Rodgers -- cello
Hanna Rumora -- cello

In early September of this year, I discovered a cassette tape that I made, dated July 7, 2016 -- my birthday. I immediately put it in my tape player. Upon listening, I was struck by the recording. The recording, which was me improvising solo piano with electronics, lacked many things: high fidelity, musical structure, a sense of articulation. But the recording more than made up for that lacking in one crucial area: heart. I heard an arresting vitality; the potent and powerful electricity which we musicians constantly grasp for.

In the pursuit of more abstract and advanced musical concepts, it's easy to let this unquantifiable realm of musicianship -- musical heart -- go unattended. Head and Heart works to locate that sensibility at the center of its universe. This piece honors the part of myself that is my least articulate self, the self that I don't have words to describe, the self that I can't justify or defend or reason with, the self that I've run away from or tried to grow out of. In creating Head and Heart, I transcribed one section of that cassette tape recording and used those musical materials as a basis for the whole piece. That material finds a literal statement in the opening theme of the piece, and recurs throughout.

But I also applied analytical processes to extend that material -- using my head to extend the reach of my heart. After all, the initial recording that inspired this piece doesn’t exactly hold up; it’s messy, wild, and formless. Head and Heart uses that exciting kernel of energy as a starting point, but moves that energy into distant and far flung directions completely beyond the reach of the original material. The result is a synthesis of the two approaches; where the heart fails the head picks up, and where the head sputters the heart interjects.

I hope that this piece inspires a sense of true vulnerability; a graceful acceptance of those moments when our hearts can lead us to our authentic, inarticulate, honest selves. Additionally, I hope that it models a measured and thoughtful approach to living; an approach where we buttress our emotional cores with contentiousness and care. In this sense, head and heart can be are complimentary, interdependent, and mutually supportive.

Coda

for piano and cello
May 2018
Duration: ~5 minutes

I wrote this piece in a hurry, in the two weeks after I finished my master's program and its premiere. Although that's an uncharacteristically fast turnaround for me, the expedience of the project was actually incredibly rewarding. Even more rewarding was having it premiered by a world class cellist, Wei Yu.

I named this piece "Coda" because it seemed to be something of a post-script on my graduate school experience; a reflection on things I had learned, ways in which I had grown, mistakes I had made, and victories I had won.

Premiered on May 18, 2018 at Hunt Street Station (Detroit).

From Peace and Meaning

For Large Chamber Ensemble
November 2016
Duration: ~7 minutes

This piece takes its title from the two pieces that inspired its inception: Ornette Coleman’s Peace and Arthur Russell’s Tower of Meaning. I was also studying scores from Gil Evans’ arrangements on the Miles Davis album Birth of the Cool right around this time, so that was definitely an inspiration. The instrumentation is:

Flute
Clarinet
French Horn (2)
Violin
Viola
Cello
Bass
Tenor Saxophone (2)
Baritone Saxophone
Vibraphone
Percussion (Glockenspiel, Triangle, Concert Bass Drum)

This piece has never been performed, and I would absolutely love to have someone play it one day. If you’d like to play it, please contact me. I’d be happy to adapt it for you ensemble if you don’t have these exact forces. I think this piece could work for symphony band or chamber orchestra, so maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to arrange it.