Climate Honesty

for four treble voices

I wrote Climate Honesty around the time U.S. Senator James Inhofe brought a snowball to work in an attempt to deny the existence of climate change. My song is not addressed to the senator—I have no words for him—but rather to those who want to believe what people like him have to say, not only on this subject but on any where it is comfortable yet irresponsible to be ignorant.

Excerpt sung by Margaret Streeter, Crystal Tung, Julia Tang and Diana Hill. Conducted by Evelyn Troester DeGraf:

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For Lantau

for chamber choir and viola

This work was composed while living on the large and mostly rural island of Lantau, in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In recent years the Lantau landscape has undergone dramatic transformations—tourism and transportation developments that can be seen from space, and an exponentially increasing population—with more changes planned for its future. Continue reading 

La traición de las imágenes
(The Treachery of Images)

for mezzo-soprano, flute, viola, contrabass and prepared piano

This song cycle is my response to eight surrealist works by René Magritte, whose famous The Treachery of Images highlights the impossibility of art to truly reflect reality. Magritte described his creations as “images which conceal nothing [and] evoke mystery… [they do] not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either; it is unknowable.” I have tried to capture the same spirit of mystery in both the words and the music.
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Arrived in Mind on Winter’s Walk

for treble voices

This work’s origins can be traced back to a contemplative neighborhood walk, at a time when I struggled to balance my own needs with those of others who I care about. These words “arrived in mind” as I walked. The music I wrote later was influenced by my thoughts about the relationship between a community and its individual members: the 20-32 sopranos and altos of the choir begin by independently repeating short melodic phrases, each singer making autonomous decisions about tempo and rubato, listening carefully as she negotiates her role within the group.
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Cold Over Gravity

for woodwind doublers quartet

One summer day, while hiking in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York, I suddenly felt a blast of frigid air, escaping up out of a cave some distance below the trail. I wondered about the depth of the fissure, and what kind of force could propel this air up against gravity. It did not look safe to investigate, but I found my thoughts returning to this place over the next several weeks, envisioning the cold subterranean world just out of sight. My music, consequently, was imbued with those imaginings: this piece features a strong tension between upward-reaching motives and heavy, downward-directed harmonies. The energy and mystery of those mountains are fused in my memory with the composition of this work.
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In Which They Are Received

for 6 like instruments

Buy viola versionBuy clarinet version This extended 6-part canon was originally written for 6 clarinets. Each instrumentalist plays the same material, but the impact of these identical statements varies with the surrounding musical context: some entrances produce tension, others merge smoothly with the prevailing atmosphere, and others barely register as the listener’s attention is concentrated elsewhere. Alternate versions are available for 6 violas or 6 bassoons, and additional arrangements are in progress. The piece can also be performed by a single instrumentalist with electronic delay.
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Out of Her Place

for SATB chorus (unaccompanied)

Out of Her Place was inspired by the iconic women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony. The first and last stanzas of the text are from speeches she gave at women’s rights conventions; the middle stanza contains lines from her personal letters.
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Tectonic Voice

for wind ensemble

This piece is about seismic forces: the energy that causes earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, geysers, and hot springs. The opening motives in the brass and timpani represent this energy, perhaps in the form of lava, swirling and bubbling below the surface of the earth. It is present throughout the piece, sometimes an undercurrent to lively activity, sometimes a distant echo in an otherwise serene landscape. Like the forces they represent, these motives command our attention when they are most disruptive, but they can cause startling outcomes even when we fail to notice them.
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Driscoll Alphabet

for SSATB chorus (unaccompanied)

The Driscoll Alphabet for chorus is a set of twenty-six blocks of music, each corresponding to a letter in the English alphabet. It can be performed in two ways:

  1. The entire alphabet can be performed, A to Z, as written. The duration is about 15 minutes.
  2. Any of the letters can be performed, in any combination. They need not spell actual words, although this might be a good place to start. (At the first performance, VocalEssence spelled out “Voices of Quiet Joy”, a piece lasting about 7 minutes.)

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