Ill on a Journey is a multilingual opera/oratorio about navigating life with chronic illness—the story of Aurelia, an adventure-loving woman whose health increasingly restricts her mobility. Featuring ancient and modern texts from around the world, it explores the theme of travel and alternative means of fulfillment for those who are unable to leave home. The title is taken from the last poem of Matsuo Bashō, a 17th-century Japanese journeyman-poet with whom Aurelia feels an affinity.
Aurelia’s worsening illness precipitates a search for meaning in her favorite activity: traveling. From the isolation of her bedroom, she voraciously reads, trying to pinpoint exactly why traveling is so special to her, and how she might find similar purpose in her new housebound life.
The story takes place over the course of a year and is divided into 12 movements corresponding to each month. The chorus and its soloists present material that Aurelia reads (texts by Han Yu, Matsuo Bashō, Gabriela Mistral, Claude McKay, and Alexander Pushkin, among others, in the original languages), and she responds in solo (soprano) passages, on texts by the composer in English. Three of Aurelia’s solo movements have been independently performed in chamber ensemble arrangements, available below.
This piece was inspired by Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, 478 acres of natural beauty, history, and sculpture. The site of the 1776 Battle of Long Island, the cemetery now features four glacial ponds and thousands of trees (including some of Brooklyn’s oldest), sheltering an astounding variety of resident and migrating birds. Continue reading →
The title Iwa Ni comes from a poem by 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō. By itself, iwa ni means something like “into the rock”. Bashō wrote the poem at the mountain temple of Risshakuji, as part of his 1,500-mile journey around northern Japan. Continue reading →
for four treble voices, alto flute, bass clarinet, cello, piano
About 60,000 people, including some 24,000 children, sleep in New York’s municipal homeless shelters each night, and thousands more sleep unsheltered on the streets. This diverse population includes people from nearly all walks of life, although the primary cause of homelessness for the majority is the severe shortage of affordable housing.
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 →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, violin, percussion and optional narrators
Consciousness is the Creature of Rhythm was inspired by the short story Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce, in which an inventor is apparently killed by his automaton. The story is full of logical gaps, however, and what really happened has been a matter of debate. This piece deliberately leaves those gaps unfilled, suggesting connections and motivations without explicitly endorsing any theory. The audience must use its imagination to make sense of the action and determine who is responsible for Moxon’s death. Continue reading →