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
This piece was inspired by a site in Arizona’s Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, where in 2006 a campfire triggered the devastation of 4,000 acres. Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
Testing the Second Breath refers to the maxim that half the Earth’s oxygen is generated by marine life. “Take two breaths,” conservationists say. “The second comes from the ocean.” Continue reading
November 28, 2013 – Hong Kong New Music Ensemble and Julia Chung Yin Tang presented La traición de las imágenes (The Treachery of Images) in Hong Kong. This song cycle for mezzo-soprano, flute, viola, contrabass and piano was inspired by the surrealist art of René Magritte. Watch an excerpt on YouTube.
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.
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.
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.