Sur la Neige

2019            oboe, clarinet            duration: 8 minutes

Written for Pleasant Street Players Ian Davidson and Vanguel Tangarov, colleagues at the Texas State School of Music, Sur la Neige is a snow fantasy on three quoted musical ideas. The work begins with an obscure quote from Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat, elaborated and then transitioning into a quote from Debussy’s Prelude No. 6 in his Préludes, Book I. Eventually, a small decorative figure from Janácek’s Sinfonietta appears and quickly disappears like a scurrying bystroušky (fox).

Two memories of walking in the snow stand out in long-term memory. In about 1965, one recreation of a restless Michigan teenager on winter nights was to put on boots and parka and hike through snow-covered fields and forest in the moonlight. In 1992, my composer friend Arnost Parsch led me on a walk into the logging forest above his Moravian village, Bílovice nad Svitavou. Through late-fall snowflakes, we retraced the steps of Janácek, passed the natural-spring well and the Sokol tavern up to a beautiful promontory view of the snow-covered village below.

MIDI preview:

Kladno Sketches

2019      duration: 10 minutes

1. Zámek – peaceful gardens      2. Poldi – ironworks      3. Svobody – Freedom plaza

Kladno is a Czech city in the Central Bohemian Region 25 kilometers northwest of Prague. In the middle of the 19th century, the discovery of coal there led to the establishment of one of the great ironworks and then steel mills in all of Europe.

Kladno is near Lidice, the village destroyed by the Gestapo in 1942. Of the Lidice men who were all shot in the atrocity, many had walked to Kladno each day to work in the coal mine or the Poldi steel works.

Poldi has thrived and survived for more than 100 years, through two world wars and occupations of the country, but the factory finally closed and most of the buildings are now abandoned.

The city remains a thriving place with a population of 70,000, a large church, municipal building, state library and archives, monuments, theaters, museums, and beautiful parks. The Czech people have always been hard working, they love gardens, especially roses, and they love beer in the fine pilsner style they created.

Suffering under so much occupation and oppression throughout their history in the center of Europe, Czechs especially value “svobody” – freedom.

A Peaceful Place

Digital sound sculpture      2019       duration: 7 minutes

The title, from the poem “The Murder of Lidice” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, is an expression of the feeling evoked by the verdant valley below the Lidice Memorial. Though horrible tragedy struck this place on 10 June 1942, now the sloping lawn and babbling creek are a safe haven to peaceful spirits.

Carte du Ciel

sky map

2019      digitally synthesized sound sculpture      duration: 8 minutes

Carte du Ciel was an ambitious second phase of an international star-mapping project initiated in 1887 by Paris Observatory director Amédée Mouchez.  A new photographic process revolutionizing the gathering of telescope images inspired the first phase, the Astrographic Catalogue of a dense, whole-sky array of star positions. Carte du Ciel, never completed after 70 years, used the Catalogue as a reference system for a complex survey of the vast field of even fainter images.

In the music, ghostly wisps of sound are punctuated by brighter bursts, clustered in a natural, not-quite randomly dispersed texture.


Unseen Voices

2018      double SATB choir, orchestra      duration: 9 minutes

Horn in F, 2 Trumpets in C, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Triangle, Timpani, Strings

Angels in most world religions and mythologies seem to serve one of two functions: wielding controlling power over the physical world or over human affairs; or making spiritual announcements to humans. In giving voice to the unseen voices of angels and other spirits, the choir pronounces the names of Native American and Hebrew spirits representing the power and beauty of nature – wind, moonlight, rainbows – and messages of peace and assurance. Here is our chosen cast of angel/spirit names:

  Gǎoh – chief wind spirit (Iroquois)

  Yaogah – bear spirit of the north wind (Iroquois)

  Neoga – fawn spirit of the south wind (Iroquois)

  Oyandone – moose spirit of the East Wind (Iroquois)

  Amitolane – rainbow spirit (Zuni)

  Nokomis – daughter of the moon (Algonquin)

  Gabriel – archangel of justice, annunciation (Hebrew)

  Maris stellastar of the sea (Latin)

Ave maris stella is an 8th-Cen. Roman plainsong antiphon for Vespers. The text speaks of Gabriel announcing peace to the world.

Gabrielis ore, funda nos in pace. (Latin)  “From the mouth of Gabriel, establish us in peace.”

Epi gis Eireni anthropois. (Greek)  “On earth, peace to all people.”