Senior Recital: An Inside Look

Below I’ve gathered some basic information about each piece on my senior recital, Multifaceted. Curious about why things are sequenced the way they are? What pieces didn’t make the cut? Read on!

The Program

Storm Warning for five trumpets (2016) – Arizona premiere
Storm Warning was commissioned by Alex Wilson, soon-to-be-tenure-track professor at Grand Valley State University. GVSU runs a thriving trumpet ensemble program for its education and performance students, teaching valuable ensemble and leadership skills while emphasizing the importance of new music, whether it’s original work or really kickin’ arrangements. The trumpet quintet at Grand Valley had a great time with this piece, but I wasn’t able to make it out to Michigan to get a recording, so I’m excited to give the Arizona premiere today with the help of Brianne Borden, Aaron Lovelady, Billy Berue, and Robert Lau Giambruno. Storm Warning follows the five voices through turbulent seas of unity and separation, punctuated by bursts of aleatoric and quasi-improvised music. For more on the piece, read the program notes here.

Horizon Line for string quartet (2016)
Written for the annual collaboration concert between the ASU composition studio, the ASU String Program, and the Phoenix Art Museum, Horizon Line is based on an artwork by Lawrence Weiner called Placed Just Below Above The Horizon. Weiner has a really interesting outlook on art, sculpture, and words, which you can read about in the program notes here. I wanted Horizon Line to reflect his multifaceted approach, so I constructed contrasting sections and let my imagination roam as his art inspired more questions every time I experienced it. I also briefly paraphrase a musical line from one of my favorite Parachute songs, “All That I Am“—can you figure out where in the piece it is?

Flatline for piano (2015) – world premiere
Flatline is a piece that I wrote, fell absolutely in love with, then had to set aside for two years while I found a pianist brave enough to attempt to play it. I describe it to friends as “stupid hard”—not because it’s incredibly lush and full of chromaticism and all the things we typically call difficult in the piano world, but because the piece consists of intricate rhythms involving every A on the piano and no other notes. (It started as composition homework.) I’m lucky to have a very good friend in pianist and composer Jeremiah Sweeney, and he’s agreed to give it his all tonight. Though early on the program, Flatline is the beginning of a downward slide around which I’ve based the program.

Liar, Liar for fixed media (2017)
What’s a girl to do when asked to write a 5.1 surround sound piece for a concert? Go after her favorite women-bashing politician, of course! I threw Liar, Liar together using Donald Trump’s now-infamous “nobody has more respect for women than I do” quote from the 2016 presidential debates (a claim I find very worrisome when I consider what would happen if he were indeed setting that standard). The goal with this piece was to demonstrate how words can be altered to sound ridiculous in various ways—they’ve been sped up, slowed down, raised and lowered in pitch, and otherwise modified. The result is a rather turbulent, somewhat uncomfortable ride, but it’s been one of my favorite little projects to put together this semester. Check out the program notes here.

Intermission

Fade to Black for flute and piano (2015)
I very rarely get to work with the same performers twice on the same piece, so when Erin Delaney and Jeremiah Sweeney were available to perform Fade to Black on this recital, I was over the moon. They first performed this piece in February 2016 at a composition recital, and of the many enjoyable premieres I’ve had, this was among my favorites. The piece itself was inspired by Gerhard Richter’s painting, Canaletto, and it utilizes only nine pitches of the chromatic scale. Rather than picking a scale, I chose the span of pitches between C and G#—there are no A’s, A#’s, or B’s in the entire work.

I like Fade to Black because it’s an excellent transition piece; it doesn’t end on a conclusive, this-is-how-you-should-feel cadence. Because of this, it’s a perfect fit before the next piece on the program. Read more about Fade to Black in the program notes here.

Don’t Tell for fixed media and actor (2016)
Don’t Tell is the beginning of a larger project (read about it here) discussing sexual assault and rape culture in today’s society. I’ve wanted to write this piece for a long time, but I didn’t think acoustic instruments were the way to create the soundscape I wanted. Once I started learning about electronic music, I was certain fixed media was the way to go. I borrowed a handful of friends, recorded their voices, made some weird noises with a prepared piano, and we were off to the races. The entire piece was assembled in the span of a week, and it’s already had multiple performances (stay tuned for a collaboration later this month!).

I’ve envisioned Don’t Tell being accompanied by an individual onstage, and I’m so excited to collaborate with my friend and roommate Tess Galbiati for this performance. Most of the programming for tonight’s performance revolved around this piece; as the darkest work on the program, I knew I’d need to ease the audience into a less openly aggressive, more ambiguous emotional space before we brought the hammer down. Read the program notes here.

Red Light Horizon for jazz ensemble (2016)
When I got to join the Nash Composers’ Coalition last fall, I was stoked to get to write for a) jazz musicians and b) saxophones. As a result, Red Light Horizon is very woodwind-driven. This sits well for a nine- or ten-piece ensemble (you’ll hear it for nine tonight), but proves challenging to orchestrate for big band, which I’ve recently done. (That will premiere later this spring; more info forthcoming.) Despite that, it’s a joy to play, and I’ve had a great time getting to work with my peers both in and out of the Jazz Studies program to put this together. Read all about the tune here. It’s very much a closer, so thanks to the writing and the necessary set change, it’s last on the program.

Honorable Mentions

Supernova for brass quintet (2014)
Supernova is among my favorite compositions, but programming it onto this recital wasn’t in the cards. Managing twenty performers simultaneously is a huge job, and while I would love an additional performance of this piece, adding five more musicians would have required more time than I had to give. Supernova will have a future; it’ll just have to wait a little while.

RPM for trumpet trio (2015)
RPM is a really fun ride through intricate trumpet parts. I wrote it for myself and two of my friends, and I’ve had the good fortune of getting it performed several times. While I would’ve loved to play it again, I found I had more than enough material on the program already.

Gentle Fingers, Iron Fists for piano (2014)
I have yet to get a good recording of this piece, but it became another casualty of the length of my program. While I wish I had the opportunity to put out everything untested I’ve had sitting around, I’ve only got an hour to program, so keep an eye out for this in the coming months.

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