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× First page of the score Archaeology.

Commissioned and premiered by Atelier Pélardy in Mansle, France on September 18, 2016.

NOTES: Archaeology was commissioned by Franck Leblois for a concert of works composed after paintings in an art exhibition. I chose the painting "Archaeology," by Jim Adams. It features two stylized dark burgundy figures buried in orange earth with a dark blue sky filling the top third of the canvas. The most striking thing about the painting is the four large blocks of color - two figures, the surrounding earth, and the strip of sky. I created three different gestural palettes–quick tongued notes alternating between ordinary tonguing and tongue tapping, multiphonics, and a melodic line–to represent the three colors.

Scores for Archaeology are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score Blow.

Commissioned and premiered by for Ben Coelho on December 9, 2001 at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.

NOTES: Blow, for solo bassoon, was commissioned by bassoonist Benjamin Coelho. Ben had discovered an extended technique which combines a multiphonic with a linear figure (a chromatic scale spanning a fifth, sounding over a bottom space A-flat). He had wanted a composer to use this particular sonic figure in a piece, so I agreed. Motivically the piece is based on two ideas: something increasing, and a lyrical tune which shows up about a third of the way into the piece. The increasing idea is manifested as a crescendo, usually in combination with a portamento between two notes, an accelerando, and an increase in use of registral span. Pitchwise the piece works its way through all twelve notes, spending time on each temporary “pitch center” in a sort of timbral variation, culminating on Ben’s invention. Overall the piece moves from the lowest note of the instrument to the highest (although this varies from player to player, Ben suggested high E as a safe note). The piece is to be played “maniacally.”

Comercial recordings of Blow are available. Click here for more information

Scores for Blow are available from TrevCo Music

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× First page of the score Five Caricatures.

Commissioned and premiered by Yu-Fang Chen at a guest recital at Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan, October 11, 2018.

NOTES: The individual movements of this work, Five Caricatures, are based on several of the original commedia dell'arte stock characters from the 16th through 18th centuries. During those centuries, theater groups, mostly made up of male actors, would travel around Europe presenting plays, often during the carnival season. The actors, wearing masks, would specialize in one or a few characters, and they would improvise their performances based on one of a few typical scenarios.

The movements of this work include (1) Colombina, a wily servant/lower class figure who always outsmarts the upper class through cunning; (2) Arlecchino (harlequin), another servant-class figure, and comic fool, who was often an acrobat; (3) Il Capitano (the swaggering captain) who brags about exploits abroad, though he runs from danger at home; (4) Pierrot (Pedrolino), or the sad clown, another servant character who is often the butt of Arlecchino's jokes, but is also the nicer, though dumber, of the two; and (5) Il Pantalone, an elderly Venetian merchant who is rarely comic, generally long winded, and prone to giving good advice. Pierrot is often sad because he pines for Colombina, who usually leaves him for Arlecchino.

Scores for Five Caricatures are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score In Memoriam.

Premiered by Luk' at the June in Buffalo Conference, June 2, 1992. This work was revised in 2012.

NOTES: In Memoriam was written during most of the 1990-1991 year. At that point in my graduate studies I was supposed to write a piece for solo piano. After several attempts I rejected the idea in favor of a work for horn and percussion - it seemed impossible to keep from falling into cliched gestures. After several more fruitless months, I realized that the musical ideas I wanted to work with were better suited for piano. Conceiving of gestures and sounds from a different instrumental viewpoint somehow allowed me to approach the piano from a fresh perspective. The piece is sectional and grows out of an opening 2-note statement that continually returns in various forms. It is dedicated to the memory of my father Manuel Kaplan, my grandmother Edith Rothstein, and the grandmother of a good friend, Isabella Costanza.

Scores for In Memoriam are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score Meditation on a Guitar.

Commissioned and premiered by Paul Reilly for a faculty recital at Ball State University, December 4, 2014. This work has been performed over ten times around the US in local, national, and international festivals.

NOTES: When my colleague, Paul Reilly, asked me to write him a piece, I had never written for guitar before. My harmonic language tends towards more dissonant intervals, such as seconds and tritones, which do not lie well on the guitar. After several false starts, I made peace with the harmonic preference of the instrument and decided to embrace the perfect fourth.

While struggling with the piece, I also had the image of Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" in my mind. The player is seated in a contorted position and suggests stasis rather than the motion that one would associate with the playing of an instrument. The contortion also seemed to mirror the struggle I was going through dealing with such an unfamiliar instrument. In concert with this duality, I decided to create a series of "expanded static moments” or "meditations," which focus in on several of the extended sounds the guitar can make, and which are connected by more harmonically active passages.

Comercial recordings of Meditation on a Guitar are available. Click here for more information

Scores for Meditation on a Guitar are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score Stutter.

Commissioned and premiered by Elizabeth Crawford at Morehead State University March 7, 2020.

When Elizabeth Crawford asked me to write her a piece for E-flat clarinet, I was at first not sure how I was going to approach the piece - I tend to exploit extended techniques in my work, and E-flat clarinet does not have the same diversity of timbres that larger instruments have. In the end I decided to base the piece on a trumpet-like gesture with large leaps, since the clarinet is good at that. The piece alternates between machine-like and continuous leaps with irregular, "stuttering" repeated notes.

Scores for Stutter are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score Tuba Libre!

Premiered by Ronald Davis, University of South Carolina, October 4, 2018.

NOTES: Tuba Libre! exploits the utterly noisy nature of the tuba. It uses pitched motivic materials that move from pitched to unpitched noisy sounds, both in short passages and on the large scale. It works its way to a crazy fast passage requiring the tubist to leap up and down quickly between pitches that are over an octave apart, a very untuba-like gesture, which mostly results in noise due to the nature of the instrument. The leaping continues as it works its way back to a more pitched world.

Scores for Tuba Libre! are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score Untitled No. 1.

Premiered April 21, 2010, Cleveland, OH.

NOTES: Untitled No. 1 was commissioned by the Cleveland Composers’ Guild for its 50th Anniversary Benefit Concert, and was written for Charles Bernard, Assistant Principle Cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Despite its brevity, I tried to include as large a variety of gestures as possible - in a sort of a monologue – so that it would seem as if it covered the same amount of territory as an entire concert evening.

Scores for Untitled No. 1 are available from the composer.

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× First page of the score Up a Half Step.

Commissioned and performed by Aryn Sweeney. Premiered at the International Double Reed Society International Conference, August 16, 2015, Tokyo, Japan.

NOTES: Up a Half Step takes both Berio's Sequenza VII and the oboe’s lyrical qualities as its inspiration. The works begins much like Berio’s, with a drone on an iPhone, this time on C rather than B, but then as chromatic pitches unfold they develop into simple melodic and modal lines. The lines are then ornamented with timbral trills, grace notes, and multiphonics, resulting in a sort of Renaissance/20th-century mashup. My thanks to Aryn Sweeney who requested the piece, for her beautiful playing, and for her patience in experimenting with a huge variety of extended techniques.

Scores for Up a Half Step are available from TrevCo Music

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× First page of the score Xylolbones.

Commissioned by Luk'. Premiered at the Darmstadt Festival, June, 1994, Darmstadt, Germany.

NOTES: Xylobones was commissioned by Luk', a Belgian pianist who specifically requested that I write a piece based on a painting(s) or sculpture(s), preferably American. I've always liked the "bone" paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, and felt that these suggested many interesting musical gestures. The first painting is of an antelope skull in the corner of a long horizontal canvas. The first piece begins with a short descending phrase (analogous to the antler) which eventually "blends in" to the background (canvas) chords in the upper register of the instrument. The second painting is of an antelope femur on a plain black and white background. I used the idea of the bone both as a percussion stick (for a xylophone, e.g.), and as a leg which is used for running. The stark simplicity of the painted forms gave me the idea to use clusters and chromatic lines as the harmonic basis of the piece. The third, and by far the longest, piece is based on a painting of an antelope skull with elaborate antlers suspended over the desert in an enormous depthless blue sky. The static musical gestures which are combined in different ways, are analogies to the skull (opening low cluster), disjointed melodic lines (antlers), and upper register chords (sky).

Scores for Xylobones are available from the composer.