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Vocal
Choral
Orchestral
Chamber
Piano
Dramatic – please see the page for my opera, The Age of Innocence

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Vocal

Where we are least alone (2008)

Morgan Harmison, soprano
David Perry, clarinet
Esther Visser, violin
Brett Hodgdon, piano

Recorded live in concert, 8 August 2008
Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen, Colorado

The text of this work is taken from Lord Byron’s great epic poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which tells the story of a young man, who, having lived a dissolute life in England, goes on a journey through Europe in search of real meaning to his life. In the stanzas below, he finds himself by Lake Geneva (or Lake Leman, as it is called in the poem) in Switzerland, which serves as inspiration for some of Byron’s most eloquent poetry—an paean to the “eternal harmony” between nature and music.

All Heaven and Earth are still— though not in sleep,
But breathless, as we grow when feeling most;
And silent, as we stand in thoughts too deep:—
All Heaven and Earth are still: From the high host
Of stars, to the lulled lake and mountain coast,
All is concentrated in a life intense,
Where not a beam, nor air, nor leaf is lost,
But hath a part of Being, and a sense
Of that which is of all Creator and Defence.

Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt
In solitude, where we are least alone;
A truth, which through our being then doth melt,
And purifies from self: it is a tone,
The soul and source of Music, which makes known
Eternal harmony, and sheds a charm
Like to the fabled Cytherea’s zone,
Binding all things with beauty;—’twould disarm
The spectre Death, had he substantial power to harm.

– George Gordon, Lord Byron
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
Canto the Third
Stanzas 89 & 90

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Two Songs (2009)

Lawrence Indik, baritone
Charles Abramovic, piano

Recorded live in concert, 27 January 2010
Boyer College of Music, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In my vocal music, I feel strongly that the music should illumine the text by revealing the essence of the words’ meaning, and give them a power of expression that goes beyond a reading of the words without music. To achieve this, I find it is also important to choose a text that has room for the music—there are some great poems whose so dense with meaning that I feel would benefit little from a musical setting (Shakespeare’s sonnets are a good example). The text of these Two Songs offered me beautiful words whose expression could be heightened by the music: “Old Adam” is a wonderfully freakish poem by the 19th-century English poet Thomas Lovell Beddoes, whose references to “the wind dying” offered an opportunity to employ the baritone’s falsetto range, highlighting the eerie mood of the words. Yeats’s “The Sorrow of Love” is a kind of lamenting epilogue to the Beddoes—more lyrical in tone, but referring back to the first song with the words “and his cry” sung in falsetto. The element of sorrow that permeates both poems serves to bind the two songs together, forming a kind of portrait of grief for the entire work.

Old Adam, the carrion crow,
The old crow of Cairo;
He sat in the shower, and let it flow
Under his tail and over his crest;
And through every feather
Leak’d the wet weather;
And the bough swung under his nest;
For his beak it was heavy with marrow.
Is that the wind dying? O no;
It’s only two devils, that blow,
Through a murderer’s bones, to and fro,
In the ghosts’ moonshine.

Ho! Eve, my grey carrion wife,
When we have supped on king’s marrow,
Where shall we drink and make merry our life?
Our nest it is queen Cleopatra’s skull,
’Tis cloven and crack’d,
And batter’d and hack’d,
But with tears of blue eyes it is full:
Let us drink then, my raven of Cairo!
Is that the wind dying? O no;
It’s only two devils, that blow
Through a murderer’s bones, to and fro,
In the ghosts’ moonshine.

– Thomas Lovell Beddoes

The brawling of a sparrow in the eaves
The brilliant moon and all the milky sky,
And all that famous harmony of leaves,
Had blotted out man’s image and his cry.

A girl arose that had red mournful lips
And seemed the greatness of the world in tears,
Doomed like Odysseus and the laboring ships
And proud as Priam murdered with his peers,

Arose, and on the instant clamorous eaves,
A climbing moon upon an empty sky,
And all that lamentation of the leaves,
Could but compose man’s image and his cry.

– William Butler Yeats

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Job (2011)

Lawrence Indik, baritone
Feifei Zhang, magnetic resonator piano

Recorded live in concert, 27 January 2010
Boyer College of Music, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In this piece, I tried to address the ever-pertinent problem of human suffering, and how a belief in a God might be at all compatible in the face of such suffering. The Book of Job certainly asks these questions, and I felt it was incumbent upon me to bring new meaning to this text in my musical setting, so that it might have special resonance for listeners of my own time. The magnetic resonator piano, an invention by composer Andrew McPherson, provided me with timbres that could evoke a sense of the divine and enable me to create a distinctive musical work: electromagnets placed over the strings of a grand piano cause the strings to vibrate, producing a ghostly, other-worldly timbre, not unlike the sound of a soft pipe-organ or a bowed vibraphone. In this work, the baritone represents not only Job, but also an ordinary human being, asking whether God really does hear the voice of one who calls from the depths of suffering. The ending of the piece is deliberately left on an ambiguous note: Job is shattered by his experience, and realizes his insignificance in the presence of God, singing in Hebrew Job 8:9: “For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow.” He concludes soberly, “Behold, the fear of the Lord: that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Mima-ama-kim k’raticha adonöy.         Out of the depths I call to you, O Lord.
Adonöy shim-öh v’koli,                            My Lord, hearken to my voice:
tih-yenah öz-nechöh                                let your ears be attentive
ka-shuvot l’kol tacha-nunöy.                  to the voice of my pleas.
Im avonot tish-mör yöh,                          If you were to preserve iniquities,
adonöy                                                         my Lord,
mi ya-amod.                                               Who could stand?
[Psalm 130:1–3, Hebrew Bible]

Remember, I beseech thee,
that thou hast made me as the clay;
and wilt thou bring me into dust again?
And where is now my hope?
As for my hope, who shall see it?
They shall go down to the bars of the pit,
when our rest together is in the dust.
For I know thou wilt bring me to death,
to the house appointed for all living.
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me.
Mine eye poureth out tears to God.
When I waited for light, there came only darkness.
I went mourning without the sun.
I stood up, and cried in the congregation.
My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ
into the voice of them that weep.
[Job 10:9; 17:15–16; 30:23, 20; 16:20; 30:26, 28, 31, King James Version]

Mima-ama-kim k’raticha adonöy.         Out of the depths I call to you, O Lord.
Adonöy shim-öh v’koli,                            My Lord, hearken to my voice:
tih-yenah öz-nechöh                                 let your ears be attentive
ka-shuvot l’kol tacha-nunöy.                   to the voice of my pleas.

At this my heart trembleth,
and is moved out of its place.
Hear attentively the noise of his voice,
and the sound that goeth out of his mouth.
After it a voice roareth:
He thundereth with the voice of his excellency;
and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.
For he saith to the snow,
Be thou on the earth;
likewise to the small rain,
and to the great rain of his strength.
He sealeth up the hand of every man;
that all may know his work.
Out of the south cometh the whirlwind:
and cold out of the north.
By the breath of God frost is given:
and the breadth of the waters is strengthened.
He scattereth his bright cloud:
And it is turned round by his counsels,
That they may do whatsoever he commandeth them
upon the face of the earth.
[Job 37:1–2, 4, 6–7, 9–12]

Ki-temohl anahnu welo neda      For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing,
ki sel yamenu ale-ares.                Because our days upon earth are as a shadow.
[Job 8:9]

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.
[Job 28:28]

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Choral

Fredericksburg (2007)

William Stone, baritone
Temple University Concert Choir
Temple University Chamber Orchestra
Alan Harler, conductor

Recorded live in concert, 9 November 2007
Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia, PA

In November of 1862, in the second year of the American Civil War, General Ambrose Burnside began to lead the Army of the Potomac to Richmond, Virginia, with the intent of seizing the Confederate capital. Burnside’s strategy included a detour through the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, which would place his forces on a direct route to Richmond. As it happened, the army ended up stalled at the side of the Rappahannock River to the east of Fredericksburg, waiting for pontoon bridges to arrive. When they finally did, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was already arrayed on the land rising to the west of the town, with Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s division stationed at the part of the elevation called Marye’s Heights. On December 13 Major General Edwin Sumner’s division attempted to take the heights, advancing across a half mile-long field towards a stone wall at the base of the slope. None of them made it even that far: a hail of gunfire from both Longstreet’s artillery and Confederate troops positioned behind the wall repulsed the charge. Four more charges were staved off, leaving the field strewn with dead and dying Union troops. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who commanded the 20th Maine Regiment, recalled the night after the battle in a memoir published in 1887:

But out of that silence from the battle’s crash and roar rose new sounds more appalling still; a strange ventriloquism of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan, a wail so far and deep and wide, as if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key note—weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness. The writhing concord broken by cries for help, some begging for a drop of water, some calling on God for pity, and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun. Some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them…and underneath, all the time, that deep, bass note from closed lips, too hopeless or too heroic to articulate their agony.

The following night, as Union troops dug graves for their fallen comrades, the Northern Lights appeared in the sky; Chamberlain recalled this too in his memoir:

“We will give them a starlight burial,” it was said; but heaven ordained a more sublime illumination. As we bore them in dark and sad procession, their own loved North took up the escort and lifting her glorious lights, led the triumphal march over the bridge that spans the worlds. Fiery lances and banners of blood and flame, columns of pearly light, garlands and wreaths of gold—all pointing upward and beckoning on. Who would not pass on as they did, dead for their country’s life, and lighted to burial by the meteor splendors of their native sky?

In all, the Federals lost 12,653 men in the battle; the Confederates 4,201. Though it was certainly a Union defeat, the Confederates could not claim to have destroyed the Army of the Potomac, and the conflict that consumed the nation was to drag on for another two years, ultimately claiming the lives of over 600,000 men. The horror of the loss of human life was perhaps best put by Lee himself, as he watched the Union men fall in droves at Fredericksburg: “It is well that war is so terrible—we should grow too fond of it.”

De profundis clamavi ad te, Out of the depths I have cried to thee,
Domine: O Lord:
Exaudi vocem meam Hear my voice,
Fiant aures tuae intendentes Let thy ears be attentive
In vocem deprecationis meae to the voice of my supplication.

– Psalm 129:1-2, Vulgate

Vigil strange I kept on the field one night:
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes return’d,
with a look I shall never forget;
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground;
Then onward I sped in the battle, the even-contested battle.
Till late in the night again I made my way;
Found you in death so cold, dear comrade—found your body, son of responding kisses,
(never again on earth responding;)
Bared your face in the starlight—curious the scene—cool blew the night-wind;
Long there and then in vigil I stood, dimly around me the battlefield spreading;
Vigil wondrous and vigil sweet, there in the fragrant silent night;
But not a tear fell, not even a long-drawn sigh—Long, long I gazed;
Passing sweet hours, immortal and mystic hours with you, dearest comrade—
Not a tear, not a word;
Vigil of silence, love and death—vigil for you my son and my soldier,
As onward silently stars aloft, eastward new ones upward stole;
Vigil final for you, brave boy, (I could not save you, swift was your death,
I faithfully loved you and cared for you living—
I think we shall surely meet again;)
Till at latest lingering of the night, indeed just as the dawn appear’d,
My comrade I wrapt in his blanket, envelop’d well his form,
And there and then by the rising sun, my son in his grave,
in his rude-dug grave I laid;
Ending my vigil strange with that—vigil of night and battlefield dim;
Vigil for boy of responding kisses, (never again on earth responding;)
Vigil for comrade swiftly slain—vigil I never forget, how as day brighten’d,
I rose from the chill ground, folded my soldier well in his blanket,
And buried him where he fell.

– Walt Whitman,
“Vigil Strange I Kept
on the Field One Night”
from Drum Taps

Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, Let eternal light shine on them Lord,
Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum. With thy saints in eternity.

– Missa pro defunctis

Nunc dimittis (Lord, now let) (2016)

Choir of the University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation
Matthew Glandorf, conductor

Recorded September 2016
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Orchestral

Little Symphony (2009)

Temple University Composers’ Orchestra
Jeremy Gill, conductor

Recorded live in concert, 1 April 2009
Ambler, PA

Though it may seem a bit presumptuous to refer to a piece lasting barely five minutes as a “symphony” (even with the prefix “little”), I was in fact thinking of a famous twentieth-century musical work when I titled this piece: Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments of 1920. Stravinsky used the word “symphony” not in the conventional sense (i.e., a Beethoven or Mozart “symphony”) but rather with reference to the Greek derivation of the word, meaning “sounding together.” In my piece, I’ve taken inspiration from Stravinsky’s work by juxtaposing different blocks instrumental colors in the final section of the work, each block a “sounding together” of wind and/or string instruments. At the same time, there are more conventional symphonic processes in the music, including sections resembling an exposition, development and recapitulation; the recapitulation focuses more attention on only the rhythm of the previous themes. A solo muted horn finally intones the melody of one of these themes, bringing the work to its quiet close.

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Chamber

 Fantasia (2008)

Vladimir Dyo, violin
Mark Livshits, piano

Recorded live in concert, 18 November 2009
Boyer College of Music, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I conceived my Fantasia as a character study of sorts: in this case, the violin soloist­ searches for definition, a sense of completeness; the drama of the piece is derived from the constant frustration of this goal. This struggle is announced in the first minute of the piece, when the legato, falling line of the violin is suddenly interrupted by two chords in the piano, each a group of two sixteenth notes, marked “harshly” in the score. The chords serve as a motive for the rest of the work, a force the soloist must reckon with and attempt to overcome. At times the violin and piano sound like they are in this struggle together, playing the motive in a rhythmic unison, as well as exchanging a rising sixteenth note arpeggio. Finally, however, the violin is left on its own, playing a cadenza that recapitulates a number of previously heard melodic ideas. This effort eventually exhausts itself, with the violin falling to a low B, while the piano makes its foreboding re-entry. The two-note motive reappears in the final measures of the piece, leaving the question open as to whether the struggle was won by the soloist, or if it was in fact a fruitless effort, thus leaving the music on a note of despair.

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Three Myths (2008)

Pascal Gallois, bassoon
Recorded live in concert, 31 October 2008
Boyer College of Music, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Each movement of this work is based on a Greek myth, as summarized below (freely adapted from Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths):

I. Narcissus

The handsome youth Narcissus saw his own image in a pool of water, and fell in love with himself. He was so enamored that he forgot to eat or drink, and eventually faded away, leaving behind a beautiful flower. The nymph Echo, who had loved him from afar, grieved his death until she too faded away, with only her voice remaining, forever repeating the words of others.

II. Sisyphus

Sisyphus, king of Corinth, having frustrated the god Zeus in his pursuit of Aegina, daughter of Asopus, and tricking Hades into letting him return to world of the living, was finally condemned to push a boulder to the top of a hill, only to see it fall down the other side. He would push the boulder up the hill again, and see it fall, continuing his labor for eternity.

III. Apollo and Daphne

Apollo, the god of music, fell in love with the nymph Daphne and chased her through a forest. Terrified, she sought to escape from him, and called out to her father, the river-god Ladon, who transformed her into a beautiful laurel tree. Having lost Daphne, Apollo took some twigs from the tree and made a crown for himself, so as to remember the nymph he loved.

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Pastorale (2009)

Claire Mashburn, flute
Briana Tarby, oboe
Becky Graham, clarinet
Josh Paulus, horn
Vince Karamanov, bassoon

Recorded live in concert, 6 August 2009
Brevard Music Center, Brevard, North Carolina

My Pastorale was written in the bucolic surroundings of the Brevard Music Center, Brevard, North Carolina, where I was a student in the composition program in the summer of 2009. I had never before written for wind quintet, and I discovered that one the main challenges was how to treat the timbre of the horn: it is, after all, the one member of the quintet that is not a woodwind instrument, and though it is played with its bell facing away from the audience, its sound has a surprising capacity to penetrate through a musical texture. Taking a great pastoral work of the 20th century as my example, Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, I treated the horn as almost a solo instrument—it is the last instrument to make its entrance in the piece, and it periodically breaks through with both stentorian interjections as well as broad, lyrical lines. This is not to discount the importance of the other four instruments, as I have tried to highlight their own distinctive timbres in both solo and contrapuntal passages: the wistful, piquant tone of the bassoon; the airy lightness of the flute; the stridency of the clarinet in its upper register; and the mournful quality of the oboe.  I hope this piece makes a unique contribution to the pastoral-themed works for this marvelous combination of instruments.

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 Sextet (2010)

Argento Chamber Ensemble:
Kathy Halverson, oboe
Carol McGonnell, clarinet
Adrian Morejon, bassoon
Miranda Cuckson, violin
Stephanie Griffin, viola
Gregory Hesselink, cello

Recorded live in concert, 3 April 2010
Boyer College of Music, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With every instrumental piece I write, whether it be for a solo instrument or a full orchestra, I always ask myself how effectively I can use the forces I have at my disposal—put another way, how can I create a work that makes every instrument indispensable to the sound and conception of the composition? With my Sextet, I approached this in a way Stravinsky might have done, by juxtaposing choirs of instruments (as in the Symphonies of Wind Instruments): a perky motive in the clarinet and oboe and riff in the bassoon are followed by a chordal texture in the strings. In addition to these textural contrasts, I’ve taken advantage of the strings’ ability to play quarter-tones—that is, notes less than a half-step. This makes for some eerie inflections in the slower, central section of the piece, while the winds play melodic fragments above these sustained, yet unsettled tones. Winds and strings also figure in pairs later on, such as a lyrical line shared by the clarinet and viola, and then by the oboe and cello. These combinations, I think, make for unusual tone-colors, and provide an effective foil for the more angular melodic material. All in all, I hope that every member of the sextet gets a chance to shine as a soloist, and that the treatment of each instrument’s timbre and particular abilities provides an entertaining experience for both the audience and the performers.

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Trio (2014)

Brandon Garbot, violin
Myanna Harvey, viola
Cassia Harvey, cello

Recorded April 2016
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Piano

“Paul” Variations (1997–): Theme and Variations 17, 11, and 16


Katelyn Bouska, piano
David Carpenter, speaker

Recorded live in concert, 31 January 2015
Chapel Hill Church, Camp Hill, PA
The Wednesday Club’s Emerging Artists Concert Series

In 1997, for his first birthday, I wrote a theme for my nephew Paul. Each year since then, I’ve written a variation on that theme as a birthday present. The last variation in this performance, no. 16 from 2013, includes a recitation of the Gettysburg Address—Paul happened to be born on November 19th, the date of the address, and 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the speech.

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