Piano Concerto “Tolkien Tale”
Traditional in form, this concerto is divided into three movements. The first movement was composed after reading “the Hobbit” by Tolkien, with each chapter of the book receiving equal musical treatment and helping create the form and structure. This movement also sets the tone for the rest of the concerto, which is not necessarily tied programmatically to “the Hobbit,” however continues to expand on the theme of the Hero’s Quest. The opening material sets an energetic and optimistic tone, suggesting the happiness one finds in the safety and comfort of home, family and routine. The rest of the material plunges forward into multiple themes that explore danger, exertion, and longing for home. The end of the movement brings a brief period of much needed rest; here the piano plays a gentle ascending series of chords that seem to lead one’s consciousness up into the starry night sky. Follows the second movement, Lullaby. Composed for our newborn daughter, Sophia, Lullaby opens with a solo for celesta. A march evolves and transforms over the course of the third movement: at first a battle march, the defiant thematic material is heavy and seems to want to move forward faster than it can, just like Tolkien’s characters who must face myriad obstacles in their journeys. Later on the march is imbued with life and humor in the face of peril. This movement brings the concerto to a close with broad, triumphant gestures and fun technical displays for various instruments.
Old Father Time
Performed by cellist JungWon Choi, this single movement work is a meditation on the passage of time and human life. The character Old Father Time is akin to the Grim Reaper, and like Saturn, represents the inescapable flow of time. While the main theme in this piece is dark and foreboding, a tender theme suggesting childhood gives way to more playful musical material representing youth. The music reaches a climax with a quote from Korean folksong Arirang, but Old Father Time returns in the end to complete the cycle of time, whether that be a human life, a season or a year. It is a reminder to enjoy and cherish each moment, lest time slip by meaninglessly.
25,000 Years of Peace
Performed by soloist Moni Simeonov, this single-movement work is based on authentic Native American Indian musical material. Historians agree that the Native American Indians lived for millennia on the American continents, basing their ways of life on natural cycles and in touch with the spiritual forces of the land. Their spirituality was a part of everyday life, including work, hunting, and mundane activities.
Prior to beginning this work, I dedicated myself to an extensive period of time researching Native American Indian culture, beliefs and music, listening to whatever authentic traditional material I could find, highlighting no particular tribe. I transcribed melodies, rhythmic patterns, variants, made note of instruments used and source geographic region. At first it was daunting, but over time, I had accumulated enough samples that I was then able to digest it, shelve it, and later come back with an idea for how to blend my own musical material with what I had learned. My goal was to compose music that conveyed my deep respect for the Native Americans of the past and present. To that end, I incorporated my own compositional material with authentic Native American dance rhythms, melodic figures, and even down to the structure within sections. 25,000 Years of Peace fuses elements of prayer, dance, hunting, and harmony with nature, and is an offering to the memory of those who inhabited the Americas before the arrival of the European settlers.
Ticket to the Theater
Performed by narrator Tyler Bunch and soprano Sing Rose, Ticket to the Theater is essentially an onstage drama that begins with an ill-informed narrator who expects to host a theatrical event with a full cast of performers. But when it is revealed that there are no actors backstage, the soprano soloist, with the support of the orchestra, take up the job and invent a quick general plot from scratch! At once comedic, dramatic, sometimes macabre, this short multi-movement work is a complete production in 17 minutes.
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