“Hiraeth” is a Welsh word for homesickness - not only for a home you’ve left, but a home you cannot return to or never existed at all. Having moved house shortly before I began composing the work, and being prone to crippling nostalgia for places not just months but decades in my past, this concept of extreme homesickness immediately caught my attention. Thus Hiraeth became a tone poem for my old homes and haunts, trees and rivers - places I’ve walked and never will again.
Compositionally, Hiraeth is centred round a five-note theme first established (0.45) after the work’s ominous, divided low strings opening. At first played without harmonic support, bass and cello divisi are introduced before the theme’s darker four-note variant is introduced (1.12), both joining for the piece’s crescendo (4.38). A second, more romantic and mournful theme acts as a counter to the bitter triumph of the first, played initially by violas and cellos (1.52) and returned to later with double bass, cello and finally unison violin octaves (3.46). The piece closes as it opens, ending with a flourishing if slightly dissonant swell.
A highly tonal piece, the orchestration is appropriately traditional - themes often played in unison across octaves between either cellos and violas, or violins I & II, with the other sections providing harmonic support. To achieve the wide, lush sound I love in string music, these supporting sections are generally divided; tremolo is often used for texture in quieter moments, and themes are passed between sections to be explored and evolved. — Dave Dexter
Recollected Dances, Op. 41
Recollected Dances was composed from September – October 2018 and premiered on 2 January, 2019 in Mānoa, Hawaii by the Hawaii All-State Orchestra under the direction of Joseph Stepec. The composer conducted the continental US premiere in Macon, GA on 2 March, 2019, and the work has since been performed by several orchestras in the United States. This performance marks the European premiere.
The “Recollected” of the title refers to both meanings of the word: the main theme of the piece was originally composed for the score of a film titled Mulligan (2012), and thus has been reused in this work. However, “recollected” also refers to the fact that the composer means to evoke the memory of bygone days.
Formally, the piece is a suite of short, interconnected dances. It is one of the rare works for string orchestra that devotes an extended soli melody to the contrabass section.
— William C. White
Till Voices Wake Us
If you venture outside around dusk in late April or early May near a pond in the Massachusetts countryside, you are likely to hear a remarkable chorus. It is produced by male eastern American toads as they try to attract a mate, and consists of a series of long, high-pitched trills, each of which can last up to twenty seconds. Each animal produces a different note from its neighbour, but as a group they seem to limit themselves to three or four pitches, resulting in a magical, otherworldly, multi-layered counterpoint. One evening I was transfixed such an ethereal recital, and its sound-world became the starting point for Till voices wake us, taking the form of high, pianissimo string harmonics.
The sound conjured up resonances of all kinds of myths: the will o’ the wisp calling to the weary traveller, the Erlkönig, Slavic rusalki, Greek sirens, and, of course, mermaids luring boats on to the rocks, to name but a few. These non-corporeal voices have had a strong pull on the human imagination for millennia. It was only when I was jogged out of the reverie into which the toads’ calls had led me that the title of the piece came to me.
Lovers of T. S. Eliot will doubtless recognise in Till voices wake us the near quotation of the last three lines of Prufrock:
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
For Eliot, the mermaids represent the world of the imagination, in contrast to the socially stifling life of 1920s London, and it seems to me that the drowning he refers to is not literal death, but its opposite, to being torn from our inner creative spaces (where we truly live) to return, perhaps unwillingly, to the mundane. Till human voices inhabits the liminal space between the two ‘worlds’ and is a sequence of dream-like events open to many narratives.
Or, to use another Eliot near-quotation, it tries to depict “that place where three dreams cross.” — Simon Andrews
Within Deep Currents
Within Deep Currents conveys some of the feelings I have had during this epic time of a global pandemic – a sense of immersion within a flow of time and a feeling of being slowly pulled along by underlying currents, as dynamic forces exert their influences through an interplay of divergent energies. — Rain Worthington
"Within Deep Currents was so rich and complex. It certainly touched the mood and anxious lines of influence flowing about me today. And that rise at the end — Rain, it sounded like you took us up and onto a bluff overlooking the crisis, so we could regain ourselves for the next chapter." – Christopher S. Johnson, Award-winning film editor
She has the ability to state her compositional case to us directly, as it were, in absolutely concrete if mystical terms. She somehow makes clear to us how we experience the transitional, impermanent and ever shifting quality of a later modernist world. – Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review
There is a deep interiority to this music, which seems directly in touch with a private dreamworld that the composer makes universal. … Worthington has an instantly recognizable sound, an austere sensuality not quite like anyone else, …a composer of considerable imagination, emotional expressiveness, and poetic sensibility—one who needs to be heard more widely. – Jack Sullivan, American Record Guide
Introduction and Roundelay
The Introduction and Roundelay for strings was completed in October 2001, and composed with the abilities of a better-than-average youth orchestra in mind. As such, I did not allow myself the free use of the kinds of demanding instrumental techniques that I would normally have expected of professional musicians. I did, however, confront these youthful players with a range of expression that they are unlikely to encounter in the new music of their time. The character of the music is at times playful, perhaps even naive (one can't always be sure if it is intended to be "serious" or not), but elsewhere it demands a kind of intensity not ordinarily experienced by such performers. The lively opening theme of the Roundelay gives way briefly to a more sustained section which seems in subsequent measures to contend with the earlier, more active, theme. After a brief pause, it appears that the opening theme has gained the upper hand because it reintroduces itself in an even faster tempo to conclude the piece on a light, Puckish, note, that indeed may prompt us to ask just how serious was all this after all. — Allen Brings
Seeds of Doubt
This music is a nod to Beethoven, whose huge bust sits on the right side of my desk where I compose music.
As I was composing these thoughts came to me:
Don’t let doubt kill your aspirations.
Don’t let others define your reality.
Planting seeds of doubt can be tools of control.
You can embrace chaos.
Outsiders create realities that embrace creativity and alienation.
Don’t let fear overrule your decision making.
These aphorisms were the guiding principles that led to the composition, Seeds of Doubt. Its intensity is matched by the seeds of doubt others plant to get you to behave in a manner that goes against your better judgement. Beware. — John A. Carollo
TORSO is a piece centered around sculpting the reaction of the human upper body to anxiety and uncertainty in sound. In this vein I have separated the string orchestra roughly into groups that focus around one of the vital sounds of the upper body: Heartbeat, Breath, and Stomach.
Taken from my own exposure to and personal experiences with these symptoms of anxiety, TORSO demonstrates the journey from uncertainty to calmness within the context of the upper part of the body. Derived from the goal of somatic therapy, the he piece expresses as much of an anxiety episode (no matter how long or short), remaining symptoms and the journey back to a place of power and calmness within your own body. — John Franek
Anticipation, anxiety, trials and tribulations, and ultimately, reflection, are what one experiences in any rite of passage. This work was inspired by the sense of euphoric calm that comes when one knows the difficult obstacles are behind and the end of a journey is near and attainable. Reflecting upon all that has transpired along the way, one is filled with an inner peace as they approach and reach their aspiration.
Completed in 2019, REFLECTION, is an arrangement for string orchestra of the third movement of String Quartet No. 2, “The Rite of Passage” which I composed as a tone poem of sorts in three movements (I. Anticipation, II. Passage, and III. Reflection) – each movement representing part of the journey within a rite of passage. The third movement is quite conducive to string orchestra, which led to this arrangement – ala how Samuel Barber arranged the second movement of his String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 (i.e., Adagio for Strings).
Ethereal harmonics, rich chords, lyrical melodies, subtle articulations, and warm dynamic contrasts are featured in this work, along with a persistent pulse that drives its energy. With the addition of double bass in this arrangement, the low C is utilized to help emphasize the epic drama of this work. — Jeff Mangels
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