Sonic Apricity

New Music for Violin/Viola Duo

Erik Rohde violin
Jacob Tews viola

Release Date: December 9, 2022
Catalog #: NV6485
Format: Digital
21st Century

What happens when you combine a love for uncovering new gems in classical music with two highly skilled performers? Violist Jacob Tews and Violinist Erik Rohde answer this very question with SONIC APRICITY: an album consisting of works they have either commissioned or championed, and the namesake of their musical coalescence.

The duo presents a dynamic selection of new pieces from contemporary composers Augusta Read Thomas, Erzsébet Szőnyi, Elliott Miles McKinley, Christopher Walczak, and Michael-Thomas Foumai, an engaging program of works influenced by poetry, notable tales from pop culture, the passage of time, and more.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Rumi Settings: I. Dramatic Augusta Read Thomas Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 3:13
02 Rumi Settings: II. Resonant arpeggio - Prickly, energized Augusta Read Thomas Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:50
03 Rumi Settings: III. Suspended and graceful Augusta Read Thomas Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:37
04 Rumi Settings: IV. Passionate Augusta Read Thomas Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:19
05 Duo for Violin and Viola: I. Allegro Erzsébet Szőnyi Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:15
06 Duo for Violin and Viola: II. Appassionato, rubato Erzsébet Szőnyi Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 1:58
07 Duo for Violin and Viola: III. Vivace Erzsébet Szőnyi Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 1:51
08 Dialogues: I. Arguments: Homage to Elliott Carter Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:41
09 Dialogues: II. Reflection I Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:51
10 Dialogues: III. Introspection I [viola] Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 0:48
11 Dialogues: IV. Meditation Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 8:09
12 Dialogues: V. Introspection II [violin] Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 1:48
13 Dialogues: VI. Reflection II Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:42
14 Dialogues: VII. Epilogue: Colloquy Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 4:57
15 Flashing Forward Thinking Back Christopher Walczak Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 6:47
16 Scrumdiddlyumptious: I. The Everlasting Double-Triple-Quadruple Stopper Michael-Thomas Foumai Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:19
17 Scrumdiddlyumptious: II. Golden Invention Michael-Thomas Foumai Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:46
18 Scrumdiddlyumptious: III. Salted Waltz with Spoiled Nuts Michael-Thomas Foumai Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 1:59
19 Scrumdiddlyumptious: IV. Bucket Blues Michael-Thomas Foumai Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 7:23
20 Scrumdiddlyumptious: V. Loompa Loops Michael-Thomas Foumai Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 1:29
21 Scrumdiddlyumptious: VI. Fugue Factory Michael-Thomas Foumai Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola 2:52
22 The Dream Angel Elliott Miles McKinley Erik Rohde, violin; Jacob Tews, viola; Clare Longendyke, piano 15:16

Rumi Settings, Duo for Violin and Viola, Dialogues
Recorded June 15-17, 2022 at Futura Productions in Roslindale MA
Recording Session Producer Elliott Miles McKinley
Recording Session Engineer John Weston

Flashing Forward Thinking Back, Scrumdiddlyumptious, The Dream Angel
Recorded December 16-18, 2021 at Futura Productions in Roslindale MA
Recording Session Producer Elliott Miles McKinley
Recording Session Engineer John Weston

Label Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Jacob Smith

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP of Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran

Artist Information

Erik Rohde


Erik Rohde maintains a diverse career as a conductor, violinist, and educator, and has performed in recitals and festivals across the United States and in Europe and Asia. He is the Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Northern Iowa and the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Winona Symphony Orchestra (MN).

Jacob Tews


Jacob Tews is Assistant Professor of Strings and Orchestra at Christopher Newport University in Newport News VA. He has served previously as an educator at Wartburg College, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, and the University of Minnesota. He earned a D.M.A. in viola performance, with a secondary emphasis in music theory, from the University of Minnesota.

Elliott Miles McKinley


Elliott Miles McKinley’s music has been performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Commissions include those from the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Music Society, the SOLI Chamber Music Ensemble, Transient Canvas, Hub New Music, the Semiosis String Quartet, the Estrella Consort, the Janàček Trio, and the Martinů String Quartet. His orchestral works have been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and the Czech Radio Symphony, and his music has been featured on international festivals including the Ernest Bloch Music Festival, the SPARK Electroacoustic Music Festival, Society of Music Inc and College Music Society Conferences, the North American Saxophone Alliance National Conference, and the Contemporary Music Festival at Bowling Green State University.

Sonic Apricity


Sonic apricity is a new-music duo composed of violinist Erik Rohde and violist Jacob Tews. Though they have collaborated in various musical contexts for nearly two decades, in 2015 Rohde and Tews saw a neglected area of chamber music repertoire which they wanted to fill. With a presentation at the American Viola Society national conference as an initial public performance, sonic apricity was formed for a specific purpose: the group is dedicated to uncovering and commissioning new works by living composers for violin and viola, performing them alone and in full recitals alongside more established pieces.​

The duo’s first commissioned piece was from American composer Christopher Walczak (for the 2016 American Viola Society Festival), titled Flashing Forward Thinking Back. They continue efforts to highlight unexpected works for this combination, and regularly collaborate with living composers. This work included a week in Alba, Italy in May of 2019, where they served as guest ensemble-in-residence with pianist Clare Longendyke, for the faculty and 15 composition fellows at the Alba International Music Festival Composition Program.

Sonic Apricity debut album consists of works they have either commissioned or championed. It includes duos by Augusta Read Thomas and Erzsébet Szőnyi, alongside the Walczak and three additional pieces commissioned by the group: a duo by Michael-Thomas Foumai, and a duo and trio (with pianist Clare Longendyke) by Elliott Miles McKinley.

Clare Longendyke


Pianist Clare Longendyke’s dazzling musicianship and colorful interpretations delight audiences wherever she performs. Critics have lauded her “artistic ferocity that captivated and astonished listeners” (Waverly Newspapers), her “great virtuosity and delicacy,” and the “loving attention” she pays to the music she performs (Hyde Park Herald). Recognized as a firebrand in the classical music field for the expressive energy and originality she brings to new and traditional repertoire, the effervescent soloist and chamber musician aspires to foster interpersonal connections between people from diverse backgrounds to catalyze conversation and the exchange of unique perspectives through music performance.

Set apart by her inspiring touch and mesmerizing way of sharing music, Longendyke is a sought-after soloist, performing over 50 concerts a year in North America and Europe. Recent orchestral partners include Symphonicity, the Federal Way Symphony Orchestra of Washington, the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra of Minnesota, the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra of Massachusetts, and the Winona Symphony Orchestra of Minnesota.

Longendyke’s appeal has earned her performances as a featured soloist in notable concert series such as The University of Chicago Presents, National Public Radio’s Performance Today, the Fazioli Piano Series in Los Angeles, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ SoundBites Series. She has also performed at renowned festivals, including the Alba Music Festival of Italy, the European American Musical Alliance of France, the New Music on the Point Festival, and the Mostly Modern Festival.

Longendyke blends a passion for music’s classical tradition with an infectious commitment to what she calls “the music of our time.” Her advocacy for innovative music and programming are evident through Music in Bloom, a new music festival she founded in 2019 in Indiana. In the last decade, she has premiered over 150 new compositions and performed the music of today’s most exciting living composers — Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Shawn Okpebholo, Jeffrey Mumford, Vivian Fung, Gabriela Lena Frank, Amy Williams, and others. Recent recordings include Homage to Nadia Boulanger: Works for Viola and Piano with Rose Wollman, and In the City, new works for Saxophone and Piano with Andrew Harrison. Her debut solo CD featuring works by Claude Debussy, Amy Williams, and Anthony R. Green is in progress and set for release in 2023.

Before earning master’s and doctoral degrees at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Longendyke completed degrees at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, and the École Normale de Musique in Paris. The ardent Francophile and French-speaking pianist received the Fulbright-Harriet Hale Woolley Award in the Arts to study music in Paris as an undergraduate. Hailed as “a sparkling pianist” by the Hyde Park Herald, Longendyke is on track for a transcendent musical career.

Augusta Read Thomas


Augusta Read Thomas’ music is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, and colorful — “it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music” (Philadelphia Inquirer). Her impressive works embody unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker called her “a true virtuoso composer.” Critic Edward Reichel wrote, “Thomas has secured for herself a permanent place in the pantheon of American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. She is without question one of the best and most important composers that this country has today. Her music has substance, depth, and a sense of purpose. She has a lot to say and knows how to say it — and in a way that is intelligent yet appealing and sophisticated.”

Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, for Barenboim and Boulez, from 1997 through 2006. This residency culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle, one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Recent commissions include those from the BBC Proms, Boston Symphony, Utah Symphony, Wigmore Hall in London, PEAK Performances and the Martha Graham Dance Company, Santa Fe Opera along with a consortium of 7 opera companies, JACK quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Tanglewood, Spektral Quartet, Chicago Philharmonic, the Danish Chamber Players, and the Fromm Foundation. She won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, among many other coveted awards. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Former American Music Center Board Chair, she serves on many boards and is a generous citizen in the profession at large.

Erzsébet Szőnyi


On April 25, 1924, Erzsébet Szőnyi was born in Budapest, the only child of Jenő Szőnyi and Alice Piszanoff. Her father was a bank clerk who loved the arts; he sang, drew, and painted in his spare time. Her mother cared for their home, and played the piano well.

In this way, young Erzsébet was confronted with and introduced to literature, art, and music from an early age. Her youth was steeped in music in particular; visits to operas and concerts were regular occurrences. Through a connection to her relative, the famous painter Gyula Benczúr, she received piano lessons from Aglája Benczúr.

From 1934 to 1942, Szőnyi attended girls’ secondary school in Budapest, where the well-known music teacher and choir director Adrienne Sztrojanovits taught. She began composing at the age of 13, initially writing short pieces for piano. Around that time, she became a private student in music theory with Miklós Laurisin, and studied harmony with him. Her compositions from her school days included songs and choral pieces, as well as other works for the piano. Her first vocal composition (in the style of the 19th century) was a song based on the text Der Fichtenbaum und die Palme by Heinrich Heine.

Szőnyi’s most important musical experience during this time was getting to know the choral pieces and folk songs of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, whom she accompanied as a pianist. These works inspired the young composer in her own vocal music compositions. She then became a student at the Music Academy in Budapest, where she studied with János Viski. Viski taught with authority and academic style, but was very supportive of his students. The personal, friendly contact with Kodály, whom she met through Viski, also contributed greatly to her further musical development.

With Viski she had to master counterpoint to perfection and observe all the rules of the classical form. He only allowed liberties if the students had independent ideas of their own. All the work in the composition department was affected by the war, however, and Szőnyi and her other young colleagues felt unmotivated and uprooted.

Immediately following WWII, from 1945 to 1946 Szőnyi taught at the Academy for the absent Kodály, although she did not finish her studies there until 1947. Her exam composition was a “symphony for orchestra” in two versions: the first in the academic style, as she had learned from her teacher Viski, and the second in her own style.

In Budapest, Szőnyi met Tony Aubin, who was professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory. He recommended that she continue studying in Paris, which the young composer did from 1947 onwards. In Paris, she delighted professors and students with her style, which was heavily influenced by Hungarian folk music. This particular musical language contributed to the success of her Divertimento for Orchestra, which she composed in Paris and conducted at the premiere.

In addition to studying composition, her most valuable experience in Paris was studying music analysis with Olivier Messiaen. He gave a course on Claude Debussy and analyzed Pelleas et Melisande and La mer. In addition, she had lessons in Nadia Boulanger’s accompaniment class, where she became acquainted with compositions by Igor Stravinsky. During this time she earned her living by teaching, while continuing to compose despite her limited time.

After her return to Hungary, she played a key role in shaping Hungarian education and taught 6-year-old children in the music academy using methods she had newly developed (including solfeggio). It was very important to her to familiarize the children with contemporary music. Teaching took up the majority of her time, so she was only able to compose in the summer months. In 1949 she created her first children’s ballet.

In the early 1950s, Szőnyi achieved her dream of becoming a true stage composer with her first opera, Dalma. Her style matured and she began to explore new avenues of composing, writing for a wide variety of instrumentations and receiving the Erkel Prize in 1959.

During a second creative phase in the 1960s, Szőnyi continued pursuing new horizons, with the goal of expanding her musical language and writing in new genres. This is how Tinódi egri summája came about, an oratorio for children’s choir, youth choir, and soloists, followed by many other works, including some in which she investigated the 12-tone technique. She also collaborated with Kodály at Stanford University in 1966, and introduced the Kodály method there.

Many vocal compositions were written during this time, as well as the orchestral work Allegro from 1969, which represented a high point of this creative period. From 1971 to 1990 there was a stronger focus on composing instrumental pieces, which are characterized by the free handling of rhythms and expanded tonality.   In 1990 she returned to lyrical and religious vocal compositions in particular, including one of her final works, a cycle for voice and piano titled Blick durchs Fenster (View through the window), based on texts by Ingeborg Bachmann, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Peter Rühmkopf, written in 1999.

Szőnyi died on December 28, 2019, in Budapest, at the age of 95.

– Isolde Weiermüller-Backes (trans. Jacob Tews)

Christopher Walczak


Born in Milwaukee WI and provoked by a family of passionate and latitudinous overachievers, creating music has been a part of everyday life for Christopher Walczak, from kindergarten afternoons until the present. Many years and three degrees later, Walczak finds himself reconciling the kaleidoscopic array of sound and thought absorbed along the way. His repertoire includes works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles of various sizes, full symphony as well as chamber orchestra, music for computer, and interactive electro-acoustic music.

Walczak holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Composition from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a doctorate from Rice University. He has studied with composers Gunther Schuller, Stephen Dembski, Joel Naumann, Laura Schwendinger, Shih-Hui Chen, Richard Lavenda, Pierre Jalbert, and Arthur Gottschalk. Walczak’s music, which New York’s CITYarts hailed as “singing with lucid and unexpected harmonies,” has been commissioned, performed, and recorded by various orchestras and ensembles including the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Shepherd School of Music Symphony Orchestra, the University of Wisconsin – Madison Symphony Orchestra, the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Wind Ensemble, Apollo Chamber Players, the Wisconsin Alliance for Composers, Symphonic Brass of Houston, Flutes Quatre, Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble, Brightmusic Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble Laboratorium, Relache, and members of GRAMMY Award winning Eighth Blackbird. In addition to the many performances in the United States, his music has been programmed in China, Croatia, France, Norway, Switzerland, Romania, and Taiwan. The Wisconsin State Journal has written that Walczak’s music is “highly original, arresting and intense, constantly moving forward and diving deeper emotionally.”

Walzcak has been admitted as a fellow to many renowned composition conferences and festivals, including June in Buffalo, the Wellesley Composers Conference, MusicX, and the Czech-American Summer Music Institute. In April of 2012, his solo piano work, Dark Blue Etude received its Carnegie Hall debut by pianist Andrew Staupe in New York City and was later broadcast on National Public Radio’s Performance Today with Fred Child. His orchestral tone poem, The Evening Shadow, was the winner of the 2013 Paul and Christiane Cooper Prize in Composition. The composer has been nominated on four occasions for awards by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was the winner of the 2011 Robert Avalon Composition Competition, the recipient of the 2010 Presser Music Award, and the winner of the 2008 Chasm New Music Festival Composition Competition among other awards and honors.

On the frontier of music technology, Walzcak is currently working on a digital musical platform that allows musicians to improvise together with artificial intelligence. From 2014-2018, he explored “spatially activated musical improvisation” while working with the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the VIDI Project: an interactive experience in which infrared cameras track the motion of human beings and then map those movements onto generative musical data. As a music theorist, Walczak specializes in innovative analytical approaches, transformational networks, and rational reconstructions of the tonal system.

Walczak is forever indebted to the many great teachers who have shaped his worldview and life. He is tremendously devoted to his students and offers that knowledge gladly, working closely with them toward achieving their artistic and professional goals.

Michael-Thomas Foumai


Michael-Thomas Foumai (b. 1987) is a composer of contemporary concert music, arranger, and educator whose work spans the avant-garde to the commercial. His concert music focuses on storytelling and the history, people, and culture of his Hawaiʻi home. Foumai’s orchestral works have been conducted and performed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Lina Gonzalez-Granados with the National Symphony Orchestra, George Manahan with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra.

In 2021, the Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra presented a summer festival of his music conducted by Rei Hotoda, Lidiya Yankovskaya, Sarah Hicks, and JoAnn Falletta. In addition, he is the HSO program notes annotator for the Masterworks and summer Starlight series and arranger for guest artists. Honors for his music have included a Fromm Foundation Grant from Harvard University, the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year Award, the Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, and three BMI composer awards.

Foumai is currently on faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu and holds multiple degrees in music composition from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (B.M.) and the University of Michigan (M.M., D.M.A.).


My favorite moment in any piece of music is the moment of maximum risk and striving, whether the venture is tiny or large, loud or soft, fragile or strong, passionate, erratic, ordinary, or eccentric…! Maybe another way to say this is the moment of exquisite humanity and raw soul. All art that I cherish has an element of love and recklessness and desperation. I like music that is alive and jumps off the page and out of the instrument as if something big is at stake.

When I read this beautiful poem by Rumi, written 900 years ago, all of it, but especially the last 3 lines,

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest
and let the spirits fly in and out.

resonated deeply inside of me. I felt deeply compelled to set it as a song without words, trying to capture its intensely personal, fiery, honest meaning.

I was thrilled and honored to receive a commission from the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music which provided me a much-cherished and fantastic opportunity to compose Rumi Settings, which Ani and Ida Kavafian premiered in March 2002 in Tucson.

The work has a total duration of nine minutes and is made up of four short movements that can be played attacca or with short pauses between them.

Each of the movements adheres to the meaning, perfume, and essence of the stunning Rumi text. Throughout the score, each line of the text is written above the music, corresponding to the moment when the duo is depicting that particular line of the poem; thus the musicians know the connotation and nuance of the composition.

It would take far too long to describe each line of text and their corresponding musical adventures. So allow me to modestly offer a few brief examples of this procedure.

The music starts with a passionate, dramatic, cadenza-like surge in the solo violin, played with the whole soul engaged and as if it does not matter if the instrument breaks (not literally) until the viola soon enters, supporting and propelling the music forward onto a kaleidoscopic journey. A climax ensues before the music relaxes: “We have fallen into the place where everything is music,” settling on a calm open fifth.

In Movement II, you will hear notes rising into the atmosphere as the two soloists arpeggiate ascending chords with double stops. Suddenly, “the whole world’s harp” rushes forward in full motion with pizzicati until the movement ends, in a distant, still calm, such that we can discern, “there will still be hidden instruments playing.”

Movement III is extremely graceful and tuneful, like a pearl from the ocean floor…

Rumi Settings is dedicated with admiration and gratitude to Ani and Ida Kavafian and the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music.

– Augusta Read Thomas

Erzsébet Szőnyi’s Duo for Violin and Viola is an underplayed gem of the repertoire. The piece, written in 1955, is in a straightforward three-movement structure, and is cast in a mold similar to works of her Hungarian contemporaries. Zoltán Kodály’s Serenade, Op. 12 and especially Béla Bartók’s 44 Duos for Two Violins immediately come to mind as obvious forebears, but the shared harmonic and rhythmic language doesn’t detract from the charms of this work.

In each of the three movements, the two instruments take turns in the spotlight, with the viola cadenza which opens the second movement as the most notable example. The music remains primarily collegial and collaborative, rarely straying into territory that could be heard as combative. Often the two voices combine to create striking rhythmic figures.

The first movement is a tautly-constructed ternary form, with a serpentine passage in unison declaring the beginning of the outer two sections. The contrasting inner portion is characterized by an undulating ostinato, which is also recalled in the nonchalant codetta at the end of the movement.

After the beguiling, songlike second movement, the final movement returns the music to the realm of crackling energy. This rustic dance is the most technically demanding for the performers, with double-stops, quick shifts to pizzicato, and occasionally gnarly passagework all making appearances. Constantly shifting meters add to the excitement, as does the chaotic, chromatically-inflected canon which drives the music to its triumphant close.

— Jacob Tews

Completed in early 2021, Dialogues is constructed in an arch-like structure, consisting of a set of inner and outer movements identified as dialogues, and monologues of inner thoughts and emotions manifest between the two instruments as personae. The first movement is a tip of the hat to the late American composer Elliott Carter, and is meant to evoke the spirit of his mature mid-20th century period without attempting to copy or mime his own personal style in an overt manner. The ideas set forth in this first movement are then spun in different ways in each of the other movements both directly and indirectly.

The central movement, “Meditation” marks an apex of the work, and is a place where all the commotion found before in the contrasting ideas, arguments, and considerations freeze in time and space — it is a kind of unification. Overall, the work as a whole could be considered a kind of “Covid” piece but, I should say, has absolutely no programmatic or thematic direct representation with respect to the global pandemic. However, the ethos of the time was obviously deeply imprinted in my own thoughts and feelings and is likely in some ways found within the music.

This work was created for, and is dedicated to my two friends, Erik and Jacob, founders of the duo sonic apricity. They commissioned this work from me for a premiere at the 2021 American Viola Society Festival in Knoxville TN, with generous support from Christopher Newport University.

— Elliott Miles McKinley

Generally a fiery, driving, high-octane musical affair, Flashing Forward Thinking Back tears through the fabric of life, exploding with possibilities and charging hard straight into the imagined future. The motor cools, however, from time to time, as the music lapses into reflection, progressing further into deep contemplation.

As is the case with most of my music, I strive through this piece to express a drama, a journey on which different and distinct musical elements represent specific concepts, events, thoughts and emotions. FFTB is an expression of the perception of time, how we as humans on the cutting edge of the present can imagine and forge our futures while simultaneously recalling memories of all that we have experienced in the past, either recent or distant.

Compositionally, the harmonic language of the piece was created by the fusion of two relatively modern theories of music; transformation theory (David Lewin) and a rational reconstruction of the tonal system (Stephen Dembski). The resultant musical dialect lent itself to a sort of Neo-romantic Maximalism which allowed me to adequately and expressively communicate the ideas.

It was a thrill and an honor to write music for sonic apricity. Erik and Jacob are not only fantastic performers and wonderful people, but the candid, transparent nature of our relationships allowed us to shape the composition and truly bring it to life.

— Christopher Walczak

Scrumdiddlyumptious is a suite for violin and viola inspired by Roald Dahl’s well-known 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is the story of chocolate czar Willy Wonka and his search to find a child heir to his chocolate empire. The title of this piece is likely the best Dahl word ever created, meaning extremely scrumptious, excellent, splendid, and delicious. Each of the movements are titled in a tongue-in-cheek reference to themes and characters from the book.

The suite begins with a play on the Everlasting Gobstopper, a candy that lasts forever. “The Everlasting Double-Triple-Quadruple Stopper” focuses specifically on music composed of double, triple, and quadruple stops (a string technique of playing two, three, or four notes at the same time).

“Golden Invention” references Willy Wonka’s “invitation” to find five golden tickets that grant entry into his chocolate factory. All the notes of this movement are harmonics, giving the music a shimmering shine to a two-voice invention-like texture.

“Salted Waltz with Spoiled Nuts” pays homage to Veruca Salt, a greedy, demanding, stingy, and spoiled brat. The music for Salt uses a famous children’s round, “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat” as though it is a temper tantrum, filtered through a deranged and frenzied chocolate river boat ride.

“Bucket Blues” channels the character of Charlie Bucket, a kind-hearted boy who eventually is named heir of Wonka’s factory. The music evokes melancholy and warmth as one can only find in a character of true selflessness.

“Loompa Loops” references Oompa-Loompas, small humans who work with Wonka and are mischievous and love practical jokes. The melody for this music is derived from another children’s song that loops over and over, “London Bridge is Falling Down,” played backwards.

The final movement, “Fugue Factory,” completes the suite with a sly comparison between two similar words: “fudge” and “fugue.” The music unfolds as a two-voice fugue, churned out like a fudge bar from Wonka’s factory. Bon appétit!

Scrumdiddlyumptious was commissioned by sonic apricity with generous support from Christopher Newport University

— Michael-Thomas Foumai

Composed as the second work in a triptych of instrumental trios, beginning with The Shadow Dancer (2018) and concluding with The Memory Garden (2020), The Dream Angel is cast in a single movement, spanning a large dramatic arc, painting a non-narrative sonic landscape shimmering in color and light. While this work is certainly its own entity, it is a response to the emotional turmoil found in “Shadow Dancer” and is further reflected upon in the subsequent “Memory Garden.” Structurally the work is built around a B tonal center, sounded often in a pedal tone at both the start and finish of the work. In addition, it was my intention to treat the two string instruments (violin and viola) rather more like one super-string instrument and often they are not opposing but complementing one another in the musical fabric.

The Dream Angel was written for sonic apricity and pianist Clare Longendyke. It was premiered by that trio at the Alba Music Festival, in Alba, Italy, in the summer of 2019.

— Elliott Miles McKinley


Texts by Rumi (date composed: c. 1240)
Translations by Coleman Barks

[Movement I] Don’t worry about saving these songs!
And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter.

We have fallen into the place
where everything is music.

[Movement II]

The strumming and the flute notes
rise into the atmosphere,
and even if the whole world’s harp
should burn up, there will still be
hidden instruments playing.

So the candle flickers and goes out.
We have a piece of flint, and a spark.

[Movement III]

This singing art is sea foam.
The graceful movements come from a pearl
somewhere in the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge
of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive
from a slow and powerful root
that we can’t see.

[Movement IV]

Stop the words now.
Open the window in the center of your chest
and let the spirits fly in and out.