Three Quotations

scored for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello, and piano


Written for the Luna Nova Ensemble, each movement of Three Quotations is inspired by a vivid quote from a prominent twentieth century thinker contemplating the complex, dark beauty of the human condition.


I. Morning Chorus


“Waking up in the morning, I vow with all beings to be ready for sparks of the Dharma fromflowers or children or birds.” - from Verses for Environmental Practice by Robert Aitken


In this verse, Robert Aitken invokes the renewal of each new day, announced and celebrated by the dawn birdsong, the “morning chorus.” The music makes extensive use of trills and imitation amongst the instruments to reflect this complex, subtle beauty. It begins with a quiet, suspenseful anticipation of dawn, soon bursting forth with bold, joyful gestures. This is followed by a complex interplay of musical ideas as the instruments call back and forth to one another. Ultimately, the music shifts to a steadier section featuring a long, flowing melody with a wavelive accompaniment, finally fading into the fullness of the day.


II. I Am


“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


These words are spoken in The Bell Jar by the main character, Esther, as she confronts a crucial moment in her life. The brag, or beating, of her heart confirms the persistence of her life force in the face of intense struggles. The ebb and flow of tension in the music depicts a fraught journey through tragedy and adversity, emerging with a quiet strength and resilience.


III. Future Shock


“The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.” from Future Shock by Alvin Toffler


Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler with his wife (and uncredited coauthor), Heidi Toffler in 1970. In the book, the Tofflers define the term “future shock” as a personal perception of “too much change in too short a period of time.”


With its unrelenting rhythm and development, the music illustrates the overwhelming constant motion and change that define our modern world.



scored for string quartet


The textures and organization of Dust to Dust were inspired by Raphaëlle Goethals’ multilayered painting, “Bliss,” as well as the general notion of human mortality. The lush, smeared string textures reflect the dusty quality of the painting’s colors, and the ephemeral, but substantive, progression of human life.


Dust to Dust is dedicated to John Sullivan, who passed away during the time of the work’s composition.



scored for clarinet and interactive electronics


In this piece, a computer has been programmed to respond to the live performance of a solo clarinetist. In performance, the solo clarinetist is in complete control of the pacing of the piece. A microphone passes the sound of the clarinetist to computer software, which compares the live performance to a programmed score. When the performer reaches specified locations in the score, the software triggers various sonic events: echoes, transpositions, and transformations of the live sound, playback of synthesized sounds in sync with the live player, extended recorded events.


Dedicated to my friend and mentor in electro-acoustic music, Howard Sandroff, Echoes of Yesterday is a musical tribute to the mystery of memory: our past joys, sorrows, fears, loves, and triumphs. These memories are never really past. In fact, they make us who we are.



scored for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello, and piano


This piece is drawn from the music for the ballet inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. The original subtitle of this novel was “Modern Prometheus,” referring to the Greek mythological character. Prometheus helped Zeus create humanity, then later stole the secret of fire and gave it to humanity. In Shelley’s novel, Victor Frankenstein learns to create life, and the “monster” he creates learns to appreciate and long for the beauty of life. Both characters represent the “Modern Prometheus” of the subtitle in different ways.


As reimagined by Nashville Ballet artistic director Paul Vasterling in his production Frank N Stein, the “monster” is Frank: a young, disfigured middle school misfit “created” by adolescence and society. He is the “Young Prometheus.”


It is a simple but moving story about the trials of being different.


Scene One opens on Frank’s bleary-eyed morning, during which he reticently considers his coming day. With little warning, he launches into the exhilarating mad rush of a school day, during which we are thematically introduced to each of the story’s major archetypal characters.


Scene Two begins with the Bully menacing the Shy Girl in a crowded schoolyard. Frank intervenes. As the Bully is about to attack Frank in retaliation, most of the other characters scatter to avoid complicity in the encounter. However, the attack is inadvertently interrupted by the oblivious practicing of the Cheerleader. This leads to a dreamy reverie by the Shy Girl, wishing for the confidence she sees in the Cheerleader. The Nerd then appears to cheer up the Shy Girl with a quirky, optimistic dance.


Frank then encounters the kind, ruggedly individualistic Blind Girl in Scene Three. She lifts Frank’s spirits with her gentle passion and belief in him.


Scene Four finds the Jock and the Cheerleader ignorantly mocking Frank’s deformities. They view this as harmless good fun, interacting with Frank in a way they are most comfortable. Frank tries to interact with them in good humor, lifting their spirits and impressing them with his wit. Nevertheless, this encounter depresses Frank.


Frank’s numb depression from his encounter with the Jock and Cheerleader is quickly turned around in Scene Five. Here Frank is joined by the Nerd, the Blind Girl, and the Shy Girl (the Misfits), in joyfully maladroit dances that celebrate their individuality.


As the clumsy dance breaks up, Frank and the Blind Girl remain together for the poignant moments of Scene Six. During this Love Ballad, the two powerful souls delicately express their

affection for one another, and pride in who they are.


In Scene Seven, Frank is suddenly confronted by the chillingly taunting presence of the Bully once again. Though it begins with light mockery, this encounter soon escalates. As Frank attempts in vain to defend himself, the sounds of the confrontation draw the attention of the people Frank has touched with his kindness and strength: the Misfits, the Jock, the Cheerleader, and others. Inspired by their experiences with Frank, they now stand up for him, chasing away the startled Bully.


The piece closes with the ebullient Scene Eight Finale, during which each of the characters celebrate the joy and value of their individual characters.






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