Construction STILL in Process…
for large chamber ensemble
written for the Bang on a Can Summer Festival
2 perc, pf, 22.214.171.124
Construction STILL in Process... is somewhat of a sequel to my piece for Small Chamber Ensemble “Construction in Process...” which had its premiere at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn from 2011, before having a performance at the 2011 June in Buffalo Festival. Ken Thompson, who conducted this premiere, also performed in the Buffalo performance of this predecessor, so I felt a composition in its earlier style would be appropriate. I had incorporated similar cells, motives, and textures from the 2011 piece, including forms with overlapping textures and sections. From my 2011 programme notes, I was very intrigued by the “process in itself concept” as it pertains to the act of composing: the “process” of constructing a piece of music is an art in and of itself, rather than the finished product per se. Construction STILL in Process... continues in this tradition, as blocks of parallel fifth motives climbs and builds as a thematic foreground throughout the whole work, but never arrives at a final ending point. As this energetic fast piece is also an embracement to my New York roots, I include the tongue and cheek musical cliché insert “Take the T Train”, which is symbolic to the Second Avenue Local Subway infrastructure that has been in the process of construction for almost a century, though the final result of MTA service STILL remains in limbo. Construction STILL in Process...was premiered at MASS MoCA for the 2016 Bang on a Can Festival on July 25, 2016.
For video presentation →
for large chamber ensemble
written for the Atlas Festival
flute/alto flute/shakuhachi, oboe/english horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, alto saxophone/sho, duduk, sarangi, qanun, zheng, sheng, kemençe,
percussion (2 players), harp,
violin, viola, violoncello, contrabass
“What is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
– David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
Seascape was written for the first Atlas Ensemble Composers Competition, and was premiered [by the Atlas Ensemble] at the Muziekgebouw aan’t 1J in Amsterdam on 7 September, 2014, conducted by Artyom Kim. As I have never written for an ensemble of a combination with Asian and European instruments, the challenge to create a body of work to balance both sound worlds was daunting. I investigated the non-western instruments that resonated with my style as a composer, and therefore created an atmospheric and haunting landscape that embraces both forces from the two continents. I decided to explore the voices and densities of the sea, as some of the Asian instruments in this piece often depict the fluidity and density of water. Seascape includes various motifs represents sounds and clichés from the ocean, notably waves, water currents, drones, and ship foghorns. In addition, this work illuminates a melancholic and meditative experience for the listener.
A Eulogy to Words
Text: Virginia Woolf
for chamber orchestra, recorded
narration, sound design
written for the Royal Academy
of Music Performers
126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, hp, pf, str
A Eulogy to Words is a multi-media composition for chamber orchestra, pre-recorded electronics, and tape, featuring the audio document of Virginia Woolf’s BBC Broadcast from 29 April 1937 (“Craftmanship” from a part of series called “Words Fail Me”). The Society of Authors in London, who hold rights and ownership of this document, had granted permission for me to use this recording in my composition. A Eulogy to Words was premiered at the Royal Academy of Music’s Composers Platform concert on 21 November, 2012. For a complete transcript of the eulogy, click here.
The Persistence of Time
for symphony orchestra
commissioned by the Chelsea Symphony
3(1db1). 3(1db1). 3 (1b1). 3(1db1).,
184.108.40.206, timp, 3 perc, hp, pf, str
I began working on The Persistence of Time in August of 2005. Originally I had intended to write a programmatic piece for orchestra, based on Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. However, half way through the composition, I felt stuck and was not sure where the piece was going. A day later, I was thinking about a live performance I then attended of the fifth movement from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the end of time (“In praise of the eternity of Jesus”), and discovered that the two works have often been linked together. For instance, Dali’s Persistence represents the illusion of time, while Messiaen’s Quartet refers to The Revelation of St. John, chapter 10, dedicated to the angel "who lifts his hand towards the heaven saying, 'There shall be no more time.'” I decided that the piece would pay an hommage to the composer himself.
The Persistence of Time is in A B A form. The piece begins with a simple foreground melody in the flute(s), which is the main theme of the piece. This motive represents the “melting watches” in Dali’s painting, as the melody ascends before arriving at a static conclusion. In addition, it is also juxtaposed with descending chromatic clusters in the strings, also representing the melting watches. The theme is further restated in a lyrical augmented form by the violins, before coming to a full textural climax. The section then introduces an energetic orchestral fanfare before closing with echoes of the theme.
The B section begins with a haunting chordal progression from the fifth movement of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (“In praise of the eternity of Jesus”) and the descending clusters heard earlier in the piece. This section depicts the dream-like state associated with the notion of time found in Dali’s painting. These two ideas form a dialogue between different groups of the orchestra, supported by a variation of the main theme in the English horn and clarinet. A new theme is introduced in two solo violins. The texture then slowly builds into a pulsating, ostinato climax before coming to a complete halt.
The opening melody returns, once again played by a solo flute. The texture changes into a set of variations and colorful ornaments of the main theme before the piano enters as an imitative ostinato taken from the eighth and final movement of Quartet for the End of Time (“In praise of the immortality of Jesus”). As this hommage to Messiaen is carried out by the piano, the chordal progression from the quartet’s fifth movement serves as a pedal point for a canonic texture (the lyrical material from the exposition) in the violins. Echoes of the first theme are heard from the clarinets combined with two solo violins playing a repeated variation of the second theme. The piece closes with a gradual decrescendo of an E major chord in the lower strings against the piano ostinato E (add 6) chord, which is associated with the ending of Messiaen’s eighth movement. Quoting Messiaen’s conclusion, The Persistence of Time fades off into an eternal distance as we are reminded that an ethereal concept of time is far above any mortal’s interpretation.
The Persistence of Time was premiered by the Chelsea Symphony in New York City on September 26 and 27, 2009, conducted by Mr. Ankush Kumar Bahl, and received honorable mention from the 2015 American Prize in Orchestral Composition.
Six Degrees for Strings
for string orchestra
written for the San Francisco Conservatory Performers
Six Degrees for Strings is written for a full string orchestra. The minimum instrumentation is as follows: 10 violins, 5 violas, 4 violoncellos, and 2 contrabasses (instrumentation of actual premiere). Six Degrees for Strings was premiered with conservatory performers at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on April 29, 2005. It was slightly revised for a 2016 performance at the same location. Six Degrees for Strings is based on the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory and somewhat influenced by John Guare’s screenplay and the motion picture film.
“Six Degrees of Separation” is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called “Chains.” Six Degrees for Strings is in 6 full sections, as one section blends into another like a series of “chains.” The opening six note repeated figure in the introduction is the main motive of the piece. This figure is explored throughout the piece using all types of compositional techniques.
The introduction introduces the six degree cell in a fugue like matter between the violins, then passing on to the solo viola in a lyrical form. The second section opens with an energetic minimalistic texture before the main melody is introduced for the first time. The dissonant melody in the violins is taken from the opening motive yet worked from a serial row of six notes. It then modulates and voiced as a three note tertian figure in the violoncellos and contrabasses. At this point the melody is spoken in a different lyrical form, answering the first antecedent with a longer expressive consequent. The section comes to a final rest as the end of the consequent is repeated. The third section is energetic and aggressive as the six note figure is contrapuntally voiced in various compositional techniques throughout the orchestra. The violas and cellos state the melodic theme before the section closes off into a harmonic pastoral-like texture. This section blends into the fourth chain of Six Degrees for Strings, with the same harmony. The opening motive comes back in its purest form as the section sits on drifting harmonies. It enters the fifth section of Six Degrees with variations of the melody and the six note figure before reaching the final climax of the piece. The sixth section, or the last “chain” of Six Degrees for Strings comes to a rest with an inverted melody of the six note figure in the violas before the violoncellos and contrabasses repeat the opening melodic consequent as the piece fades off into an eternal distance.
Six Degrees for Strings was awarded the 2008 ASCAP/SCI Regional Prize.