commissioned by the Psappha Ensemble (Tim Williams)
for solo percussion, digital delay processing pedal, and pre-recorded sound design
Invocation calls for solo percussion, digital delay processing pedal, and pre-recorded sound design. From the Latin root “invocare”, invocation essentially refers to the act of “calling on, invoking, or giving.” Due to the nature of this project, I’m quite fascinated with the concept of certain cultures using percussive instruments to “invoke spirits” or “call on the Gods”, so to speak. The sounds of the delays for the various percussion instruments in this work, combined with the haunting sound design, was my attempt to portray this type of spiritual prayer that is spread throughout various religions, faiths, and cults. Therefore I make no reference to any specific religion or creed, but rather a musical approach to the act of prayer that is universal. Invocation was commissioned by Tim Williams as part of Psappha Ensemble’s Composing for Percussion Scheme and was recorded at Hallé St. Michaels in Manchester, England on 6 May, 2017.
commissioned by Glen Donnelly
for solo viola (or cello), delay pedal, pre-recorded soundtrack
towers, beautiful, mourning,Tuesday was commissioned by Australian Violist Glen Donnelly and recorded at the Royal Academy of Music on 22 May, 2013. Based on the 5th movement from Messiaen’s Quartet of End of Time, (Louange a l’Éternité de Jésus), it is also a solemn and haunting memorial piece of September 11, 2001. It calls for solo viola, delay pedal, and pre-recorded sound design, with a performance duration of 12-13 minutes. The world premiere had taken place at the London Contemporary Music Festival on 4 August, 2013, performed by Stephen Upshaw.
I have always desired to write a 9/11 composition in some form, yet never found the right opportunity. Since Glen asked me to write a delay pedal piece, I thought of this movement from Messiaen’s work, since I felt it would be appropriate to experiment with the delay pedal with the composer’s material. I had also written another solo composition with delay pedal, Fantasia on a Lament for solo oboe, which was also a quotation piece based on an earlier well known composition. In effect, it was also a stepping-stone for towers, beautiful, mourning, Tuesday. Since his tempo marking is indicated as “infiniment lent, extatique” (infinitely slow, ecstatic), the piece unraveled into a frozen sense of meditated time, which correlates to the title of Messiaen’s work. I had chosen this peculiar title due to the shocking and numb events that transpired in lower Manhattan on that beautiful Tuesday morning.
Originally written for cello and piano, I was able to combine the texture of both instruments, since the viola has a wide range of acoustic and sonorous capability. Much of the texture is explored with various compositional techniques and performance abilities, bringing the piece into a pure transcendent landscape. In addition to the hypnotic and colorful effects of the delay pedal, subtle sound sources and news broadcasts from that actual day in New York City were included in this piece to heighten the sound mass of the textural environment.
Furthermore, the message of John 1:1 in Louange a l’Éternité de Jesus,“the eternity of the word whose time never runs out,” is a mournful dedication and an unending search for the fate of all the brave souls who died on that tragic day.
“compelling” - London Jazz News
commissioned by the
East London Dance Company & Spitalfields Music Festival
for accordion, delay pedal, and electronics
“A play between tranquility and chaos. A play between mover and musician. A play between the old and the new. A play between theory and the unknown. A journey through the infinite.” -Leila McMillan, Choreographer.
Sublime Oasis was commissioned by the East London Dance Company and premiered at the Spitalfields Hidden Gems Dance Festival on 23 June, 2012 at the Bishopsgate Institute Library in the Spitalfields Market. The performance featured a choreographed piece with a dancer, accordion, along with pre-recorded electronics and delay pedal. Since the location of a library was picked as our location for our performance, the choreographer and I came up with ideas of “old vs. new” as a theme for our project. The title comes from the thought of an oasis of tranquility in the middle of chaos, high-speed city life.
In retrospect of “old vs. new”, Sublime Oasis was more of a conceptual homage to vernacular music and folk-‐like melodies in the history of western music. Our choice of using “soundbites” from noises of a victrola and a “tin pan alley” recording of the Edison gramophones at the opening of the piece was our way of emulating the atmosphere of the old world, in such a location that is associated with the past. With this style of vintage sounds opening the piece, Sublime Oasis goes back and forth between different sections, in various moods, to invite the audience of reflecting on today’s hectic society in a remote building such as a library. The accordion gives a fresh take on the piece, as the instrument is a bridge between two worlds, as one can feel its history and its freshness from the resonance throughout the room.
Fantasia on a Lament
commissioned by the Spitalfields
for oboe and digital delay-processing pedal
When I was asked by Spitalfields Music to write my first piece on UK soil, notably a composition for solo oboe, I immediately thought of how this instrument has developed since Elizabethan times. The oboe was referred to as the ‘hautbois’ in the mid 17th century, its predecessor known as the ‘shawm’, and so I recalled musical styles during the Elizabethan era. Since English music flourished during the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, I was always inspired by Purcell’s simple lament from his opera Dido and Aeneas, “When I am Laid in Earth”. I decided to use a delay pedal for this composition, in order to exhibit a hypnotic homage based on this theme, bringing the audience to an earlier time in England’s history. As this commission is improvised on this melody, Fantasia on a Lament became the appropriate title due to its hauntingly melancholic landscape. Fantasia on a Lament was premiered at the Spitalfields Music Festival on 14 December 2011, and was professionally recorded by AHRC Research Fellow Christopher Redgate at the Royal Academy of Music on 3 March, 2012.
La Voix du Dauphin
Written for the 2008 European American Musical Alliance at L’Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris
for solo flute
La Voix du Dauphin (“The Voice of the Dolphin”) was deeply inspired by the inherent beauty and behavioral patterns of dolphins in the oceans. According to the ancient philosophers, dolphins are one of the animal species that are helpers to mankind. I have always thought of these creatures as ocean guardians for the safety of humans, or rather, celestial forces that deliver messages to us from the heavenly or beyond.
In this composition I tried to write a simple melody that is juxtaposed and varied throughout the piece. La Voix du Dauphin is constructed from a loosely sonata single movement form. Throughout the piece I attempted to depict the actions and behavior of a dolphin, such as its communication with other sea creatures, and other bodily exercises, such as diving in and out of the water (which is stereotypical of the traits of the mammal). Although the flute has been associated with birds in past musical literature, I also felt the instrument bears a striking similarity to the simple and apparent fluidity of dolphins, in addition to it fitting so well with expressions of the sea (ie, Claude Debussy’s La Mer). In addition, the melody in this piece is the “message” or the “true voice” from one of the most highly regarded species of the animal kingdom, as it pleads for transparent mutual dialogue with its common man.
La Voix du Dauphin concludes into the mysterious unknown, as our neighborly creatures of this kind explore the limitless depths of the ocean, which is bound by restrictions for humans, yet eternally timeless for them. La Voix du Dauphin was composed in San Francisco, CA and Paris, France, with a premiere by Flutist Mackenzie Slottow in the Cortot Concert Hall at L’ecole Normale de Musique de Paris on July 28, 2008.
written for the 2007
New Keys Festival
for solo piano
Sliding Doors was premiered at the San Francisco New Keys Festival in 2007, performed by Kate Campbell. The title of this work is loosely based on the concept from the 1998 film of the same name, which depicts the story of a working class woman in London attempting to get inside the closing door of the subway train. The movie shows two different outcomes for the main character: one outcome results in success, the other in failure. These “sliding doors” have different chapters and conclusions as a result of two sides of fate: one favorable, and the other tragic.
The reason I had taken “sliding doors” as a concept for this piece is because I have seen evidence of the path divergent taking place, not just in my lifespan, but with friends and colleagues as well. For example, there were situations that had I not made a certain train, or if I decided not to go back into my apartment to answer the phone, my life up to this point would be quite different. I have always been fascinated with this synchronistic idea of two worlds coinciding, much similar to the notion of “parallel universes” that could be evident in our own existence.
In Sliding Doors, I attempted to depict two streams of thought that interweave throughout the composition. Although the piece has somewhat of a lengthy hypnotic introduction and also gives credit to the classical sonata form archetype, it entails an immediate finale that brings these two forces together, which is reminiscent of the two parallel coincidental circumstances from the motion picture film. Sliding Doors also demonstrates different styles of music fusing together. Moreover, these compositional segments are reflections from two sides of a mirror, communicating through different worlds yet never in its own respectable reality.
Sliding Doors had its UK premiere in May 2011 at St. Martin in the Fields, London, performed by Gideon Johannes Bester.
written for the 2006
for solo harp
Limberlost is a solo piece for harp based on the life of Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924). She was the first female during the nineteenth century to write non-fiction works based on natural surroundings. The Limberlost swamp in Indiana was the primary focus of the author’s work, since her recordings of the wildlife became an inspiration for her non-fiction works. However, she turned into despair as the beautiful trees and natural habitats were cleared for farmland. Unfortunately, the heavy rainfall and major floods failed to produce a harvest for the field. The oil drilling of that time also destroyed this beautiful natural resource, which was an obstacle for Mrs. Stratton-Porter, as her life was dedicated to protecting the environment. Limberlost was written for the 2006 USA International Harp Competition that was dedicated to the life of Gene-Stratton Porter. Since this was my first opportunity to write for the harp, I was required to change my musical processes of writing for instruments. I tried to evoke the life and settings of her works, since she was known to live a very simple life in the prairies of Indiana. Her observation of birds in the swamp enabled me to portray her as an adventurous risk taker in the late nineteenth century. During her lifetime the public thought she was rather strange, since instead of following the norms of the social protocol of that era, the woman spent her time trodding through dangerous swamps to find more information on all types of wildlife. In Limberlost I also tried to depict the loneliness and mystery of the woman who dedicated her whole life to preserve the wildlife. In the early 1990s the Department of Natural Resources in Indiana have began to restore the swamp, thanks to the writings and recorded documentation from Gene-Stratton Porter.
Limberlost was premiered by Kristal Schwartz at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on April 8, 2006, followed by an East Coast premiere at the Bowdoin International Music Festival, performed by Michelle Gott on August 3, 2006.
written for the 2006
New Keys Festival
for solo piano
Still Debussy is my contribution to the early school of minimalism. Though I tend to embrace the post-minimalist aesthetic in my compositions, I decided to write a minimalist piece using techniques passed down by the first generation of minimalist composers. Whilst a graduate student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, I was sitting in a practice room improvising on the opening chords and famous horn passage from Claude Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.” I then decided to write a minimalist composition based on a few simple chords from two of his famous works (“Afternoon of a Faun”, and “Sirens” from “Nocturnes”) as quotations from both pieces spread throughout. Andy Warhol’s “Twenty-five Colored Marilyns” and his notorious trademark for painting the Campbell soup formed an association in my mind with the timeless iconic photo of Debussy sitting at his work desk. The schools of “Pop Art” and “Minimalism” are somewhat related, and with this notion I created this music composition without any serious stylistic approach that is often required in concert music. I use the term “Still Debussy” since the composer himself was often associated with the artistic field of Impressionism, notably the painter Claude Monet.
Still Debussy was premiered by the pianist Regina Myers for the Bay Area Composers Circle Concert at the San Francisco Community Center on April 1, 2006. It had its East Coast Premiere by the composer himself at the DETOUR debut Concert Series in New York City on May 31, 2009, and also performed at The Forge, Camden, London on June 26, 2012.