Encounter at Agapolis

When my daughters were very young, often we would find ourselves waiting in the car for my wife as she went into the grocery store. During these times, I would attempt to entertain them by making up stories. Sometimes I would stumble upon an idea that my daughters really liked. Later, when we found ourselves in need of another story, they would remember one of my previous tales and ask me to repeat it, which would require me to try to reconstruct the details from memory.

One story, which they asked for often, involved two children who disobeyed their parents’ instructions to stay out of the mysterious and dangerous wooded area beyond their backyard. Having ventured into this “forbidden forest,” they were swept into a magical whirlwind that took them to another world called Agapolis. There they met a strange creature, whose name I don’t remember,  who told them about the city and the resident gardener who had special powers.

About the same time frame I had been telling this story, I began composing a piece for large orchestra for a recording project by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Since the story of Agapolis was on my mind, it seemed to inspire  the general mood of the opening of the piece…

Luminous Echo No. 2

Short Stories

Short Stories, for flute, clarinet and piano (1994), is a whimsical piece in three interrelated movements. It was recorded by faculty members of Southern California College (now Vanguard University) and released on the CD Four Paintings in 1998.Performers: Althea Holdcroft, flute, Jana Hall, clarinet, David Clemensen, piano.

Counterplots juxtaposes and superimposes several ideas of contrasting character and tempo.

Wisp is improvisatory-like, developing motives from Counterplots, while foreshadowing the primary motive of the last movement, Pursuit .

Pursuit is a culmination of the first two movements, taking motives from each and treating them in a quasi perpetuum mobile fashion.

A Dorian Nocturne

The sketches for A Dorian Nocturne had been lying around long before the piece was actually completed. The title is not suggesting necessarily any representational meaning to the music. It is simply a nocturne in the spirit (but not style) of a Chopin nocturne, and uses almost exclusively a Dorian mode (a minor scale with a raised sixth scale degree). The opening chord progression is a typical Dorian progression, similar to the one that the Doors use as the basic chord structure of their 1970 song “Riders on the Storm.” 


A Flash of Transport

Commissioned by the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, Restless was composed in 1996 just as I was completing my doctorate. It is a single-movement piece for string quartet, piano and marimba.From the day I received the commission to the day I delivered the score and parts was about eight weeks. At the same time I was studying for orals, working on my dissertation, teaching, playing piano at church, and helping my wife with our two young girls. In order to be sure I worked daily on the score, I got to work at 6am and worked until 8am. That gave me the rest of the day to attend to the other tasks. Needles to say, this was a helter-skelter period. And it wasn't until I was well into composing the piece that I noticed the music's character was similar to any given day during the two months I was composing it: restless! This recording is a live performance of the premiere by the Indiana University New Music Ensemble.

A Flash of Transport was composed in 1992, commissioned by the Shasta Symphony Orchestra for its 43rd concert season. Richard Allen Fiske, who commissioned the work, wanted a piece between five and six minutes long. When I began writing the music, the emerging shape of the piece was making it difficult for me to keep it within that time length. Consequently, I abandoned a slow middle section that I thought was needed for balance. The music begins with a throbbing pulse that accumulates rhythmically through the first 13 measures. Suddenly, the music shifts to a slower, more rhythmically free passage that lasts about 30 measures before the pulsating rhythm resumes. This slower, freer music that interrupts the regular rhythmic flow is what I call the "transport," or the breaking away from the incessant rhythmic pulse. Originally, the transport music was to be developed fully in the middle section. Since I had to eliminate the middle section, this music only occurs one more time as part of the climax near the end. Therefore, I named the piece "A Flash of Transport" because there are only two brief occurrences (a "flash" or moment) of the transport music. Several years later I revised the piece to include the middle section, resulting in a piece that is about twice as long (the version that is here). Since the transport music is given fuller treatment, there now is more than a "flash" of the transport music. Nevertheless, the original title stands. There are several motives in this piece. One of the primary motives is based on the first four notes of an oboe solo that occurs at the end of the scene "Imperial Surprise" from The Empire Strikes Back There is nothing striking about these four notes, and they certainly do not comprise a recurring theme or motive in the film. In fact, I don't know if they ever occur anywhere else in this movie or any of the other Star Wars movies. But the first time I saw the film and heard those tones, I could not forget them. They stayed in the back of my mind for years before I decided to use them as motivic material. I ended up using this motive in a couple of other pieces as well during the early 1990s.

This recording is a MIDI sequenceprogrammed using a single PC runningCubase, and Gigastudio. The instruments are a combination of Vienna Instruments and Garritan Strings.