“Dark the Star” in Philadelphia and New York

6a00d83453ebeb69e201a511c84960970c-320wiPoetry of Rilke and Susan Stewart, plus a verse from Psalm 116 – these are the texts I set in Dark the Star, a 2008 work for baritone, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion. The New York New Music Ensemble with soloist Thomas Meglioranza (at left) will perform the piece twice in early November. Here are the details: the first performance is in Philadelphia on Sunday, November 6 at 2 pm. The free concert will be in Rose Recital Hall, on the 4th floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall, located on the southeast corner of 34th and Walnut on the University of Pennsylvania campus. (Make sure your clock is set correctly, as Eastern Standard Time returns that weekend!) NYNME will repeat the program in New York the next day, November 7. The New York performance is at 8:30 pm, at the Tenri Cultural Center, 43a West 13th Street. Music by Melinda Wagner, Mario Davidovsky, and Augusta Read Thomas will round out the program.

I’ve been fortunate to work with the extraordinary musicians of NYNME for over 20 years. The rapport among these players is near telepathic, and their performances are electrifying.

Here is my program note on Dark the Star:

Composing this cycle of songs began with my discovery of three poems in Susan Stewart’s collection Columbarium that I knew I must set to music. The deep, dreamlike wisdom of these poems haunted me, just as I had experienced with Susan’s poem “Cinder” that had served as the fulcrum of my song cycle Holy the Firm. Eventually, texts by Rilke and an earlier setting I had done of a psalm verse were drawn into the gravitational orbit of Susan’s poems. I ordered the texts in a nearly symmetrical pattern, with two texts set a second time in versions that shadow their first readings. This is partly for the sake of the formal design, but, more importantly, to re-examine the poems in the penumbra of what comes before. Rounding the cycle in this way reflects not only the circles and repetitions in Susan Stewart’s texts, but also the way in which, as Rilke writes, the things we have let go of yet encircle us. The work was composed for William Sharp and the 21st Century Consort, who gave the premiere, with Christopher Kendall conducting.

Sample the Bridge recording of the piece on YouTube, with the forces for whom the piece was written:

Graphing the Strata in Philly and NYC

Fabulous performances by the Prism Saxophone Quartet in Philadelphia and NYC over the past couple of days. The quartet took on 15 premieres (!!!) in a pair of concerts at University of Pennsylvania, then reprised the 2nd of those two concert at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York today. Marilyn Nonken joined the quartet for the first performances of my Stratigraphy. I was concerned that the textures of the piece seemed a little opaque after the first performance at Penn, but in a more congenial acoustic today at Tenri I felt more confident about the piece. Here are a few pictures. First, Prism and Marilyn with many composers – from left to right that’s Jay Reise, myself, Marc LeMay, Tim McAllister (soprano saxophone), Jacob Walls, Kai-Young Chan, Joshua Hey, Taimur Sullivan (baritone saxophone), Andrew Davis, Finola Merivale, Ben Hjertmann, Jane Lange, Marilyn Nonken (piano), Zachary Shemon (alto saxophone), Matt Levy (tenor saxophone). (To my regret, composers Anna Weesner, Kevin Laskey, and Kyle Bartlett didn’t get into the picture.)



Tenri Cultural Institute is on 13th between Sixth and Fifth in New York.



Anna did get into this shot – here’s the quartet along with Anna Weesner, speaking about her piece today at Tenri.