For you have struggled with God and with men (2009)
II. Jacob sees the past and the future
For you have struggled with God and with men presents three scenes from the life of the Biblical patriarch Jacob, drawing its texts from the book of Genesis. The narrative of Jacob's life shows a high degree of subtlety and nuance in presenting the psychology and actions of Jacob, and these pieces aim to reflect this, tracing Jacob's development as a person over the course of his long life.
In Jacob's dream (recording not yet available), we see him as a young man, talented, destined for greatness, and a little cocky. Jacob sees the past and the future finds him older and close to despair, unsure of the worth of his own achievements and fearful for the future of his children and their descendants. Closure is found in Jacob wrestles with the angel; after a long night of turmoil, Jacob, renamed Israel,
departs with a new and deeper sense of his relationship with God and his fellow human beings. Although the three pieces form a narrative arc, any one movement may be performed independently, showing Jacob at a particular moment in his journey towards wisdom.
A Walmart Version of You (2010) for stereo tape
I. You can't swim in a town this shallow
II. Up and down the lonely treble clef
III. Faith really is the favorite food of fools
IV. Come join the youth and beauty brigade
January Miniatures (2010) – [view score]
II. No one home
III. People I will never meet, 1
V. People I will never meet, 2
Ensemble Laboratorium, 2010 June in Buffalo Festival (I - II, IV - VI)
Eric Chen, clarinet – Sarah Paradis, trombone – Nicholas Stevens, percussion – Ryan Chase, piano – Sophie Bird, violin – Kevin Künkel, cello – Joshua Groffman, conductor (III)
January Miniatures was composed in the space of about two weeks in early 2010. Often, the name and themes of a piece of mine become clear to me only as I compose; with these miniatures, however, I endeavored to have clear extra-musical associations in place before writing each movement. The resultant six pieces contrast greatly in character and thematic material, the four inner movements bracketed by a short series of soft chords heard first in the piano and returning at the end in the remainder of the ensemble. If there is a link between the movements, it is in a certain sense of wistfulness or loss that pervades throughout, depictions of things fading away, things already gone, or things that were only ever in our imaginations.
Music for piano four-hands (2007) – [view score]
Bethany Pietroniro & Chappell Kingsland, piano (I)
David Nalesnik & Joshua Groffman, piano (II)
Music for piano four-hands was written in September 2007. There’s not enough modern repertoire for the piano four-hands, and I love the possibilities of sound and polyphony that open up simply by having two musicians play on the same instrument. The influence of two composers who have written imaginatively for the piano, György Ligeti and John Adams (whose piece for two pianos, Hallelujah Junction, floored me the first time I heard it) is noticeable throughout.
Music for piano four-hands uses a musical narrative to build its form. This is particularly evident in the second movement, which represents my contribution to the growing body of “machine runs down” pieces. A persistent major seventh, with spiky polyphony above and below it, is heard throughout, contrasted with a series of shifting intervals and polyrhythms. Over the course of the piece, the two types of material exchange places: the aggressive major
seventh music gradually grows quieter, while the interval music becomes louder. Eventually, the persistent motion bogs down and grinds to a halt, before climaxing dramatically.