The Exchange (2019)
Inspired by Milwaukee’s Grain Exchange
Commissioned by Access Contemporary Music for ‘Doors Open Milwaukee 2019’
Charles Neidich, clarinet; Hikaru Tamaki, cello
I first saw a picture of Milwaukee’s Grain Exchange in this 360 degree view online. I could imagine walking in and looking up in wonder at its soaring ceilings and hand painted frescoes, a feeling more reminiscent of a cathedral than a place of commerce. I was impressed by its beauty, its grand proportions and sense of open space. The light streaming through the dome skylight and towering windows seemed to convey a sense of optimism and American “can do”.
I imagined the bustling comings and goings of the people then and now. The space started to feel like a kind of piazza, echoing its Italianate architecture. I imagined it in its hey-day, the center of a flourishing grain trade; the haggling and deal making, arguments and agreements of the marketplace, and the social exchanges. I wanted my new composition to reflect the spirit of exchange in this “piazza”, a marketplace but also a place to congregate, then as now. – DK 2019 …This pre-pandemic piece is in stark contrast to what the world has since experienced.
Dialogue with the Ghost (2004)
Commissioned by Martha McGaughey, Mannes College
Hikaru Tamaki, cello
Dialogue with the Ghost is a question and answer, a dialogue of opposites, exploring lyric & percussive possibilities of the cello. Composing it, was my process of dialoguing with my inner ghost.
Ikarus- duo for Binya (2016) Commissioned by the Community Music Center of Portland; Katja Garloff & Asher Klatchko
Kinga Augustyn, violin; Jessica Thompson, viola
Ikarus – duo for Binya was written in memory a young musician, a beloved son who died tragically at 17. He was a boy of great promise, I got to know him through the music and writings he left behind – videos of his classical performances on viola and violin, and the brilliant rap songs that he wrote, sang and recorded. Several of his melodies and beats serve as themes in the Ikarus duo.
Call of the Dance (2017 – 2021)
Commissioned by Carl Gutowski
Carl Gutowski, flute; Marcia Eckert, piano
I. Fantasy (2017)
II. a deafening silence – an elegy (2020)
III. Call of the Dance (2021)
Call of the Dance is a life cycle suite commissioned by flutist, Carl Gutowski. It journeysthrough love, death and regeneration in its three movements, each commemorating a significant life event. The first movement, Fantasy was written as a wedding gift for Carl’s niece. The relationship of the two instruments echoes that of the couple it celebrates. Piano and flute are equal partners, flowing between discussion, duet, argument and canonic imitation, each voice having the chance to be leader and follower. They fall in and out of sync with each other but are always linked in harmonious partnership.
a deafening silence – an elegy follows. It was written for Carl’s older brother, whose death at the age of 30 was a sudden tragedy for the family and all who knew him. You hear the low crash of the piano low crash. Flute enters on an alarming high note and tumbles down to a breathy whisper over the piano’s decaying sound. A pulsing emerges, remembering him as he was – a living, breathing, energetic and creative force. The piece ends in what I think of as a song of remembrance, embracing the beautiful sadness of a life cut short. Out of silence, the third movement emerges, re-examining earlier themes and coming back to life in a celebratory dance.
Pandemic Diary (2021) – Premiere
Max Lifchitz, piano
On the first day of the lockdown, like everyone else, I was listening to the news. Overwhelmed with emotion, I went to the piano and improvised what became the first few phrases of Pandemic Diary. I wrote the piece like a diary, intermittently in between other projects and completed at the end of 2021. I’d been hoping that by the time I finished the piece, the pandemic would be over. But since that didn’t happen, I veered away from the triumphant ending I’d imagined to convey my feeling our situation at the close of 2021.
Colossus 1067 (2021) – NY Premiere
Commissioned by Gus Foster in celebration of his 40-year retrospective at the Harwood Museum, Taos, NM
Dan Block, tenor sax; Steve Sandberg, piano; Frank Wagner, double bass; David Meade, drums
A roller coaster can be a metaphor for life’s uncertainties and the variety of perspectives we gain along the way. My recent composition, Colossus 1067 is inspired by Gus Foster’s panoramic photograph taken on one of the last wooden roller coasters in the U.S. (It’s no longer in existence.) You can see it here
(Scroll across to see the full photo)
This 8-foot wide panorama has the serendipity of a roller coaster, the joy of a beautiful day at the amusement park, the repetitions, resonances and occasional blur of the rotating camera, and the suggestive metaphor of “Einstein’s Clock” that says that anything that rotates can be a clock. Along with that come head-spinning layers of meaning. I wanted the music to the express the unique spirit of this particular photograph. Each instrument has its role but changes it up from time to time. Piano, bass and drums portray the clatter of the coaster and the machinery of its gears. Sax is most often the protagonist.
This “Time Photograph” as Foster calls it, is a “short story”, “captur(ing) a few seconds…in an elongated narrative”. It can be read left to right or all at once, where past, present and future all co-exist. Cross rhythms portray their convergence and the real-time clank and jolt of the coaster. Sax and piano make their climb and plummet, as bass tremolos climb slowly upward and burst into pizzicato. The texture thins to a bass vamp conveying the skeletal rails of the track seen from a distance. Momentum stills into the piano’s slow chords, allowing a moment for reflection.