Dispatches

ensemble full orchestra
duration 16 minutes
written fall 2014
commissioned by San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony
premiere January 2015, Miami, FL, New World Center
September 2015, San Francisco, CA, Davies Hall
Christian Reif, conductor
publisher Unsettlement Music
recording coming soon

 

 

 

notes Sometimes I feel like I’m a stranger in a strange land when I visit an orchestra. The air at an orchestral concert is rarefied, culturally and sonically removed from so much of the music I hear every day. These five short Dispatches are a response to this removal—my official reports from a distant location. 

Each movement of Dispatches takes music I first heard in a much different setting, filters it through my own musical language, and turns it into a short work for orchestra. Each movement is derived from strongly melodic source material, though for most of the piece only fragments of melodies peek through. I wanted to find a way to “hear” the distance between the music’s original context and an orchestral one.

Dispatches opens with obsessive reiterations of one isolated moment from Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic,” a song I heard Stevie himself perform movingly on the Songs in the Key of Life tour. Many colors of the orchestra are spliced and shuffled in rapid succession, though none are capable of recreating the magic of that singular moment. From here the music launches into a neo-soul ballad inspired by the simple and elegant keyboard voicings of Erykah Badu. In this second movement, both the melody and rhythmic pulse are created through the subtraction of notes and instruments, one at a time, from every chord.

 In the central movement, the cello section gradually undergoes a strange metamorphosis: one by one, each member “prepares” their instrument by sticking a wine cork in between the second and third strings. This transforms the sound of their simple melodies into something distorted and brash when bowed, mysterious and gong-like when plucked. The electric guitar's music is transformational in nature too, as triadic harmonies gradually become overtaken by feedback and amp noise.

The fourth movement ("wheezing; industrial") folds these cello and guitar techniques into a relentlessly pulsing rhythm and explores the full spectrum between noise and pitch. This music is, more than anything, inspired by the fact that we are sitting politely in a room with 50+ individuals who have the capacity to join forces to create a giant sound monster. 

The final movement paints the dense overlay of voices in the city with superimposed fragments of docile melodic progressions, added and subtracted from the composite texture at regular intervals.

Throughout the piece, two amplified instruments (electric guitar and electric bass guitar) act as timbral remnants of a distant world, unable to fully assimilate with their classical classmates, prone to noisy interruptions that seem to have been lost in translation.—


WORKS

LARGE WORKS WITH VOICES

Coloring Book (2015, 30 min.)
vocal octet
The Source (2014, 65 min.)
7 instruments, 4 voices
Sound from the Bench (2014, 40 min.)
mixed choir with 2 electric guitars and percussion
Partition (2010, 20 min.)
mixed choir with full orchestra
Katrina Ballads (2007, 60 min.)
11 instruments, 5 voices


ORCHESTRA

Dispatches (2015, 18 min.)
large orchestra
Respirator (2015, 13 min.)
chamber orchestra
Stem (2013, 25 min.)
large orchestra
Law of Mosaics (2012, 30 min.)
string orchestra
First World (2012, 7 min.)
large chamber orchestra
Erasure Scherzo (2012, 6 min.)
large orchestra
Word for Word (2011, 10 min.)
large orchestra
Build a Room (2010, 20 min.)
concerto for trumpet and orchestra
Patriot (2007, 9 min.)
large orchestra


SOLO

DaVZ23BzMH0 (2016, 7 min.)
solo cello, with electronics
Parlor Diplomacy (2011, 20 min.)
solo piano
Nobody's (2010, 4 min.)
solo violin


CHAMBER MUSIC (2-5 instruments)

The Answer to the Question That Wings Ask (2016, 11 min.)
string quartet and narrator
Furtive Movements (2013, 14 min.)
cello and percussion
Interlude for Fingers (2013, 4 min.)
two vibraphones
Licorice Men (2011, 8 min.)
electric guitar quartet
Thaw (2009, 12 min.)
percussion quartet
Vessels (2008, 10 min.)
violin, viola, piano
Ghostspace (2009, 8 min.)
accordion, electric guitar, piano, drums
Crib Dweller (2007, 8 min.)
bass clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone, elec. guitar
Warning Song (2006, 7 min.)
voice and cello, with electronics
23 (2005, 8 min.)
flute, horn, elec. guitar, piano, drums
One of Us, One of Them (2005, 8 min.)
piano and percussion
Forcefield (2004, 5 min.)
viola and vibraphone

CHAMBER MUSIC (6-13 instruments)

For the love of Charles Mingus (2016, 9 min.)
6 violins
Baby [an argument] (2016, 11 min.)
10 instruments
By-By Huey (2014, 10 min.)
6 instruments (vln, vc, fl, bcl, pno, perc)
"The Cage" Variations (2014, 20 min.)
6 instruments (fl, cl/bcl, vln, vc, pno, perc) with baritone solo
Crispy Gentlemen (2012, 15 min.)
7 instruments (fl/picc, cl/bcl, vln, vla, vc, pno, perc)
But I Voted for Shirley Chisholm (2012, 8 min.)
11 instruments, with electronics
Randos (2012, 8 min.)
7 instruments (L'Histoire septet)
Cutest Little Arbitrage (2011, 12 min.)
6 instruments (2 sax, trombone + rhythm section)
Is it Dirty (2010, 8 min.)
16 instruments with 2 singers
(alternate versions for 10 and 6 instruments)
Eyelid Margin (2009, 12 min.)
10 instruments (brass quintet + 5 double-reeds)
Snowball (2008, 6 min.)
8 instruments (bcl, tpt, tbn, vln, acc, egtr, pno, dr)
7 instruments (alt. version for L'Histoire septet)
Illuminating the Maze (2008, 15 min.)
6 instruments (tpt, hn, tbn, egtr, pno, dr)
Music from "Body Soldiers" (2008, 10 min.)
5 instruments with singer
Cordavi and Fig (2007, 8 min.)
13 instruments
Antiphon (2003, 8 min.)
9 instruments (3 cl, bcl, 3 tpt, tbn, pno)


CHORAL MUSIC

Coloring Book (2015, 30 min.)
Consent (2014, 7 min.)
Ripple (2012, 10 min.)
Privilege (2009, 14 min.)
Mass for St. Mary’s (2008, 10 min.)

Music for youth choir:
Room for Something (2011, 8 min.)
Away (2010, 6 min.)
Because (2006, 6 min.)
Murder on the Road in Alabama (2003, 6 min.)


SOLO VOICE

Intimacy and Resistance (2010, 5 min.)
voice and piano
Charleston Songbook (2008, 20 min.)
voice and piano w/ lead sheets
I Remember (2007, 8 min.)
for three sopranos, or one soprano w/ electronics
I Carry Your Heart (2007, 5 min.)
voice and piano


COLLABORATIVE WORKS

Hand Eye (2015)
New Dances for the League of David (2014) 
You're Causing Quite a Disturbance (2013)
R WE WHO R WE (2013)
Histories (2012)