Large Ensemble and Orchestral Works
for sinfonietta (2016-17, in-progress)
Snowlight is a current work-in-progress for sinfonietta ensemble. The inspiration comes from an experience I've had a handful of times walking on clear, moonless winter nights away from city lights. The only ambient light comes from the stars, but this faint light is reflected and seemingly amplified as one's eyes adjust to the darkness, bathing everything in a beautiful azure blue hue. This play of light on snow and its ability to render the dark, nocturnal landscape luminescent opens up a door to another world. The projected final work will be 13-14 minutes. Snowlight Sketch, an abridged 4-minute version, was premiered by the musicians of the Wellesley Composers Conference under the baton of James Baker, and I have included a recording of it here.
an everywhere of silver
for solo harp and 13 musicians (2016)
Percussion list: vibraphone, tam-tam, 3 suspended cymbals, 2 brake drums, 2 bongos, 2 woodblocks, glockenspiel, sizzle cymbal, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, whip
"An everywhere of silver,
With ropes of sand
To keep it from effacing
The track called land."
Emily Dickinson's words evoke in me an overwhelming vastness and ubiquity—a wild power just barely contained, just beyond one's reach. This poem is one of her many descriptions of the sea, though the silver that inspired me to write this piece comes instead from another everywhere: the sky. I have always been fascinated, obsessed, by the play of light and shadow in clouds illuminated by the sun, and Dickinson's poem resonates deeply with how the vastness of the sky entrances me and fills me with wonder. Silver and light also come to mind in the gentle brightness and iridescence of the harp's timbre, so on a personal level the title feels perfect for a harp concerto—an everywhere in which the instrument roils and flashes against a shimmering backdrop of other colors and temperaments. The work consists of two large movements which together form an enormous antecedent-consequent gesture, a single breath. an everywhere of silver is dedicated to harpist Ben Melsky, without whose generosity and openness for collaborating it would have been impossible for me to write this piece.
Ben Melsky, harp. Contempo; Cliff Colnot, conductor. Live performance, May 2016, Chicago, IL.
for orchestra (2014, revised 2016)
Percussion list: crotales (high), vibraphone, 2 woodblocks, whip, 2 triangles, tam-tam, chimes, xylophone, bass drum, 3 tom-toms, 2 suspended cymbals
In Renaissance art, chiaroscuro (“light-dark” in Italian) denoted use of bold and strong contrasts—specifically, contrasts of light and shadow to create volume and dimension. Timbre and resonance echo that visual play in this piece: I wanted to create strong contrasts of orchestral color, threaded by a handful of highly charged, energetic ideas. While sketching Chiaroscuro, I used colored pencils to draw gestures for different instruments, foregrounding orchestration as a motivic force. The result is a kind of pocket concerto for orchestra, kaleidoscopically highlighting different sounds with flickering nano-melodies and granitic masses.
University of Chicago Orchestral Readings, June 2014. Cliff Colnot, conductor.