Chamber Works for 3 or more Performers
- High Times for Low Brass
- Nøkken, Draugen
- For Sounds in Winter Nights
- Shark Week II: Return of the Sharknado
- Hebdomas Squatinae [fl, asx, pno]
- Getz Going
- Not Death, but Love
- Hebdomas Squatinae [Original]
- Little Tokoyo
- I Await Your Urgent Response
- Pretentious [Title]
- ...and those seven dwarfs
High Times for Low Brass
for horn, trombone, and tuba
Duration appr. 11 min.
This piece came about rather quickly in the month of April in 2017. It’s a bunch of discombobulated movements that fit together in some quirky way, and the titles are similarly goofy, with no real underlying message except for a smile.
The odd movements involve the whole trio, while the even movements are solo interludes. The solo interludes, when combined, constitute an earlier work, “Euphonium > Plutonium” that was never fully fleshed out. It was about time travel. This work is not. It’s also not really about drugs and you definitely don’t need drugs to listen to it.
Commissioned and premiered by Cathryn Cummings and members of HICO on May 12th, 2017
for flute, viola, and harp
Duration appr. 10 min.
Nøkken, Draugen was commissioned by the flutist Kathleen Winters. Kathleen was putting together a program of new works that were inspired by ethnic flutes from around the world. The flute that inspired this piece is the Seljefløyte, a Norwegian willow flute restricted to the overtone series.
This work is an amalgam of Norwegian influences. First, there is the Seljefløyte and it’s timbre and limited range. To incorporate this I have the flutist do a lot of slap tongue as well as overblowing to produce higher partials. As I researched and listened to the Seljefløyte, I kept coming across folk songs, specifically Fanitullen. Fanitullen, also known as “The Devil’s Song” was written for and is most often played on the hardingfele, or Hardanger Fiddle. One of the hallmark sounds of this instrument is the open strings, specifically when they are plucked during Fanitullen. And as I kept drilling deeper and deeper on the internet, I found some other fun stories. One involved Nøkken, a water nymph who lures people into his lake by posing as a handsome man singing and playing instruments. Draugen is another water creature, who is responsible for all the shipwrecks and sailors lost at sea. Add in the works of Grieg and Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale as well (once you start making connections you really can never stop)…
With all these random stories and ideas I started working on the piece. Incorporating parts of Fanitullen, I imagined a chance meeting with Nøkken and Draugen. Certain portions of the work (specifically the happy portions) return, interspersed with deadly encounters with the two monsters. While not really a plot-based piece, I think the journey will be enjoyable for everyone, even if you never read these notes.
To be premiered in Illinois on September 27th, 2014. To be performed again on Sept. 28th
For Sounds in Winter Nights
for saxophone quartet
I – All good things are wild and free
II – Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads
III – This world is but a canvas to our imagination
IV – A liberal allowance of time
V – Only that day dawns to which we are awake
VI – The universe is wider than our views of it
VII – Things do not change, we change
total duration app. 17 min.
For Sounds in Winter Nights was written for and with the assistance of The Asylum Quartet. Not only did they commission the work, but they were readily available to read drafts, offer input, and help me make sure the work is as good as I could make it.
The title of the piece and all of the movement titles are (bonus points if you have identified them) all quotes from Henry David Thoreau. This piece was not meant to be a portrait of Thoreau, Walden, or even depictions of the quotes. I was working on the first movement when I saw a meme on the internet with “all good things are wild and free” and I thought it was a nice idea. I thought using the quote for title of the work, but was waylaid by the internet and started looking up more Thoreau quotes. After searching through various online sources as well as thumbing through my copy of Walden, I compiled the movement quotes and the title for the piece. One thing I wanted to do in the work was explore really different sonic worlds in each movement. And although saxophones can produce very different sounds, a quartet is somewhat homogenous. The introduction of percussion, clapping, and even vocal sounds was a way to really expand the sonic palette of the work.
To be premiered in Manchester, CT on May 9th, 2014. Portions performed in March, April, May, June, and July 2014 in CT, VT, RI, MA, MI.
The Verismo Trio
Shark Week II
The Return of the Sharknado
for flute, alto sax, and piano
Duration - approx.9 minutes
It was time for a sequel…following the smashing success of Hebdomas Squatinae the wonderful Verismo Trio commissioned me for another work. I thought about doing something different, but at the same time I had just noticed a newspaper article that talked of how the TV movie “Sharknado” had become such a hit that a sequel had been ordered. So, it seemed the thing to do.
This is a sequel in that some of the techniques and a little of the material comes back, but, for the most part I just take up where the other work left off.
To be premiered in Wyoming in April, 2014
for piano trio
duration - 7 min
It was quite a while ago that I spoke with the fantastic composer/pianist Erberk Eryilmaz about writing a piece for his group, The Anatolian Trio. I started the work, and then became busy with other projects. It got placed on the backburner and I thought about going back to it a few times, but didn’t seem to have an answer for the form. I had written a few nice sections, but the overall form remained a mystery to me.
So the piece sat for a few years, uncompleted, until the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra premiered my Trombone Concerto fragments and memories. Erberk, who had since moved to Pittsburgh (and the Anatolian Trio was no more) was conducting the work, and featured on the program was a set of four miniatures for string quartet that he had written. The pieces were inspiring, both in regards to the music, but to me mostly the form. As Erberk said in his introduction, “people seem to forget about miniatures,” and indeed I had been guilty of such a grave injustice.
Going back to this work wit fresh eyes, I realized that I had two miniatures already. The missing connections between the sections was a red herring, unnecessary when using the miniature form. And so with a burst of energy I whipped out the third movement, wanting each movement to remain short, fresh, and focused. To me, the miniature is like an etude, a study of one thing, twisted, turned, and repositioned until it had been exhausted.
And although this piece is no longer going to The Anatolian Trio, it is to Erberk Eryilmaz, for his inspirational miniatures, that this piece is dedicated.
This work was premiered at the June in Buffalo festival on June 6th, 2015.
for flute, alto saxophone, and piano
Duration: 9 min.
Hebdomas Squatinae was originally written for flute, violoncello, and piano. This current version was reworked for the Verismo Trio, and thus is dedicated to them.
Hebdomas Squatinae was written under the influence of George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae. But at the same time it is a completely original piece, and very little direct correlation should be made between it and the Crumb. I was just inspired to write the piece after talking to a flutist who had recently performed the Crumb and had created a trio to tour with the piece. I thought a companion piece on the topic of sharks would be interesting, and that led me to the Latin title and the reference to the Discovery Channel’s vaunted “Shark Week”.
And if you listen closely at the end you might find a reference to another famous shark...
Hebdomas Squatinae won the 2010 Beethoven Club/Belvedere Festival Composition Contest. It was originally premiered at the 2010 Belvedere Festival by the Luna Nova Ensemble, June 26th, 2010. This version won the 2013 Verismo Trio/WMTA Composition Contest, and was premiered at the 2013 Wyoming Music Teachers Association conference in Fort Collins, CO on June 7th, 2013.
A Suite for Eddie Sauter
for alto saxophone and string quartet
Total Duration - approx. 45 minutes
I - Goodnight Margeaux
II - The Harlem Dancer
III - Not That America
IV - Rhapsody II
V - ...and love called love...
VI - A Night Like This
VII - A Funk for the Bunk
VIII - Follow Me
Getz Going was written for Sheri Brown. It is inspired by Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter, and their classic album Focus.
So first off...I know Stan Getz played the tenor sax and this piece is written for alto. I wrote it for Sheri, and at the time the concept and music started gestating I had just finished a work for her on alto. So these pieces came out for the alto, and probably for the best, because this is not a copy of the Focus, but merely inspired by it. These works are all original, and I have really attempted to keep this from sounding like just a jazz homage. Also, unlike Focus, which was a combination of written strings and improvised sax, this work is entirely written, although the saxophone and strings are allowed a little bit of leeway when it comes to swinging the rhythms.
And although there are a few moments of cohesion between the separate movements, they are meant to be considered as tracks on an album, not a cohesive unit. Many of the “tunes” were written long before this project, I just had never found the proper place for them. And now I have.
-Ryan Jesperson 6/21/2012
Premiered on a Hartford Phase Shift concert on August 23rd, 2012. Performed on a Central CT Composers Circle concert Oct. 14th, 2012, and portions performed at the Mishi-maya-gat series on Oct. 18th, 2012.
Not Death, but Love
for saxophone quartet (version for string quartet also available)
Duration - approx. 16 minutes
The title of this work, Not Death, but Love is taken from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s collection of poems, Sonnets from the Portuguese. The title comes from the end of the first sonnet:
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,—
’Guess now who holds thee?’—‘Death,’ I said. But, there
The silver answer rang,—‘Not Death, but Love.’
The work is a sort of meditation on love. It is melancholy, yet hopeful, serene and sublime. For the movement titles I found fragments in sonnets X through XIV that contained the word “Love”. I don’t want to say too much more about the work, as I’d hope it speaks for itself. Enjoy, and if you are near a loved one, hold him/her tight.
-Ryan Jesperson 6/4/2010
Portions of the string quartet version read by the West End String Quartet in Dec. 2010. The saxophone quartet version will be premiered by the Ineo Saxophone Quartet in the spring of 2011.
for flute, violoncello, and piano
Duration: 9 min.
Hebdomas Squatinae was written under the influence of George Crumb’s Vox Balaenae. But at the same time it is a completely original piece, and very little direct correlation should be made between it and the Crumb. I was just inspired to write the piece after talking to a flutist who had recently performed the Crumb and had created a trio to tour with the piece. I thought a companion piece on the topic of sharks would be somewhat interesting, and that led me to the latin title and the reference to the Discovery Channel’s vaunted “Shark Week”.
And if you listen closely at the end, you might find a reference to another famous shark...
Hebdomas Squatinae won the 2010 Beethoven Club/Belvedere Festival Composition Contest. It will be premiered at the 2010 Belvedere Festival by the Luna Nova Ensemble, June 26th, 2010.
John McMurtery, fl. Craig Hultgren, vc. Adam Bowles, pno.
June 26th, 2010 Belvedere Festival
for brass quintet and piano
duration app. 16 min.
Little Tokoyo was written as incidental music for the film/show of the same name. The project was undertaken by the composer, Maria Creyts, and Spencer Musser for the UMKC/KCAI ArtSounds concert series. The work was premiered on Oct. 13th, 2009.
The work is inspired by the story, The Dream of Akinosuke, a Japanese folktale translated and made famous by Lafcadio Hearns. The story involves a farmer falling asleep and dreaming of a wonderful land. The dream last twenty-four years, but upon awaking the dreamer finds he has only been asleep a few minutes. After telling his friends of the marvelous dream they uncover an ant colony nearby which carries a strong semblance to the dream world of Akinosuke.
The music for Little Tokoyo was written to invoke a feeling of surreal-dreaming. Unlike traditional concert music, this piece was not initially intended to stand on its own. The work is intrinsically linked to the drama and the visual world created by Creyts and Musser. Themes and motives do not develop as much as create connections between various events, and the restricted use of certain instruments at certain times is akin to the sudden use of color in The Wizard of Oz. You are being taken to a world that is not your own, and I wanted the music to reflect that. Enjoy.
Little Tokoyo was premiered on Oct. 13th, 2009 as part of UMKC/KCAI ArtSounds.
Little Tokoyo Performance
Quatrain - for string quartet
for 2 violins, viola, violoncello
Duration - approximately 24 minutes
The four movements of Quatrain originally appeared in whole or in part as movements in The Hercules Quartets, a collection of three string quartets that served as my Master’s Thesis. Although I was happy with the collection of work, over time I found that the size and scope of the composition made performances unlikely. I also was not satisfied with all the movements (especially the second quartet), and felt that the best work was scattered through the three quartets. This piece is a revision and re-imagining of the entire collection reduced to a smaller, single work. From the three quartets I chose the best material and went back through and cleaned it up. Some of the movements remain relatively unchanged, but some have substantial revisions.
Instead of keeping the original title, I thought with rebirth came the chance to rename the work. A quatrain is a short poem or a stanza of a larger poem that consists of four lines with some sort of rhyming scheme. I liked the idea of a quatrain because it had four lines to go with the four parts and the four movements of this string quartet, as well as for the obvious wordplay on “quart”. In order to connect with the title I wrote a quatrain that both connects to the original inspiration and serves as subtitles for each of the four movements.
The man-god chases beasts of penitence
Labors through pain to rinse caked blood away
His actions speak straight through his reticence
And rise and fall with Eurystheus’ sway
The second movement was read and recorded by Aaron Packard (vln), Sarah Washburn (vln), Russ Podgorsek (vla), and Katie Kennedy (vc), on Oct. 6th, 2006. An early version of the third movement was recorded by the West End String Quartet in December, 2006. The fourth movement was read and recorded by the Miami String Quartet in April, 2006.
I Await Your Urgent Response
for four players
I Await Your Urgent Response is a piece culled from junk mail. More specifically, the junk mail that I received in my student account from July, 2008 to February, 2009 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Because of the rarity of receiving junk mail on that account, I would be duped each time to open the message and read it. That they were a bit amusing is an understatement. In my limited knowledge of the internet and programs designed to remove junk mail, it seemed that the authors were doing their best to insert standard phrases (or at least what they thought would be standard) in order to trick programs into delivering the message. That certain words were misspelled intentionally to avoid detection I have no doubt, but out of the chaos of translation and deception came something that at times seemed to be the same jumbled mush of those that purport to speak in tongues. So I started keeping the emails with the idea that at some point they would be incorporated into a piece.
But rather than organize the chaos and misdirection that the words are meant to imply, I felt that a certain freedom should be inherent in the rendering and imagining of the music. So instead of writing out every note, I felt it would be better if the work was improvised. Occasionally the performers are given ideas or symbols, but for the most part they are simply to react to the text with as much jocularity as possible. This piece is written for four performers (or parts), with no indications as to which instruments they should play (or even if they have to play instruments). Each part will recite all or portions of the emails and the rest is going to probably be as unusual and interesting to me as it will be to you.
Contained in this piece are the best of the emails I received, ranging from Nigerian money offers to Viagra pushers to “work at home” scams. There’s one for online gambling, and even one where halfway through the email the lady starts dropping plot twists like Tommy Wiseau. But that’s enough from me, let’s get started. Enjoy… I Await Your Urgent Response.
All parts are to be improvised. Each player may perform on any and/or all instruments. No rehearsal is needed to “sync” up parts that are playing off identical directions. The written directions should influence the improvisation, but not dictate it. A few cursory rehearsals to outline the sections of the piece should be satisfactory, but don’t go in with a game plan, or else you’ll ruin all the fun…
The emails should be read as written, exaggerating misspellings and random Acts of capitalization. Impressions or alternate voices should be encouraged. Many names and words are fabricated, so no need to work on pronunciations before performing, just wing it and have a good time…
Any other performance questions are left to the discretion of the performers… When in doubt, improvise…
from: Remmele Devillier
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The space of six hour, dry it with a clean cloth, might perhaps borrow the money on the prospect although he frowned at toni’s description of miss along, gazing into some of the shop windows as and only allowed her very small sum for housekeeping.
from: Mr. Adama Sawadogo
subject: Urgent Reply For More Information
This e-mail message is from Mr. Adama Sawadogo This message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any review,use,distribution or disclosure by others is strictly prohibited.If you are not the intended recipient (or authorized to receive for the recipient),please contact the sender by reply email and delete all copies of this message.
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Thank you in advance and may God bless you.
Please, reat with utmost confidentiality.
I await your urgent response.
Mr. Adama Sawadogo
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subject: YYour account was blocked!
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subject: Part time job
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subject: Order dettails
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from: Perrin Caamano
subject: Brothel has speciial deals for virgin clients
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subject: Italian jailed for emailing nude photos of ex-lover
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from: idrissa alice
subject: PLEASE GET BACK TO ME SOON
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from: Hilgefort Sherwin
How to get any womaan Into Bed? Try our…
Weak, vindictive nature to press it to a decision. You’ve not seen her name in the papers? His throat near for blessings. visitors used to stand listening been cultivated. We threw down our loads at once and of kings: but three hundred generations of a man of a sad brow and severe eye, place, managed and looked after in a country like brazil. About two months, the bulldog sloop of war came billy. I know it will please the children. The which are not unseemly, in public: no woman is a fresh batch of natives from the caves, and we when he teases me so that I detest him? Said octavia, bank dropped a willow, and a wide spreading cedar lies, her vain attempts to clear herself byhe coils. Then it slowly drew inwards and disappeared. Yolk of an egg, some verjuyce, the slice of an steps between. Dost tremble for thy lover? Thus mrs. Dave dyer flattered her with questions about of the laws of physics to get a temperature and about. And why? And how? Not just people’s silly.
This piece was premiered in Kansas City, MO on a UMKC GUILD Concert March 5th, 2009. It has also been performed at the SCI Region V conference and on a Butler Composer Orchestra Concert.
for a sx, tpt, tbn, cl, vln, vc, pno, bs, and d.s.
Duration - approx. 9 min.
This piece was written for a mixture of jazz and classical players at UMKC. The title is meant to evoke a mocking tone toward many of the other pieces written in the 21st century that try and encompass many varied and enormous philosophical and poetic meanings in a single piece. Often, I think, composers forget that the most important aspect of their composition is the music (this critique can occasionally be applied to my own pretentious titles), and try and make programmatic elements take the “form” of the piece. This is an existential question that must be asked about all music, and whether titles create a simplistic symbolist syllogism that defines a piece before it is performed. And if the piece is predefined, then can it really be new? To posit that the finite combinations of the English alphabet and the chromatic scale inhibit the possibility of creating a truly original composition creates the latent meaning of this piece. This train of thought obviously brings us to the universal language “Esperanto” and the possibility of discovering a link between different cultures and different tone combinations and…I’m just kidding. It’s exactly that sort of academic dribble that I wanted to avoid in this piece. Just relax and have a good swinging time.
Jan. 4th, 2008
This piece was premiered March 6th at UMKC. It was a finalist in the 2008 UMKC Chamber Composition Competition.
...and those seven dwarfs
for 2 violins, viola and violoncello (with optional narrator)
Duration - approx. 20 minutes
…and those seven dwarfs was written for and with the assistance of the Honors String Quartet, the premiere ensemble of the Hartt School Community Division.
...and those seven dwarfs is a retelling of the classic “Snow White” story. Although most are familiar with the 1937 Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the tale itself is found in many forms in many cultures throughout history. Mostly it is seen as a Freudian oedipal fight between a child and her mother, with nameless dwarves simply a side-product of the story. In fact, it was the Disney film that actually named the dwarves and give them distinct personalities (Grimm’s tale often refers to them in a collective sense, or by number).
In this version, I have decided to focus on the dwarves rather then Snow White. She’ll still be in the story, but will not be the central character. I have also kept the unique personalities that were presented in the Disney film. Although much of the story remains faithful to the film version, the piece should not be looked at as an adaptation, but rather as a synthesis of all the versions I have encountered. It is a tale for children and adults, and hopefully will be enjoyed by all.
Feb. 17th, 2007
Each number corresponds to a circled number in the score (not to be confused with box-enclosed measure numbers). If the double-dotted fermata is over a rest for all instruments, then the text should be performed before the music continues. For the few spots where double-dotted fermatas are placed in measures containing continuous music, the cue should be read in a natural fashion, even if the music continues before the text is concluded.
Text written by Ryan Jesperson
sources consulted: The Brother’s Grimm’s “Snow White”, Anne Sexton’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, and Walt Disney’s film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
1. Once upon a time (as these stories sometimes go), in the seventh valley of the seventh mountain, there lived seven dwarfs.
2. The dwarves lived in a small cottage, and spent their days mining the steep mountain for gold and jewels. Each day, they would return to rest, eager for another day of work.
3. One of the dwarves sneezed often.
4. One, was always tired, which angered the one that was always grumpy.
5. The grumpy dwarf would complain and groan, but this never brought down the spirit of the happy dwarf.
6. One of the dwarfs had a face that would turn as red as a ruby when embarrassed. The other dwarfs liked to tease him and point and giggle.
7. And of course, there was one who didn’t talk, and the others called him “Dopey”.
8. Doc, the leader of the group, had a slight stutter, but otherwise was the most wise and learn-ed of the bunch. He was their leader.
9. Everyday, the dwarves would wake at sunrise, eat breakfast, and then climb the steep mountain to mine it for valuable jewels.
10. One day, upon returning to their home, the dwarves found that a young girl had let herself in.; She said she was in trouble. Her name was… Snow White.
11. Snow White asked the dwarves to let her live with them. The dwarves discussed it, and decided to let her stay. She thanked them and kissed each on the forehead. This caused Sneezy to break out into a fit of sneezes.
12. She told her new friends that she was running away from an evil queen. The queen was jealous of Snow White’s beauty and wanted her dead. She had tried once to kill Snow White, but a huntsman had taken pity on Snow White and allowed her to escape.
13. After a long supper, the seven dwarfs took a nap (led by sleepy) while Snow White did the dishes.
14. After their nap, the seven dwarfs danced and sang for Snow White. Dopey led the group since he was the best dancer. Eventually Snow White joined in and they all had a good time.
15. One of the dwarves wanted to dance with Snow White but was too embarrassed. Now which one could that have been?
16. Of course, the evil queen had used her mirror and knew of the huntsman’s deception. She started thinking of ways to kill Snow White.
17. Back at the home of the seven dwarfs (and now Snow White), all were happy. One of the dwarves, the one who was always in a good mood, gathered every one around and told a wonderful bedtime story. They all went to bed happy.
18. While they slept, the evil queen was preparing a disguise, and a poisoned apple for Snow White.
19. The next morning, after breakfast and before the dwarves had left to mine, the dwarf who was always grumpy tried to warn Snow White about the evil queen. “Be careful,” he said, “she will certainly try to hurt you. Don’t let anyone in the house.”
20. After the dwarves had left, Snow White heard a knock at the door. It was an old woman offering to give her an apple. Being young and trusting, Snow White ignored the dwarves warning and took the apple. As she took a bite the old woman threw off her disguise. It was the evil queen, and she had poisoned Snow White.
21. Snow White fell to the floor. The dwarves returned home to find her appearing dead. They felt she was too beautiful to bury in the cold ground, and built for her a glass coffin. They placed it on top of the steep mountain and always kept vigil. One day a lost prince stumbled upon the coffin.
22. Having read of it in stories, the prince opened the coffin and kissed her on the mouth, accidentally dislodging the piece of poisoned apple. Snow White awoke, and all the dwarves jumped for joy. The prince took Snow White to his kingdom and they were married.
23. And they all lived happily ever after. The End.