February 2020 Update

Thus far, 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty busy year for my musical endeavors, so I thought I’d do a quick rundown of some of my upcoming events, current projects, and other happenings:

  • Today (February 10th, 2020), I’ll be presenting at this month’s meeting of Cascadia Composers, the local Oregon/Northwest chapter of the National Association of Composers USA (NACUSA), entitled “ModeHacks: Harmonic and Developmental Strategies for Heptatonic Modal Composition” (Lincoln Hall 219 at Portland State University at 7:30pm–meeting starts at 7:15pm).   My talk will center on my modally-based harmonic system, demonstrating some of the “hacks” I’ve developed to coax new sounds out of these scale structures, often involving the use of non-tertian harmony.  And yes, I’ll be talking quite a bit about the Locrian mode.  For those unable to attend the presentation in person, it should be streaming on Cascadia Composers’ Facebook page.  My presentation will be the first of two on the docket, followed by Lisa Neher‘s talk on “Social Media for Composers”.
  • On Thursday, March 19th, 2020 at 7:30pm, in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, my Piano Trio No. 1 in G Dardanian, Op. 54 (2015) will be performed by violinist Hae-Jin Kim, Oregon Symphony Principal Cellist Nancy Ives, and pianist Jeff Payne, as part of the 2020 NACUSA National Conference,  on a program entitled “In The ‘Hood”, featuring members of Cascadia Composers.  More details on the conference schedule can be found on the NACUSA site.
  • On Friday, May 15th, 2020 at 8:00pm, in the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle, Washington, the phenomenal new pan-West Coast woodwind trio Onomatopoeia (Cassie Lear, flute, Soren Hamm, saxophones, Rebecca Olason, horn) will be premiering my brand new commissioned work, Cyan Egg Music, Op. 59 (2019)Cyan Egg Music, of course, is a sort of “sequel” (or perhaps “prequel”) to my (allegedly infamous) chamber orchestra work Gray Egg Music, Op. 35 (2010), which Soren and Becca helped premiere back in 2011).  Hear Onomatopoeia reading the third movement of Cyan Egg Music on their SoundCloud.

  • Pianist Rhonda Rizzo, who relocated from Portland to Appleton, Wisconsin this past year, has been a long-time champion of my music, and commissioned my recent Modal Tangos, Op. 57 (2019)–both its original four-hand version, and the later solo piano version.  Without spoiling too much, she has some rather intriguing plans for how to unleash the tangos on the world–more details there soon.  (Also, the third of the three tangos–the E Phrygian one–is about sharks.  Really.)

You thought I was kidding?

  • Minus some last edits, I’ve more or less finished my first symphony–legal name Symphony No. 1 in C-sharp Locrian, Op. 58.  While I’ve written orchestral music before, writing a straight-up symphony has been a goal of mine since I started seriously composing in my teenage years (darn near two decades ago (!) at this point–wow, I’m old), and one at which I had many aborted attempts.  (In fact, I was so superstitious about this past record that I referred to the piece as “The S-Word” until very late in the compositional process.)  Recognizing the difficulty in getting a full orchestra work out into the world, and also the fact that I happen to play all the orchestral strings, I decided to go the string orchestra route, with the potential intent of pulling a Davide Rossi (kind of a hero of mine for working with The Verve–one of my all-time favorite bands) and just multi-tracking the whole thing myself, in order to get it out in the world.  This past week, I happened to undertake my first step in that direction, by overdubbing myself 19 times (4x Violin I, 4x Violin II, 4x Viola, 4x Cello, 3x “Bass”–actually my infamous “detuned cello”, which you can hear here) and recording the coda section at the end of the first movement.  The results of this quick trial recording can be heard below.  And yes, that’s really the Locrian mode–the details of how I used it are pretty much exactly as described in my article, “The Locrian Mode: No, It’s Not Unusable”.

Symphony No. 1 in C-sharp Locrian, Op. 58 – coda section from first movement

Thanks for taking the time to read this update, and stay tuned for more details relating to my compositional and theoretical endeavors.


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