Hostile Whirlwinds (2020) for Orchestra
The Unite the Right rally on August 11th and 12th in 2017 was a wake-up call to many that fascism is alive in the United States. The footage of the marchers chanting “Jews will not replace us” was genuinely horrifying, and the image has stayed with me ever since. Hostile Whirlwinds is my response to the threat of fascism and white nationalism. It starts with an ostinato that emulates the rhythm of the fascists’ chant, accompanied by a jagged melody, together representing the threat of fascism. These two elements build up into an explosion that is cut off by a siren. Busy whispers in the strings underpin a fragmented melody in the winds which builds up but never quite comes together before the chant rhythm and jagged melody return, this time punctuated by fragments of “Warszawianka,” a song from the Polish Revolution of 1905, best known in English as “Whirlwinds of Danger.” The song comes together, but is unable to fully suppress the jagged melody, which continues underneath. Everything comes to a stop, and the fragmented melody returns in full, revealing itself as “Bella Ciao,” a song sung by antifascist partisans during World War II. After a triumphant statement of the theme on the English horn and an offstage trumpet, the chaos of the opening reprises, this time taking longer to come to a head. This time there are no sirens, but instead a Mahler hammer or gunshot. The busy whispers return in the strings as fragments of both quoted songs come together for a triumphant tutti restating the “Warszawianka,” this time successfully displacing the jagged melody and chant rhythm. A brief coda brings the poem to a close with an extended unaccompanied siren followed by a forceful and dissonant chord.
This piece has not yet been recorded or performed. It exists in a version for double winds (2222 4221 Timp 2Perc Str) and triple winds (3333 4331 Timp 2Perc Str).
Symphony in B (2017)
This symphony is the culmination of two years of work. In many ways, it is intentionally derivative, but I hope I also deliver a message of my own with it.
The first movement, the Tragedy, is a sonata-form movement that progresses like a classical tragedy. The introduction acts as a prologue, and the subjects of the sonata form represent the episodes. These three main subjects loosely represent adversity, arete, and the arete’s role in an eventual triumph. Although the second subject is consoling and triumphant, the fact that it is circular and never resolves belies its true nature as the source of the hero’s hubris. This is the hero’s hamartia, which in the recapitulation, snatches defeat from the jaws of victory as the bleak coda strikes the hero down. The rest of the symphony is a journey to catharsis.
The second movement, the Nocturne, opens with a fanfare heralding the sunset and contrasts a peaceful and consolatory theme with an emotionally turbulent and rhythmically unstable middle section. An ecstatic climax is cut short by an anticlimactic march based on the original theme. This, too, gives way to a repeat of the fanfare, this time heralding the break of day, after which the rest of the orchestra ends the movement quietly.
The third movement, a double scherzo titled “Mazurek,” serves as a recap of the first movement’s important materials. The scherzo, a Mazurka, makes use of the folksy and uneven rhythms characteristic of the dance to obscure the meter, and the orchestration constantly evolves over the course of the movement. The trio, a Ländler, uses the main theme of the first movement to launch itself into a meandering, singsong melody. At the end, the rhythm and harmony fall apart, only rallying for the very last cadence.
The finale, an informal Rondo, takes the main theme of the second movement and reframes it as a happy-go-lucky melody that modulates every time it repeats. Before long, a lilting new theme in changing meters, also based on that melody, takes over, leading into a verbatim reprise of the second movement’s theme. The first theme returns, but the next episode is instead several extended reprises of previous material. After a short fugue, the first theme returns, with even shinier orchestration. The first episode also returns, but this time in a much more even meter. Afterwards, everything falls apart in a frenetic and virtuosic coda that ends with a triumphant—but somewhat unsatisfying—fanfare.
This piece has not yet been recorded or performed.
Burlesque for Orchestra (2011)
This Burlesque is a chaotic Bacchanal for orchestra. The primary subject is angular and dissonant, harmonized by augmented chords, but it alternates with another subject that is melodic and neoclassical. This short piece is full of allusions to the work of Richard Strauss and Dmitri Shostakovich, and ends with an homage to Strauss’s Salome.
This piece was the inaugural winner of the composers’ division of the IU South Bend Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts Concerto Competition in 2013 and was premiered by the IU South Bend Philharmonic the following spring under the baton of Jameson Cooper.