Invisible Distance (2015) for cello and orchestra

1.  Spheres; 2.  In the Slow Time of Stars; 3.  In Darkness

Commissioned by the Vancouver Island Symphony with funding provided by the Canada Council for the Arts
Duration: 21 min.
Instrumentation: solo cello and 2(picc)222/4231/timp/3 perc/harp/strings

This concerto is in many ways a meditation on the theme of isolation.  Following the tradition of a Romantic concerto, the soloist serves as the protagonist. However, rather than approaching the orchestra as either a complementary or conflicting element, I instead sought to create a sense of distance between the two, as if the solo cello were reaching toward something ever beyond grasp.

In the opening movement, “Spheres”, the cello begins alone; orchestral colours and harmonies gradually emerge from, develop and extend the cello's material. The soloist and orchestra, however, gradually diverge into separate musical planes throughout this increasingly turbulent movement. In the second movement, “In the slow time of stars”, the cello plays a wistful and introspective melody while the orchestra remains distant with soft, high shimmering chords.  This is a gentle movement, meant to capture the stillness and spaciousness of a night sky filled with silent stars.  The third movement, entitled “Within darkness”, begins with low, quiet tension and skittish, angular fragments in the cello.  The rhythmically erratic gestures in the cello become increasingly aggressive and explosive, igniting the orchestra and building to a climactic peak.

Invisible Distance was commissioned by the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra with funding generously provided by the Canada Council for the Arts.

 

Virtuosities (2012) for string orchestra

Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. 
Duration: 12 min.
Instrumentation: string orchestra

In honour of the 40th anniversary season of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, I was inspired to write a work that would celebrate music history and tradition while also embracing the new and innovative – something that the MCO has so successfully accomplished throughout its forty years.   Virtuosities seeks to draw connections between the music of the past and present, either through points of intersection or through sharply contrasting juxtaposition. 

In the first movement, “To dream, perchance to fly”, a lightning-fast tempo and continuous swirls of rising figures are meant to create a breathless, whirlwind energy, referencing elements of Baroque virtuosity within a contemporary context.   The intimate and lyrical second movement, “Souvenir”, features the beauty of a simple melody-and-background texture, enriched with an expanded sound palette of distinct colours and timbres.  In the final movement, “Mechanica”, an energetic walking bass serves a constant driving pulse over which a hodgepodge of various short quotes and other musical references are spliced, layered and woven together. 


Strange Air (2008)

Commissioned by Russ Irwin through the Women's Philharmonic Commissioning Initiative of Meet the Composer, with additional support from the James Irvine Foundation. Score and parts available through the Canadian Music Centre.
Duration: 14 min. 
Instrumentation: 2(picc)222(bass)/4231/timp/3 perc/harp/pno-celesta/strings.


Along the River of Stars (2007)

Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra. 
Duration: 18 min.
Instrumentation: 2(picc)222/4230/timp/3 perc/strings.


Flight: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (2005-06)   

Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra with funding from Meet the Composer/American Symphony Orchestra League
Score and parts available through the Canadian Music Centre. // Listen

Duration: 18 min. 30 sec.

In early 1949, the Chinese communist army's takeover of China was nearly complete and the formerly ruling Nationalist party was in full retreat to the island of Taiwan.  The focus of my grandfather, a young lieutenant in the Nationalist air force, had turned to the safe evacuation of his wife and small children.  Having fled their rural hometown with the advancing army fast approaching, the family reached a remote airport to join thousands of other refugees, all awaiting rescue.  After several days with little food and no sign of rescue, my family stowed away on a small cargo plane without knowing its destination, a last ditch effort to escape.  

Flight, a concerto for flute and orchestra, is inspired by this dramatic event in my family history and was written as a reflection of the personal stories and memories of my mother and my grandparents as they were told to me many times over the years. The three movements of the concerto attempt to capture the powerful imagery and emotions the story evokes. 

The first movement, “In Shadows”, features a hazy, atmospheric opening with soft woodwind clusters, slow pitch bends and distant chimes.  The solo flute slowly spins out a lament that grows increasingly intense, finally releasing into a fast, driving section with twisting chromatic lines and angular orchestral punctuations.  The middle movement, “Remembrance”, reflects on the idea of cultural identity and folk song.  Fragments and variants of a traditional Chinese song are woven throughout, as if trying to recall a long-forgotten melody from ones childhood.  Only in the closing bars does the folk song finally appear in its true form.  The final movement, “Sea and Sky”, features constant shifts of character, tempo, and texture. From bold, dramatic statements to sparse, intimate passages, the movement is a musical portrait of strength and perseverance in the face of adversity.

This work was commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra with support from the Meet the Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League the Music Alive composer residency program.   It was premiered by Canadian flutist Paolo Bortolussi and the Albany Symphony Orchestra with conductor David Alan Miller on April 21, 2006.

Flight is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather.

 

 


Make a Joyful Noise (2004)

Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra. 
Duration: 6 min.
Instrumentation: solo pipa and 2(picc)222/2210/timp/1 perc/strings.


Music of Wonder (2002) 

Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Orchestra. 
Duration: 11 min.
Instrumentation: 2(picc)222/4200/timp/1 perc/strings.


Fire Cycle (2000) 

Commissioned by the Queens Symphony Orchestra with funding from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.
Duration: 18 min.
Instrumentation: 2(picc)222/4221/timp/2 perc/piano/strings.


Short Stories (1998)

Duration: 10 min.
Instrumentation: 2(alto/picc)222/2221/timp/2 perc/harp/strings.


Sunan Dances (orchestral version) (1995)

Duration: 10 min.
Instrumentation: 3(picc)3(Eng hn)3(bass cl)3(contra)/4331/timp/3 perc/harp/strings.


Sunan Dances (Wind Ensemble Scoring) (2003)

Commissioned by the Columbus State University Wind Ensemble.
Duration: 10 min.
Score and parts available through Warner Brothers Publishing, Inc.
Recording Available: 
Journey