Composers Workshop I

Sunday, Oct 30, 2022 at 7:30p in the Concert Hall



The Great Hunt


Ethan Elsbernd, baritone
Hsin-Hui Liu, piano

The text for this piece is a poem titled “The Great Hunt” by Carl Sandburg, published in his anthology Chicago Poems (1916).

Fanfare • Phantom • Architect


Kristen Ronning, horn
Hanna Rumora, violoncello
Kevin Swenson, computer

In composing this piece, I originally intended to write a trio for horn, cello and piano. Keep in mind that there are a number of famous horn trios with violin, but few, if any, with cello. As I studied the existing repertoire for the “traditional” horn trio instrumentation I became enamored with a single moment in Brahms’s horn trio. I began writing the piece with the pitch class set from that moment in the Brahms as a seed, creating a series of algorithmic Max patches to develop the material as something of my own. As I pondered the extent to which I was thus reliant on the computer as a compositional tool I thought: I have already replaced the violin with cello. Why not replace the piano with a computer? Such was the birth of the present piece.

Dot Landscape


Maria Torres Melgares, soprano saxophone
Chris Hunley, alto saxophone
Matt Nicholson, tenor saxophone
Eugene Ryoo, baritone saxophone


The Wine Ode of a Buffoon


Nathan Brown, tenor
Angelo Emrich, piano

This art song encapsulates the flowery, yet mediocre poetry of an old-fashioned buffoon. The buffoon sings of catching an elusive fairy, who, furthering the spoof on old literature, is an allegory of “delight” itself. The buffoon sings about his love of wine, and we see that he has perhaps had one too many. The piece combines influences of the Baroque aria and the Romantic Lied. Although the musical aspects here are nothing new to me (or you), the novelty of this piece comes from the focus on elements of theater and comedy. I found this to be a therapeutic diversion from my usual intensely music-centric focus. One could view it as having a stronger focus on the visual/textual aspects, while the music takes a back seat as a supporting role. Finally - while I do not expect it, if you feel like laughing, please don’t hesitate. It is my wish that you have a good time. Enjoy. :)

Alien Vespers


Lucy Shirley, speaking pianist

The text is a mélange of multiple translations of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:
     "He said, 'This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass it away . . .
     When you come to be light, what will you do?
     For then you will become two instead of one;
     and when you become two, what will you do?'"

Years ago, my study of early Gnostic Christianity was the catalyst for a painful period of questioning my own beliefs. This piece, however, is not one of sadness. I imagine a story in which aliens suddenly stumble upon Earth, and a mystical, joyful religious ceremony ensues in which earthlings learn to accept all that is known and rejoice in the much larger all that is not. (Less eloquently, one could describe this piece as the merging of my deep love for early history, intense doctrinal doubt, and secret, guilty-pleasure love for watching the show Ancient Aliens.)

Lethe (Forgetfulness)


M Denney, voice, guitar, electronics

Lethe is the first piece of my larger theater work Mnemosyne in the Cult of Memory, a project that uses ancient greek ritual practices surrounding Mnemosyne; goddess of memory and mother of the muses; to interrogate the relationship between ourselves and our pasts. The ritual begins with the supplicant drinking from Lethe, a pool of water that causes them to forget themselves and their present, in order to open them up to revelations about their past.