Blog

  • Will we still be here in 2090?

    My new work to be premiered at the HighScore Festival. My fourth String Quartet, I decided to try something new to challenge my understanding of time and timbre. I hope you enjoy! Recording won't be available until August, but if you would like to view the score and Midi Realization please feel free to reach out.

    Program

    On June 1st, 2019, my Great Aunt Nora Schmied (Arias) born in Santiago, Chile in 1919 turned 100 years old. It was a momentous occasion, and nearly 100 people shared this day with her as we crowded around her hospice bed. She was in fine spirits after nearly 3 years of declining health as is normal with someone in their late 90’s. As her family and friends gathered around sharing stories of all that this special woman had done for them. The biggest theme was that she loved God, family, and music. I had been very close with Aunt Nora my whole life, and despite living in a different state, I had been fortunate enough to visit her almost 4 times a year for the past few years including for this occasion. After the party, I flew back home to Michigan knowing very well that this was probably the last time I would ever see her. 

    On June 4th, 2019, Nora Schmied died. I immediately got on a plane and flew back to Arizona. The funeral was widely attended by the same friends and family that celebrated her life. I learned a lot about all this spectacular woman had achieved including immigrating from Chile to the United States to complete a degree in Music Education. At the age of 83, she began teaching piano lessons to members of her community free of charge shortly after her husband Jose died, because she wanted to share her love of music with the deserving children of Arizona. 

    As I was reflecting on my 28 years with Aunt Nora and thinking about her 100 years and 3-day life I began to wonder. Will any of us ever get to live to be 100? As I was writing this String Quartet an article popped up in my Facebook feed which was a little fear mongering, and slightly exaggerated the facts but impacted my thinking on this question. It claimed that human civilization could collapse in the 21stcentury if we didn’t make changes immediately. The scientific community nearly unanimously agrees that humans are the central cause of climate change, yet the politics of climate change have made fixing the problems nearly impossible. 

    This piece is the synthesis of my emotions related to my aunt, and the scary future we have ahead of us that many of us will not get to live to see our 100thbirthdays – despite modern medicine extending the lifespan of humanity. The exaggerated gestures compared to the inaction, that leads to sparsity that is the future of earth if we don’t make changes. 

    Cover art was done by the composer and was taken in an Airplane just flying into Michigan. 

  • Three New Pieces

    Its been a fairly busy year since I last check in. There has been a lot of composing happening. Multiple things have been happening all at once. I have two more pieces that I still have to edit, make cover art for, and finalize so more to come in the near future. For now, I present three pieces for you. 

    #Kitty

    #Kitty was written for Eric Hessel and Mai Tadokoro Hessel of the Spiral Staircase Duo and is about 15 minutes long that uses found percussion, marimba, theater, and horn. This collaboration was created with the purpose of exploring social media culture related to Cats. It was premiered in March 2019 in Arkadelphia, AR and there is a recording on youtube which can be found on my media page. 

    Program

    Cats play a very important role in internet culture. We talk about them on social media, those of us without cats enjoying hearing about them from our friends and family. Cats are popular all over the world, and in different languages. #Kitty is a reflection on the types of cat social media posts I see regularly. All of the text comes from friends that live everywhere from thousands of miles away to less than one mile away. Cats get sick, cats cause trouble, but most of all, cats are our much more introverted friends that want to be left alone until they don’t. #Kitty is a fun collage of the internet.

    what it was...

    what it was... was written for the Live Music Project as a fundraiser event. Audience members who attended the 5th LMP Birthday event were given the opportunity to vote on the instrumentation for the project. For every five dollars, they contributed equaled one vote towards deciding. They came up with Viola, Bass, and Toy Piano. This will be premiered in August 2019 in Seattle, WA

    Program

    what it was... is a reflection on my time since high school and college. I recently was invited to my 10-year high school reunion and I started to think back to all of the struggles that I experienced while I was there. That isn’t to say that there weren’t good times, but often times we forget the good times when the bad times seem to outweigh the good. I was an unhappy teenager, but there were plenty of good times that are now faded memories. The toy piano brings me back to my childhood with its youthfulness.

    Off Trail Erosion

    Off Trail Erosion was written for an upcoming summer trip I'll be taking to Pavia, Italy for the High Score Festival. It was an experiment for me in creating energy with only one instrument, which has been something of a struggle for me over the past few years. This was written for their call for scores, but if it isn't performed in August, it will be performed in September in East Lansing, MI


    Lots of other projects coming up, I just completed a residency at Mercer Island High School where my new piece three pieces for orchestra premiered (more on this piece in the coming weeks). I wrote a Band piece for Concord high school called Hourglass (also more on this piece in the coming weeks). I am in the process of setting up a few commissions with a few people I'm not quite ready to announce, but lots of good stuff coming!

  • two new pieces!

    two new pieces, one for Flute and Fixed media called unfamiliar spaces written for the illustrious Brice Smith and is getting a soft premiere to help me workshop the piece by James Brinkmann and the other for saxophone and piano, that is getting premiered by Jeffrey Leung and James Schippers. So much going on these days, and much to come! I've been performing with an electronic music ensemble called EMW, and we have been doing my work Light Heartache quite a bit. Cover Art is really becoming a new passion of mine. Unfamiliar spaces was taken in Port Ludlow, WA, and a few words is all it takes was taken right outside Mt Rushmore this summer during my cross country move.

    unfamiliar spaces

    Program notes

    unfamiliar spaces was written for my dear friend Brice Smith. The work is an exploration of new techniques and sound worlds while maintaining my own musical language and artistic tendencies. Recently I have been interested in the question who is music for, who is the world for, and how are people supposed to act and be in spaces that are not their own. How am I as a queer man supposed to act in spaces inhabited primarily by the heterosexual world. This has been made more clear having moved from a neighborhood that was the center of LGBT life in Seattle where I would walk down the street and feel a sense of homogeneous community. My goal for this work was to find a way to take something that is comfortable (the flutists ability to play their instrument), and my own abilities (composing melodies with harmonies, rhythms ect.) and place it within a context of unfamiliarity. A context that LGBT folk are familiar with. We are rarely in a place that is ours, but that begs the question, what is ours? Gay men have gay bars, but they are often times exclusionary of women, people of color, and non cis-gendered individuals. My hope is to open up this dialogue and to ask the question to the performer and the listener, who is this space for, and does its mere existence exclude those individuals who are in the most need of familiarity.   

    a few words is all it takes

    Program Notes

    I am my own person. I will not be blindly following someone just because I respect them for some arbitrary reason. They say family is the most important thing, but sometimes you don’t have to agree with them or even like them. Sometimes your mentors are not right. Sometimes you realize that they don’t have your best interest on the mind, and sometimes one person says a few words that makes you realize that you have been blindly following the heard, while being the loudest person in the room to hide from your own insecurities. A few words is all it takes to realize that you are your own person, and life is what you make of it, and not what other people make of it for you.

     

  • Three New Pieces!

    Wow what a productive month. I took a week off from my job to focus full time on composing. Wow the amount of work I got done. 

    Songs of the open road was written for a concert happening on Whibey Island as part of New Music on the Rock happening on June 23rd. 

    PROGRAM NOTES

    Songs of the Open Road comes from Walt Whitman’s poem appearing in his 1856 collection Leaves of Grass. When Whitman wrote this poem, the United State of America was undergoing extensive westward expansion. Little did they know that these small cities would grow into the west coast metropolises we know today that are vitally important to the democratic conversation in our country today. This edition consists of the first four sections of the poem (with 15 sections in all) creating four songs.

    For these pieces, I updated the setting to imagine a road trip through the open road of the United States in 2018. A time when it seems as if everything is terrible. A time when sometimes we just want to take a road trip into the country to forget our problems. But the crumbling infrastructure in our cities, both physical and social, sneak into our psyche. When we want to explore a closeness to the earth, we are so consumed with the business of other people, we lose touch with what is really important with our own individual existence -- becoming good citizens of the earth and caring for one another as people.

    The other two pieces are written for Sarah Bassingthwaight, and Storm Benjamin for flute and percussion for an event that will benifit the Sound Ensemble, an orginzation that I support and serve on the board. They were a lot of fun, and I was only given a week to compose them, (as opposed to the other piece which took me nearly 2 months) 


    The first 

    Improvisation & Caprice

    PROGRAM NOTES

    Upon talking with the performers, I felt like there was this element of Improvisation to the project that they wanted me to compose, yet there were these sudden bursts of energy that sometimes came from nowhere. It reminded me of a piece by composer Eugène Bozza Improvisation et Caprice, which asks the composer to play the first section (the improvisation) –avec le caractère d’une improvisation meaning with the character of an improvisation, followed by the second section (the caprice). 

    In this piece, I put the improvisation throughout the piece, with sudden bursts of energy. The definition of Caprice is “a sudden and unaccountable change in mood or behavior.” That was definitely my goal. 

    The cover art is a rose given to my by comedian Bill Murray, who is known for his improvisation. I had the opportunity to meet him in Seattle in December 2017 while he was on tour. I was asked to turn pages for the pianist, and during the show, they messed with me on stage without telling me beforehand so that I would look visibly shocked. At the end of the show he throws roses into the audience, and saves the last one for me. I saved the rose for a memory, and managed to take this picture at the time. Bill Murray is the epitome of improv & caprice. 

    the second

    PROGRAM NOTES

    not a moment too soon, is an idiom that I think plays a major role in our lives at this very moment in history. I think all of us are fairly anxious in regards to the state of the world at this moment. I think most of us are hoping for a savior of some sort just in the nick of time.

    The cover art is of an incredibly saturated moon taken by the composer. Sometimes he wishes he could just escape to the moon and start a new colony without the social and political issues of earth. 

    Future Plans

    As far as what is next, I have a fairly busy summer coming up. I will be moving to East Lansing Michigan where I will be working on a Doctorate in Music Compostiion and Theory from Michigan State University, where I will be a Graduate Assistant, teaching Theory & Aural Skills. 

    At the same time I will be completing the remaining 11 songs for Songs of the Open road, and will hopefully premiere that with Sammie Gorham in 2019 sometime. I will also be reducing my Opera Christopher downt to 3 vocalists and Piano, and will be performed by Opera Muse in 2019. 


    All of the new pieces are now available on my website for purchase

  • as I escape, the water calms

    New piece for Lotus, a new saxophone trio based out in Arizona with Justin Rollefson, Sam Detweiler, and Kristen Zelenak. This piece has a lot of deep meaning to me, and is one of the fastest pieces I've composed in awhile. I couldn't stop writing. Score and parts are for sale here

    Program Notes 

    In 2015 I wrote a piece called he said there was no sound for the Rogue Trio in response to the school shootings that had become an epidemic. Since then, shootings have not only continued to happen they have become larger with death counts on the rise. Every single time, it gets worse. After the shooting in Orlando at the Pulse Night Club, I sat down to write a piece completely in tears. I never made it past the first page. They have taken our safe spaces. As an openly gay man, the one place where I am supposed to live with zero fear of persecution became one of my biggest fears. When will it end? 

    On October 1st, 2017, a man decided to end the lives of 58 individuals at the Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip. When I was growing up, my grandparents lived about five minutes from the strip. I have been to the Mandalay Bay at least 10 times. My younger sister, who I have had a strained relationship with for the past few months was supposed to go to a concert at the Mandalay Bay on October 7th, 2017, a concert that could have easily been the week before. 

    The cover art and subject of this piece seem to be conflicting in inspiration. About four days before the shooting, I had been asked by the saxophone trio Lotus to compose a new work for saxophone trio. Having worked with Justin Rollefson in the past on he said there was no sound, I had to say yes. Normally when I compose a new work, I sit down with the commissioner, and I ask them what they want the piece to be about. I try to find common ground between us in areas that have affected us in ways that will become a more meaningful creative experience. We surfaced on nature, hiking, rivers, and waterfalls. It took me back to an experience I had earlier this summer at Snoqualmie Falls, here in Washington about 45 minutes east of Seattle. 

    We had been hanging out when he randomly had the inclination to get out of the city. It was already about 3 pm, so he decided to take an impromptu trip to Snoqualmie and asked me to come along. Having never been, I jumped at the chance to see what had been described as one of the most beautiful sights in the region. The way the colors are so much more vibrant at that time of day. If you go at the right time, you can see rainbows. The water hitting the rocks below is incredibly calming. At the time, I desperately needed an escape from my normal day-to-day life. 

    As I reflect back on that experience I just sometimes want to escape to nature and live a calm existence while listening to the constant sound of a waterfall. This piece is my response to Mandalay Bay, and how I hope to continue living my life in spite of the true evil that exists in the world. 

  • other cities, and future projects

    New piece! other cities was commissioned by Chris Sies, and will be performed sometime in the spring. I hope to have a recording by November. Chris is the percussionist in the group Latitude 49 and they will be doing my work "he said there was no sounds" on one of their programs coming up soon.

    Program Notes:

    People often forget how much where they live affects how they live their lives. I often walk around the city I’m currently living in and think about all the other cities I’ve lived in and visited, and how that has shaped who I am. Growing up in a sprawling suburb that is the 6th largest city in the US, then moving to the largest city in the US. I then moved to a small college town, and by the time I wrote this piece, I was living in a medium sized city. So many different landscapes, all with their own types of nature, sounds, and people.

    Chris Sies, to whom this piece is written for has experienced a similar phenomenon, especially as he prepares to move to a small town in Texas with a density nearly 2.5 times less than the small town we both lived in in the mid west. As I think about the urban sprawl there, or up-zoning here, I question where are the similarities. We are all people trying to make it through this world. We have busy lives. We travel the world. And at the end of the day we are shaped by other cities. 

    Also:

    Other things that are going on. I am now writing a new piece for Saxophone Trio for the Lotus Trio, based out in Arizona. I wrote "he said there was no sound" for Justin Rollefson of the Rogue Trio in 2015, and he has asked me to write this new work for him. Its going pretty well so far, the title will be "as I escape, the water calms" It explores my connection with nature, as a means of escape for the realities of the world today. Expect to see that later this month.

    I've been asked to serve on the Board of the Sound Ensemble. They are a really wonderful ensemble based in Seattle, and share my values in programing by not having an aesthic limit. Also as a flexible ensemble they are able to a wide variaty of work. I hope to help them continue the sucess they have shown over the last 3 years.

    Things with ÆPEX Contemporary Performance are going great. We just announced our third season which can be found on that website. 

    I also recieved a new commission from composer and organist Benjamin Teague (UK) that I will be working on when I complete the saxophone trio. More details when I release the saxophone trio.

    Finally, I have been asked to serve on the faculty of the Seattle Conservatory of Music. I will be developing the curriculum for the pre-college program, teaching 4 pre-college age students composition. For more info visit their website at http://seattleconservatory.org

  • above the cascades

    It's been awhile since I was able to write about what I have been up to. I promise you have been busy, juggling multiple projects. above the cascades is one, along side a work on Mount St. Helens for Michael Heitmann, as well as a new percussion piece for percussionist Chris Sies


    I'm also in the process of starting a duo with talented soprano Sammie Gorham. Watch here for more info to come on that. 

    p r o g r a m   n o t e s 

    The mountains are part of what makes the Pacific Northwest a beautiful sight. On one side of the cascades is a rainy temperate climate; while on the other is an arid desert. The mountains create a rain shadow causing little to no precipitation. The snow-covered mountains are a gorgeous sight to see. This piece explores the approximately 7-minute flight from the moment you can see the Cascades to the moment you cannot see them anymore. As with many of my other pieces which explore flying; as a frequent traveler I often look out the window and explore the great expanse from above the clouds. The larger moments that occur in this piece are during periods of when I could see larger mountains, but the work stays fairly active throughout the piece due to the nearly 80 miles of constant mountainous terrain with little to no open space in between.