Necessary Annealing performed by Yarn|Wire

Annealing is the process of applying alternating treatments of tension and relaxation to a material in order to better realize its potential. Annealing reorganizes a material from the inside out. For example, after a metal has been through a process of annealing, a process that tests and expands its material limits, it will inexplicably be more durable, flexible, and potentially useful.

Necessary Annealing uses as a jumping off point the exploration of the process of annealing musical materials. In this work musical materials are pushed to their limits of activity and stillness, ultimately revealing a hidden, embedded music at the end of the work.

Necessary Annealing was realized as part of an October 2016 residency with electroacoustic composer Natasha Barrett at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, FL. This work was composed for the 2017 Yarn/Wire residency at University of Virginia. 

Performed and recorded by Yarn|Wire at the end of January, 2017 as part of their residency at University of Virginia.


Over the past year I composed a piece for string quartet and electronics titled Elements in preparation for a short residency of the JACK Quartet at University of Virginia that I helped organize. The program notes for this piece read:

Elements follows the birth and death of a world through the lens of combinations of the four alchemical base elements: Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind.
The timid, then explosive formation of the Earth is followed by a presentation of the four base elements in their purest form. The base elements disappear, and as the activity subsides Water and Earth mix to form a slurry of rich, living activity. Wind returns, splitting the earth into ground and sky and catalyzing the activity of the Water into a chaotic force. The chaos builds to ignite Fire, which heats the Earth and scorches all life. A period of stasis follows, before a light haze rises, a memory of what used to be. The haze dries and falls to Earth, ending the piece.

This work consists of three layers: the material performed by the quartet, a fixed electronic composition, and a reactive, intermediary texture created through analysis of the performed material in real-time. An example of this last texture is a pizz. gesture triggering the playback of an audio file of a water droplet at a matching intensity level (dynamic, timbral valence).

This piece also makes some unique notational choices. All of the material of the piece is derived from a set of Gestures, Textures, and Transitions, the first page of which is below:

The first page of the score can be seen below, which has staves for the quartet, the Instrument Tone Extender (the interactive electronic component), and the fixed media part of the piece.

A recording of the piece performed by the quartet can be heard (and soon seen) below.


This last year I responded to a call for works from the Parvenue Duo, a group consisting of Megan Kyle, oboe, (a classmate of mine at Oberlin) and Katie Weissman, cello, based in Buffalo, NY. The piece I composed for oboe, cello, and live electronics ended up being called Splinters.

This was my first venture into live electronics for performers other than myself (and was followed by Trio, described in this blog post) The live interaction is limited but effective. Any time that I was able to use fixed electronics (i.e. sound files) I did, but at three points in the piece the performer’s live input is recorded and granulated into clouds, creating chordal accompaniment from a monophonic sound source.

First use of live-granulation in _Splinters _(cue 7)

The piece has a number of different textures and relationships between the instruments and electronics. The work will be performed in Buffalo, NY and recorded by the Parvenue Duo in the fall.

UPDATE: here is a video of Parvenue Duo performing the piece:


The New York-based, “lung-powered music” ensemble loadbang was in residency for several days at University of Virginia this year, and they performed my work “Path” for ensemble and live electronics.

The instrumentation of the ensemble is unique: high baritone voice, trumpet, trombone, and bass clarinet. I decided early on to treat the voice as another instrument, that is to not divide the group into solo voice with instrumental accompaniment. To reinforce this, the singer uses no text and instead uses different vowels for timbral variety (mimicking the timbral variety introduced in the brass through different kinds of muting). I also decided to make the material of the piece very simple: diatonic pitch collections in Ab and D. This allowed me to focus on texture and form.

The resulting piece is meditative and moody, switching from sections of resonant drone to chaotic, improvised textures and back again. The electronics of the piece incorporate electronic drones and pastoral recordings made on the East coast.