» Chamber/Solo Pieces

Chamber/Solo Pieces

A Drop of Honey (2018)

clarinet, sitar, violin, viola & cello

10 min.

“Hope. It’s like a drop of honey, a field of tulips blooming in the springtime. It’s a fresh rain, a whispered promise, a cloudless sky…” –Tahereh Mafi

A Drop of Honey was created especially for a subset of the Allegra Chamber Orchestra– one of the only all-female professional orchestras in the world, based in Vancouver, Canada, directed by Janna Sailor. The piece was written for a special concert, “Songs for Scheherazade”, as part of Vancouver’s Indian Summer Festival. A Drop of Honey is loosely based in Raag Charukeshi, a scale used in classical Indian music, with a sharp 3rd degree of the scale, and a flat 6th and 7th. The music develops slowly and gently, through an introduction and a couple of shorter, improvised alap sections in the sitar, building into a steady tempo. Toward the middle of the piece, an ancient pavane melody, “Belle qui tiens ma vie”, by French composer Jehan Tabourot (1520-1595), makes its appearance in the strings and clarinet, before morphing back into the Charukeshi scale. The piece continues to build up to a quick-tempo jhala conclusion.

A Drop of Honey received its premiere by Allegra Chamber Orchestra, with Saina Khaledi (santoor), at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, on July 15th, 2018.

(Note: the piece was originally composed for sitar, but a santoor was substituted for the premiere performance).
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Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://musiccentre.ca/node/152800

You Dream in Beauty (2018)

text by Fraser Nixon

mezzo-soprano, tenor, acoustic guitar, piano, violin, cello

6 min.

You Dream in Beauty was selected as the winning proposal for a new piece, in a composition contest sponsored by Erato Ensemble, a Vancouver-based art song/chamber music ensemble. The piece was conceived as a modern reinterpretation of Luys de Narváez’s Cancion del Emperador, originally written for vihuela, in 1538. Its melodic material is reworked and reimagined here with an expanded instrumentation (two voices, guitar, piano, violin, and cello), and set to a poem written in villanelle form—the villanelle form being something that originated roughly around the same time as the Cancion del Emperador was composed. The poem was written specifically as text for this new piece, by Vancouver-based author Fraser Nixon.

You Dream in Beauty received its premiere by Erato Ensemble, at the Orpheum Annex, Vancouver, Canada, on May 26th, 2018.

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You dream in beauty
on the western shore
knitting labyrinths
of raveled sleep
I pass in silence through
A stranger’s door

& when you rise, my love
(whom I adore)
what music will you bring
from rivers deep?
You dream in beauty
on the western shore

Here, at harvest, when
what’s sown must reap
the rich man eats his own poor brother
for god is good
& life is cheap
I pass in silence through
a stranger’s door

They who only want to take
will be forever taking more
But love is free to give
& forever ours to keep
You dream in beauty
on the western shore

Where were you—walking slipshod
on some farther western shore?
Your footsteps disappearing
in retreating oceansweep
I pass in silence
through a stranger’s door

Red suns leap over mountaintops
bright as wild lion’s roar
rains fall upon us all
darkened seas
beneath dead moons
who never weep

We dream in beauty on a stranger shore
We pass in silence through the western door

Fraser Nixon (1976- )

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Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://musiccentre.ca/node/152283

 

Watch a video of the premiere performance here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, listen on Soundcloud here:

Dear Nora (2016)

solo cello and stereo electroacoustic track
6 min.

When I came across a letter penned by Irish writer James Joyce in the summer of 1904 (22 years old at the time) to his future wife, Nora Barnacle, whom he had just met– I fell in love with these words. I think they express the tender uncertainty of new love so perfectly—something many of us have felt, but few of us could articulate so clearly. This piece was composed for solo cello and stereo electroacoustic track, with Joyce’s text read by Vancouver-based author, Fraser Nixon.

Dear Nora was premiered at the Western Front, Vancouver, Canada, on March 18th, 2017, as part of the Sonic Boom Festival.

– – –

“15 August, 1904

My dear Nora,

It has just struck me. I came in at half past eleven. Since then I have been sitting in an easy chair like a fool. I could do nothing. I hear nothing but your voice. I am like a fool hearing you call me ‘Dear.’ I offended two men today by leaving them coolly. I wanted to hear your voice, not theirs.

When I am with you I leave aside my contemptuous, suspicious nature. I wish I felt your head on my shoulder. I think I will go to bed.

I have been a half-hour writing this thing. Will you write something to me? I hope you will. How am I to sign myself? I won’t sign anything at all, because I don’t know what to sign myself.”

– – –

Sheet music for this piece is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://musiccentre.ca/node/37862/sheet_music

 

Two Fiddlers (2015)

solo piano (intermediate level)

1 min. 35 sec.

Two Fiddlers was based on a simple, modal melody, intended to recall traditional East Coast Canadian fiddling. The left hand, when it enters, brings a few more interesting harmonies, outside of the modal scale the right hand is using. Partway through the piece, the left hand (or “second fiddler”) crosses over the right hand on the keyboard and takes up the main melody. Metrical changes, offbeat accents, and the tradeoff of melodic material between the “two fiddlers” add to the playful spirit of the music.

Sheet music is available through Syrinx Press:

https://www.elizabethknudson.ca/syrinx-press

 

Slow Waltz (Falling Leaves) (2015)

solo piano (intermediate level)

1 min. 15 sec.

Sheet music is available through Syrinx Press:

https://www.elizabethknudson.ca/syrinx-press

 

Black is the Colour (2015)

solo cello
7 min. 

Black is the Colour was inspired by the Appalachian folk melody, “Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair”, and draws on this theme as the basis of a series of variations.  It also draws inspiration from the photography of Barcelona-born Canadian artist Tana (Tatiana Rivero Sanz), and was composed to accompany three contemporary dancers.

The piece received its premiere (with the composer as cellist), on April 18, 2015 at the Blank Tank Gallery in Gastown, Vancouver, along with dancers Linda Arkelian, Jessie Au, and Joylyn Secunda, to celebrate the opening of a solo visual art exhibition by Tana.

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/132450

 

Anatomy of a Spanish Garden (2014)

mandolin & guitar
9 min. 45 sec.

I. Stones and Roses
II. Beautiful Ruins
III. Light on Water
IV. Paths to the Sea

Anatomy of a Spanish Garden was inspired by an exploration of landscape architecture and design, with particular reference to several gardens in Spain. It occurred to me that there are many common elements between designing a garden, and creating a piece of music: structure and shape, careful selection of materials suited to the “climate”, a variety of surfaces (textures), interesting paths and vistas/resting points, colour and contrast.

The first movement, “Stones and Roses”, was inspired by San Segundo in Ávila, with its harsh climate, stone wall, and beautiful octagonal pool. The crisp, symmetrical shape of an octatonic scale first came to mind, which then led into the exploration of the Arabic ‘maqam’—still with the architectural clarity of axial pitches, but also the colour and warmth of tones falling outside the 12-tone equal tempered scale. The second movement, “Beautiful Ruins” references El Monasterio, a monastery in Castile, constructed in 1480. This movement grows organically out of a sparse reference (four notes) from Thomas Tallis’ Third Mode Melody. The third movement, “Light on Water”, had several garden-references, including Palacio de Oca, in Pontevedra, but at its heart is the idea of a lively, shimmering, transparent surface, and a deeper layer of colour. The fourth movement, “Paths to the Sea” is an imagining of Santa Clotilde at Costa Brava– lively, verdant, overlooking the sea.

Anatomy of a Spanish Garden received its premiere, with Mark Ferris- mandolin, and Adrian Verdejo- guitar, at Pyatt Hall, Vancouver, Canada, March 28, 2015.

Performed by Duo Ahlert & Schwab at Forum NRW in Hertogenrath, Germany, July 24, 2017.

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/124940

 

Equinox (2013)

oboe, violin, viola, cello
7 min. 

Equinox refers to the time of year when the sun crosses the celestial equator; when days and nights are of equal length.  For this work, I was thinking in particular of the autumnal equinox, when nature shifts from a lush green palette and long stretches of sunny days, to a more compressed, colourful existence with a briskness in the air, heralding the fall season.

This piece was composed for a Macedonian ensemble, Music Progressive Quartet, whom I had the pleasure to meet and tour with, while visiting the Balkans in summer of 2012.  There are many references to Balkan rhythms, melody, and ornamentation in this music, though not in any traditional context.  ‘Equinox’ is a convergence of elements that creates the unique sense of vitality and shifting of balance inherent in the changing seasons.

Equinox received its premiere, with Geronimo Mendoza- oboe, Mark Ferris- violin, Manti Poon- viola, and Sue Round- cello, at Pyatt Hall, Vancouver, Canada, March 30, 2014.

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/81132

 

Alchemy (2012)

horn, cello & piano

~20:15

Alchemy was conceived as a trio for horn, cello, and piano, in three movements. The three-part structure was inspired by the three stages of the medieval alchemical process– attempting to turn base metals into gold, or the ‘elixir of life’: 1: corruption/dissolution, 2: purification (linked to the moon and femininity), and 3: enlightenment/sublimation (linked to the sun and masculinity). The horn introduces a short theme in the first movement, which is then transformed through seven variations– seven being the number of metals involved in the alchemical process. The second movement is slow, sensuous, and lyrical, drawing inspiration from jazz tonalities, as well as from the delicate raindrop-like sound and polyrhythmic patterns of the kora (west African harp). The third movement brings the piece to a bright, rhythmically intense culmination.

-Commission funded in part by the Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Program of the International Horn Society

-2nd movement premiered by Oliver de Clercq- horn, Zoltan Rozsnyai- cello, and Chris Morano- piano, at the Sonic Boom Festival, Western Front, Vancouver, 25 March 2012

-full piece (all 3 mvts) premiered by Oliver de Clercq- horn, Ariel Barnes- cello, and Rachel Iwaasa- piano, at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Vancouver, 20 May, 2012

Sheet music is available through the International Horn Society:

http://www.hornsociety.org/marketplace/online-library#!/~/product/id=18634910

 

Yarilo (2007)

solo cello

15 min.

This piece is named after the Slavonic sun deity. According to legend, Yarilo returns from the otherworld each year after Shrovetide to usher in springtime and provide a bountiful harvest. He is celebrated in the springtime through the midsummer, but as his life is connected to the agricultural cycle, he is “killed” at the end of summer, along with the harvest of the crops. This piece takes its source material from four traditional Russian folksongs. Beginning with darkness/winter, the piece moves progressively through the yearly agricultural cycle.

 

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/32150