wind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

orchestra works

awake picture

AWAKE, YOU SLEEPERS! (2010)
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
For John Hagstrom, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Also available in version for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble (2002)

listen score

• Duration: 17’ (3 movements)
• Instrumentation: Solo C trumpet + 2 + picc. (2 doub alto), 2 +Eng. Hn., 2 + B. Cl. (1 doub. Eb), 2 + Cbsn. / 4, 3, 2+ bass trb., 1 / 4 perc. / Hp./ pno. (doub cel.) / Strings
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


1. Tekiah 2. Shevarim 3. Teruah

The ancient instrument known as the shofar, or ram's horn, has a special place in the Jewish tradition. Legend recounts that its sound was heard at the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, the tumbling walls of Jericho, as a call for battle, and that its sound will be heard to herald a messianic era. The instrument has survived through post-Biblical and contemporary times and features prominently in the liturgy of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The blowing of the shofar in the Rosh Hashanah service is a call for repentance, symbolically awakening the sleeper from a moral and spiritual slumber.

Each of the three movements of Awake, You Sleepers! is based on one of the three calls associated with the blowing of the shofar. Tekiah is a long note rising in pitch; shevarim is three shorter notes; and teruah is a long repeated staccato blast. Each movement is also preceded by well-known verses from the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. Much of the music for Awake, You Sleepers! is based on Rosh Hashanah motives and melodies that occur in the German/East-European musical tradition.

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EINSTEIN'S DREAMS (2010)


• Duration: 15’ (4 movements)
• Instrumentation: 2 (1 doub picc.), 2, 2, 2 / 4, 3, 2 + bass trb., 1 / timp+5 perc. / pno. /synth./ str.
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

1. Goin’ Up; 2. Flatland; 3. Meet the Beetle; 4. LightRide

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was known to conduct “thought experiments” as a way to arrive at creative insights into questions that he posed for himself. For instance, when he was 16 he imagined what it would be like to chase after a beam of light. He later said that this thought experiment played a memorable role in his development of special relativity. Einstein’s Dreams is a fun and lighthearted musical depiction of this and several similar scenes from Einstein’s imagination.

Movement 1, “Goin’ Up,” is based on a thought experiment in which an elevator is suspended in space, being pulled upward by an imaginary creature. This “experiment” was used to formulate the “equivalence principle” that would be the foundation of general relativity. The image is elaborated in "Goin' Up" as the iimaginary creature pulls the elevator to a planet filled with similar creatures, all making their characteristic call.

The second movement, “Flatland,” is the title of an 1884 book by Edwin Abbott. In this book, a humble square lives in two-dimensional world inhabited by geometric figures, line segments, and the like, all who enjoy salsa dancing (okay, I made that llast part up). He is then visited by a three-dimensional sphere from the world of “spaceland” who opens up the square’s mind to possibility of further dimensions. This imaginary world is sometimes used to explain general relativity.

When asked how he came up with his ideas, Einstein once said that “when a blind beetle crawls over the surface of a curved branch, he doesn’t realize that the track he has covered is curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it.” This image forms the basis for movement 3.

The fourth movement, “LightRide,” is a fast moving finale based on the “thought experiment” of chasing a beam of light. Once he caught up to the beam, Einstein reasoned, the light wave would appear frozen. The movement is loosely programmatic, depicting Albert humming mindlessly to himself, being startled by a beam of light, chasing after it, riding the beam, and experiencing the frozen wave.

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LIGHTRIDE (2009)
Movement 4 from Einstein’s Dreams



• Duration: 6' (1 movement)
• Instrumentation: 2 (1 doub picc.), 2, 2, 2 / 4, 3, 2 + bass trb., 1 / timp+5 perc. / pno. / str.
• Premiere: The Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra -- Kayoko Dan, conductor, 2/27/10
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was known to conduct “thought experiments” as a way to arrive at creative insights into questions that he posed for himself. For instance, when he was 16 he imagined what it would be like to chase after a beam of light. Once he caught up to the beam, Einstein reasoned, the light wave would appear frozen. He later said that this thought experiment played a memorable role in his development of special relativity.

LIGHTRIDE is a fun and lighthearted musical depiction of Einstein’s famous “thought experiment” and is loosely programmatic, depicting Albert being startled by a beam of light, chasing after it, riding the beam, and experiencing the frozen wave. The piece is also the finale to Einstein’s Dreams, a 4-movement work depicting several similar scenes from Einstein’s imagination.

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FOR DAY IS NEAR (in progress)

• Duration: 15’ (1 movement)
• Instrumentation: 2 (1 doub picc.), 2, 2, 2 / 4, 3, 2 + bass trb., 1 / timp. +3 perc. / pno. / str.
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

As a graduate student at Cornell, my teacher Steven Stucky often tried to instill in me his great love of the music of Jean Sibelius. Although I resisted it at the time, I had a serious conversion experience soon after graduating, and I’ve now long had a deep love and fascination for the seamless textures and organic patterns of growth and decay found in works like the 7th symphony and others. Unlike a traditional approach that proceeds by symphonic “argument,” Sibelius discovered a new approach to form, rooted in nature mysticism, in which sections of material are repeated and developed cyclically.

Although I did not try to imitate Sibelius or adopt his technical procedures, the spirit of his approach to the unfolding of musical ideas is similar to my own aesthetic, and I believe his ghost somehow haunts For Day is Near. The piece moves by generating several waves of energy, each a variation on a cluster of musical ideas and anchored by a long, arching melody that grows organically from itself.

The title is a fragment from Sappho, the mysterious Ancient Greek poet, and has to do with the genesis of the piece. Sappho’s work consists largely of beautiful, yet enigmatic and evocative fragments. I had set several of these fragments with a cluster of related musical ideas for a project that I since abandoned. As I began exploring ideas for this orchestral piece, these musical/melodic figures resurfaced and became woven together to form the basic melodic/formal arc of For Day is Near. Thus, the work is dually haunted by the unlikely combination of an ancient Greek poet and the composer of Finlandia.

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. . . A PERFECT REST (2000)
A Jewish Prayer of Remembrance


• Duration: 18’ (1 movement)
• Instrumentation: 2 (1 doub picc.), 1, Eng. Hn., 2 (1 doub Eb), 2 / 2, 2, 1 / timp. / hp. / str.
• Premiere: The Princeton Symphony Orchestra -- Mark Laycock, conductor, 3/16/03
• Recognition: Distinguished Finalist - 2007 New England Philharmonic Call for Scores / Finalist- 2007 Columbia Orchestra Call for Scores / Distinguished Finalist - 2006 New England Philharmonic Call for Scores / Winning Entry -- Omaha Symphony New Music Competition (2004); Special Distinction - 22nd ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Award (2002)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

". . . a perfect rest" is based on a traditional melody for El Male Rachamim, the Jewish memorial prayer. The prayer and its melody have a long and painful history. During the bloody Chmielnitzki pogroms of 1648, four Jewish communities were captured by the Tatars. When the cantor, or chazzan, Hirsch of Zywotow, chanted the prayer El Male Rachamim, the congregation burst into tears, moving the Tatars to release the three-thousand Jews. A similar story told of the chazzan Solomon Rasumny of the Russian town of Kishinev. In 1903, Czarist officials organized a wave of anti-Semitic violence against a population already left impoverished from Czarist laws restricting Jewish rights. Jews were massacred, homes and synagogues were destroyed, and thousands of Jews were left homeless. As a response, the Kishinev chazzan Rasumny composed a melody for El Male Rachamim. This melody has been preserved and forms the basis for ". . . a perfect rest." His stirring composition shows the intense emotional power of the East European cantorial style known as chazzanut. The opening cello solo is a free adaptation of the melody followed by what is essentially one long orchestral interpretation, commentary, and variation.

"It was an extraordinarily sensitive and beautiful work. The unique points of this piece is it is a modern composition that speaks directly to the heart. It is very beautiful, powerful, and he uses the orchestra very well. From a music director's perspective, I was very impressed with its craftsmanship and artistry of the piece. It was beautiful and brought a significant message to the audience." -- Mark Laycock, Music Director, Princeton Symphony Orchestra

"For such a short piece, about 15 minutes in length, it is quite moving, a meditative soliloquy based on a traditional melody for "El Male Rachamim," a Jewish memorial prayer for the dead, which principal cellist Jodi Beder intoned with profound tenderness. Bitensky's "rest" is full of sensuous, snaking melodies based on Jewish chant, melodies that float and wind their way throughout the orchestral texture, eventually erupting into moments of full brass declamation. The harp is used to add a silvery spray of color, while basses spend much of their time holding pianissimo sustained notes. Bitensky's grasp of how to use tension between high and low instruments and sustained and progressing pitch patterns worked well in articulating the mournful nature of his musical material." -- Willa J. Conrad, Newark Star-Ledger, 3/18/03

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TO TOUCH THE SKY (1995)
Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Chamber Orchestra (or Chamber Winds)



• Duration: 9’ (1 movement)
• Instrumentation: 2 (1 doub picc.), 1, Eng. Hn., 2 (1 doub Eb), 2 / 2, 2, 1 / timp./ hp. / str.
• Premiere: Sudip Bose, violin, Stephanie Vial, cello, the Festival Chamber Orchestra- Mark Scatterday, conductor, 4/8/95
• Recognition: Winner of 1996 ASCAP Foundation Young Composers Competition
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


During the writing of To Touch the Sky, I was interested in exploring ways to generate musical form from long-breathed phrases of melody. Lightly scored for solo violin and cello and a chamber ensemble of winds, percussion, and double bass, To Touch the Sky basically falls into three sections. A free, arching melodic line presented by the solo cello dominates the first section. This is answered by a similar melody in the solo violin. Finally, the two come together in a more rhythmic song to close the piece. The ensemble provides support and countermelodies throughout. This approach seemed to provide an alternative to the more “confrontational” approach to concerted works in which soloists are pitted “against” each other and the larger ensemble.

To Touch the Sky was written for my friends Sudip Bose and Stephanie Vial.