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keyboard works

FLIGHT OF FANCY (2014)

listen score

• Duration: 6’ (1 movement)
• Commissioned by Zachary Klobnak and The Presbyterian Church of Danville for the 15th Anniversary of the Taylor and Boody Pipe Organ
• Premiere: Zachary Klobnak, organ, Danivlle, KY, 11/16/14
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


Flight of Fancy was my first work for organ. The piece was commissioned by my friend and colleague Zach Klobnak, who was looking for a work that was toccata-like and celebratory, fitting for a concert that celbrated the 15th anniversary of their organ. The organ uses Kellner temperament, a tuning that arguably was used by Bach. I tried to write the piece in a way that would bring out some of the special features of this temperament.

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FROM THE CORNER ROOM (2008)

• Duration: 15’ (7 movements)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


1. suddenly flight; 2. the clouds were strange; 3. creep/pounce; 4. still waiting; 5. out of the toybox; 6. don’t go there; 7. dah guhduh

From the corner room is a set of varied short character pieces, written in my corner room studio. I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which great composers such as Chopin, Debussy, Janacek, Bartok, and Satie have been able to convey an entire musical “world” within pieces lasting only a few minutes. I studied many of these pieces in my formative years as a pianist, and the character piece for piano is thus a genre I’ve often turned to as way to experiment with new ideas, as a sort of compositional renewal, and as a way to explore a range of moods and colors.

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THE ALCHEMY OF SOLITUDE (2006)



• Duration: 7’ (1 movement)
• Premiere: L. Bitensky, piano, Centre College, 3/4/07
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


The Alchemy of Solitude was written during my sabbatical break of 2006. I wrote this short but weighty work in order to have a new piano work for me to perform and as a way to explore some new compositional ideas. It is somewhat of an essay on the melancholic, in which a deeply sad melody and mood gain momentum and build to a rhythmic groove and climax, only to fall back to melancholy again.

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SCENT OF THE WORLD WE GAVE UP (2004)



• Duration: 6’ (4 movements)
• Premiere: Elizabeth Wolfe, Centre College, 3/4/07
• Recognition: Distinguished Finalist, Jabez Press 2005 Composition Invitational
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

1. “scent of the world we gave up”; 2. “out of somewhere we have forgotten”; 3. “we wake into dreams of you”, 4. “in the fragrance of the morning”

Scent of the World We Gave Up is a small set of miniatures and an homage to one of my favorite composers, Claude Debussy. It is Debussy-esque both in its harmonies and mood, and in that it was inspired by the very impressionistic image of light on water. In this case, the water is the very un-Impressionistic Hudson River. In the summer of 2004 I spent a month house-sitting in a beautiful upper west side apartment overlooking the Hudson. For three weeks the sky was a relentless gray, and the light on the water suggested a mood that translated well into the chords I was playing on the piano at the time. The piece is a humble attempt to capture the lonesome, nostalgic and wistful mood evoked by this atmosphere. The movement titles are taken from the 2003 poem “To Smoke” by W.S. Merwin.

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RAPTURE (2001)
Eight Improvisations on Chasidic Folk songs


• Duration: 21’ (3 movements)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

1. Songs 1-3; 2. Songs 4-5; 3. Songs 6-8

Song has always occupied a prominent place in the culture of the Chasidim. Founded in Poland in the Eighteenth Century by Israel Baal-Shem Tov, the mystical Chasidic movement quickly spread throughout Eastern Europe. The leaders of the movement, known as Tzaddikim, greatly valued piety and joyous expression over traditional Jewish study. Music, particularly wordless vocal music, was therefore a vehicle for intense and ecstatic spiritual elevation. To the Chasidic mind, song is the soul of the universe. The Divine name is composed of four musical notes, and singing is an outpouring of the soul capable of reaching the highest spheres.

Tzaddikim and their followers regularly composed songs. While some songs have texts, words were generally considered to be limiting, interrupting the stream of emotions. These well-known niggunim, or wordless songs, are used for inspiration and preparation for worship. Rooted in liturgical chant, dance rhythms, and Jewish folk music, the Chasidic niggun is heavily influenced by Slavic folk music, Cossack dances, and military marches as well.

Like Bartok’s Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Folk Tunes, Op. 8, Rapture: Eight Improvisations on Chasidic Folk Tunes is set of free improvisations on existing tunes, arranged into three movements. The tunes are taken from Abraham Idelshon’s Thesaurus of Hebrew-Oriental Melodies, Vol. 10: Songs of the Chassidim. The original tunes, included in the appendix, contain a variety of modes and exhibit a range of expression, from vigorous and exultant dance-like tunes to ecstatic reveries. Half are wordless, some have religious texts (numbers 1, 7 and 8 ), and one (number 5) is a humorous caricature of the Chassidic tune with a satirical text written by an opponent of the movement.

The three movements should be played without interruption. If desired, the pianist may play the original tunes included in the appendix before or after the performance.

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VOCALISE (1998)
For piano, one hand


PURCHASE CD

• Duration: 8' (1 movement)
• Premiere: Denine LeBlanc, Centre College, 11/02/00
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)
• Recording: The Sun Shines Bright, Sea Breeze Vista records (SEAB 4002), Denine Leblanc, piano


Vocalise is a study in several respects. It is a compositional study on an extended melodic line, in which a large-scale form is created using purely melodic ideas without recourse to harmony. Two or more notes are never played simultaneously. It is also a rhythmic study in which the performer must decipher numerous rhythmic complexities to achieve the effect of a fluid and quasi-improvisational melodic sweep. Finally, in the tradition of one-handed piano pieces, it is a study that tests the pianist’s endurance and ability to command the entire piano with one hand.

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JEWELS (1996)



• Duration: 3’ (1 movement)
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)

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SHOUTS AND MURMURS, BOOK I (1996)



• Duration: 10’ (6 movements)
• Premiere: L. Bitensky, the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 5/1/97
• Recognition: Winning entry, 1997 Friends and Enemies of New Music Composition Competition; 1997 Modern Chamber Players Composition Competition
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


1. Divided Arpeggios; 2. Perpetual Invention; 3. Ostinato; 4. Song Without Words; 4. Dance; 6. Improvisation

Shouts and Murmurs, Book I may be played before Shouts and Murmurs, BookII. The final two movements of Book 2 may also be played after Book 1 for an effective 12-minute piece.

Shouts and Murmurs, Books I and II, is a set of short character pieces, in the tradition of and inspired by the great sets of Chopin, Schumann, and Debussy. During the writing of these sets, I enjoyed exploring the romantic terrain traversed by some of these great piano composers: the flowing and spinning-out melody of Chopin; the rhythmic oddities and disjunctions in Schumann; the way in which melody and harmony merge in many works of Schumann; the fascination with piano sound and sonority; and the very un-classical allure of the fragmented, the chaotic, and the transitory.

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SHOUTS AND MURMURS, BOOK II (1995)



• Duration: 10’ (6 movements)
• Instrumentation: pno. or fortepno.

• Premiere: L. Bitensky, Cornell University, 9/14/96
• Recognition: Winning entry, 1997 Friends and Enemies of New Music Composition Competition; 1997 Modern Chamber Players Composition Competition
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


1. Tranquillo; 2. Prestissimo; 3. Flowing, poco rubato; 4. Scherzando; 4. Largo con espressione; 6. Martellato

Shouts and Murmurs, Book II is for piano or fortepiano.

Shouts and Murmurs, Book I may be played before Shouts and Murmurs, BookII. The final two movements of Book 2 may also be played after Book 1 for an effective 12-minute piece.

Shouts and Murmurs, Books I and II, is a set of short character pieces, in the tradition of and inspired by the great sets of Chopin, Schumann, and Debussy. During the writing of these sets, I enjoyed exploring the romantic terrain traversed by some of these great piano composers: the flowing and spinning-out melody of Chopin; the rhythmic oddities and disjunctions in Schumann; the way in which melody and harmony merge in many works of Schumann; the fascination with piano sound and sonority; and the very un-classical allure of the fragmented, the chaotic, and the transitory.

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ONE FOR TWO (1993)



• Duration: 12’ (1 movement)
• Instrumentation: 2 pno.
• Premiere: Tom Beghin, Andrew Willis, 11/14/93
• Publisher: Silly Black Dog Music (ASCAP)


One for Two is a student work that I have kept in my catalog since it was an early attempt to explore different ways of combining evolving cycles of rhythm and harmony with more narrative, goal-oriented processes - a preoccupation of mine in later works as well. As the name implies, this is a one movement piece. It falls roughly into three sections: a highly rhythmic opening section that thins out to an extended slower moving and dreamier middle section, leading to a return to the rhythmic energy of the opening.