Baby (1975) was my "graduation" piece, after finishing my BA. Subtitled "a theater concerto for viola (doubling guitar & violin), chamber ensemble & obbligato dancer," Baby was intended as an over-the-top extravaganza, poking fun at all the conventions of musical performance. This recording of the first performance in February, 1976, includes plenty of audience reactions to the theatrical shenanigans of the performers, including a burst of laughter and applause as the soloist's viola descends from the ceiling on a wire, in a shower of glitter. Tittering at the start of the slow movement was prompted by the percussionists stretching and yawning. In the Finale, the dancer went amok in the percussion section, the ensuing chaos well documented here. The title, which seemed apt for a work that took nine months from conception to delivery, should be thought of as the way the work addresses the audience.
Six Significant Landscapes (1977) for viola & percussion was inspired by the Wallace Stevens poem of the same name. In this work, the viola is heard in six different percussion "landscapes," including vibraphone, prepared piano, harpsichord, and steel drums. The work continues the rather theatrical performance mode used in Baby, though without the same nose-thumbing tonality present in the earlier work.
The Twain Converged (1979) was first performed on my graduate recital in September, 1979. The title came from a poem by Thomas Hardy about the sinking of the Titanic, but the poem really addresses the idea of inevitability and fate. The Twain Converged accompanied the monolog "Heavy Date" (text by W.H. Auden) in my performance piece Love Songs: A Record. Retraced Steps (1983) is a response to Debussy's Des pas sur le neige, the sixth of his Preludes, Book One.
Part of the reason I became interested in performance art was that it seemed a better way to explore autobiographical material. In the 1990s, after reading Susan McClary's book Feminine Endings, I decided that perhaps I had just chickened out, and I decided to see if I could address autobiographical content in purely musical terms. For Seasons (1993) is the result of that exploration. The second movement, Winter Morning, was prompted by the death of two of my friends to AIDS while I was composing the work. The music quotes the hymn tune "Parting Friends," and at the end, a shape-note tune called "Fiducia." The texts of the two songs are indicative of my feelings of loss and consolation at the time of these two deaths. The initial mood of denial moves to an outpouring of grief, and in the end acceptance: "But to reside in Thine embrace, is infinite delight."
Improvised music has long been part of my creative output. Composing and improvising seem to be the same impetus for me. My most frequent collaborator and fellow improviser has been violist Barbara Steg. In 2007, we went into the studio to record our versions of some "standards," well-known songs favored by jazz musicians. Our take on the ubiquitous "Autumn Leaves" bore a striking resemblance to certain moment's in George Crumb's work, "Eleven Echoes of Autumn." Hence, the title Eleven Echoes of Autumn Leaves.
My lip-synch opera, Confusion (2007) traced the life of the infamous (fictional) Natasha R, one of the greatest sopranos of her day. The entire opera was recorded, and in live performance, the performers lip synch the recording. Since the work is really about the phenomenon of "fandom," in which people lose their own identitie in their adoration of a celebrity, it seemed appropriate that none of the performers onstage would speak with their own voice. Not surprisingly, for rabid fans, all the characters in the opera seem obsessed with photographs. The opera included a scene "illustrated" by my photographs of Paris. In the scene heard here, the Narrator (he has no other name) talks about how important photographic images of Natasha R were for him.