When I was growing up in Buffalo, NY, I was lucky in that I was always around creative people. My parents are visual artists, but they could tell that I love music, so they let me take composition lessons when I was in grade school with William Ortiz, a composer who was teaching at SUNY Buffalo at the time. I love composing so much that I pursued it throughout high school and college. I was lucky to have studied with some great teachers, including Samuel Adler, Fred Fox, Christopher Rouse, Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky.
I have always been very visually oriented, and this is probably due to my upbringing. Paintings and photographs inspire many of my works, particularly those that represent surrealism or utilize collage techniques. Many non-visual influences also inspire me, including the sounds of nature and machinery, mechanical processes, abnormal mental states, dance and popular music (both modern and old) and the music of various 20th century composers. I feel that although all of these influences are highly integrated in my work, they may not be readily apparent. I also place great emphasis on formal design and flow, and my music tends to be rhythmically driven.
Up until now I have written for many different types of chamber groups, including mixed ensembles, string quartet and piano with solo instruments or voice. Although writing for wind quintet is a challenge, this combination is so colorful that I feel it is the best possible ensemble for finally exploring my ideas inspired by collage, surrealism, my parent’s art, and the work of artists that were around me since I was born. These ideas are in my blood and I am exploring them through sound, with this piece. I realized that these ideas were waiting to come out when I was at the MacDowell Colony last summer and saw the works of a few sculptors and painters who are my peers. I was shocked! Here were the ideas I was thinking of, right in front of me. I felt a huge sense of belonging and could not fall asleep for many nights.
The next step was finding the right ensemble. This past year I attended a concert by the Quintet of the Americas and was so impressed by their excellent performance and highly successful interaction with the audience that I introduced myself and mentioned that I would love to write this new piece for them. After listening to my music, they offered to work with me on this commission.
While participating in the Minnesota Orchestra Reading Sessions under Aaron Jay Kernis, he encouraged me to apply for this award. This is my first major commission and the performance at Merkin will be my first premiere in New York at a major hall.
Photo: © Guy Vivien