They Say at USF

I am writing while en route to Tampa, Florida, where I’m headed to the premiere of my new solo guitar work, They Say, as one of four invited composers for the University of South Florida’s New Music Festival.

More than most instruments, I have always felt the guitar is an instrument for storytelling, especially of very old tales. This concept led me to think about common vernacular expressions and the creation of a three-movement work, in which each brief movement’s title is taken from the opening words of three common expressions:

I. Actions speak

II. Absence makes

III. All good things

(I leave it to you to complete these phrase.)

As is often the case with my work, I was also interested in how musical elements can be recast with new meaning across multiple movements, a concept that seemed to fit well with the always-present-but-with-obscure-origin nature of these wisdom-laced phrases. As such, some of the elements introduced in the work’s opening are more fully-realized later on. Keeping with the storytelling dramatic character of the guitar, I also save a few small surprises—a few special requests—for the performer as things progress.

I am deeply indebted to the brilliant and open-minded guitarist, Dieter Hennings, for his patience and support in the making of this work. Dieter and I worked together at the soundSCAPE Festival in Italy, where I taught composition in summer 2016, and where he was part of the ensemble that premiered my Sandburg Songs. He will also take part in the Albany Records recording session of my first solo CD this summer at Oberlin Conservatory. Without him, this piece could not exist.

This will be my second visit to USF. In 2015 I gave a talk on the influence of Korean traditional music on my work as part of the Composition in Asia Symposium and Festival, organized by Professor John Robison. I’m very impressed by the level and breadth of music-making taking place at USF.

Prior to my premiere at USF, I will be making a visit to the New College of Florida in Sarasota to give a guest composer lecture to music students as a guest of Professors Maribeth Clark and Kye Ryung Park. After my recent talk at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I’m excited to again share my music and have a dialogue with the next generation of musical troublemakers!

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