PROGRAM NOTES

11 Miniatures

Baroque Flute, Baroque Oboe, Baroque Violin, Viola D’gamba, Baroque Cello, Harpsichord
Duration:
20'
Year:
1996
Program note:
Among my fondest childhood memories is that of my father making my brothers and I laugh. Of all the humorous moments I recall, none remains more vivid than those times when my dad would put on a ruffled cowboy hat and bellow out a drunken version of an old country song called “There Stands the Glass.” The image of this large man stumping around the kitchen with a silly hat and his faded blue robe still brings a smile to my heart. My brothers and I would fall off the sofa laughing so hard tears would run from our eyes. When my father died in 1995 I was just beginning to work on “11 Miniatures.” With this image of him and his voice still echoing his song, I could not help but weave fragments, bits and pieces of the old Lefty Frizell tune into my own work. For some bizarre reason I seem to remember Dad doing his song around the Chanukah menorah, which may explain the motif “Dreidle, Dreidle, Dreidle” that appears in this work.

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240 Weeks

2 Flutes (& Piccolo), 2 Clarinets/Bass Clarinets, Violin, Cello, Piano, 2 Percussion
Duration:
17'
Year:
2007
Program note:
“240 Weeks” is scored for nine musicians, many of which work in pairs. As I was working on the conception and creation of the work, a total of six babies of people I knew were about to arrive, hence “240 Weeks” (6 times the typical gestation). Each movement of “240 Weeks” is therefore dedicated to one of the small miracles and the instruments themselves working in pairs represent the two parents of each. The six movements are all fairly short, and work together as a suite, or "play time" as I think if it. The music itself combines the textures of the instruments always with a forward musical motion, always growing and learning.

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5 Machines

Amplified Bass Clarinet/Soprano Sax, Electric Guitar, Amplified Cello, Amplified Bass, Amplified Marimba, Amplified Piano
Duration:
18'
Year:
2000
Program note:
“5 Machines” was written for the Bang On a Can All-Stars, as part of the Bang On A Can’s People’s Commissioning Fund. The five movements are built more like machines, than musical movements. The players work together in tight formation, creating musical lines by close interaction with each other. Each musician plays a fundamental role with the others. The Cello line might have notes that turn a wheel that connects to the Marimba, which in turn provides a springboard for the Piano and Bass Clarinet, which then triggers the Electric Guitar and Bass to alternate notes in between. All the musicians fit together very closely in this fashion, and each only play a role in the larger machine that they all form together. The parts themselves do not reveal this overall musical structure; only when combined does the musical architecture come forth.

8 Etudes for 2 Guitars

2 Guitars
Duration:
18'
Year:
1999
Program note:
“8 Etudes for 2 Guitars” was written especially for Sergio and Odair Assad (Duo Assad). The idea for our collaboration was that of guitar maker Thomas Humphrey who introduced me to Assad’s in 1997. My concept in writing these pieces was to exploit the incredible facility, musicality, and tightness the duo possesses. Writing for a group like this one allowed me to explore any possible musical idea I wanted. With this in mind, I found myself writing a piece not for a guitar duo, but rather for one giant mega-guitar. Knowing full well that these two musicians could simply play anything I wrote down, I allowed myself to write music that only two musicians who have spent their entire lives playing together could possibly do. And they do it with ease.

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Aggravated Assault

2 Amplified Pianos
Duration:
20'
Year:
1991/94
Program note:
The bulk of “Aggravated Assault” was written in 1991, while I was a student at the Yale School of Music. Two colleagues of mine had each asked for a solo piano work, and since they were good friends, I decided to write them a duo. As I worked on “Aggravated Assault,” the Gulf War raged on and played an important influence. The piece is divided into three main sections, with a ritornello occurring between each segment. The second section is quite violent and aggravated, with massive chords and lines and ricocheting between the two pianos. In the end, the final coda reveals a folk melody that much of the formal structure of “Aggravated Assault” is based upon.

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Agu

Piano
Duration:
12'
Year:
2004
Program note:
Agu was written in 2004 for Andrew Russo on a commission from the James S. Marcus Foundation and is inspired by three poems of the Romanian poetess Ioana Ieronim. Mellits has written that he wrote “Agu” just after his first daughter was born. He found himself composing this work with her sleeping in his lap while he was at the piano writing, hence, the two outer movements are quite gentle. The first movement juxtaposes the cold sounds of high-pitched, metal bells with the warm, low tones of the organ, finally giving birth to a pensive melody that winds the music down. Movement two is a rip-roaring, rock’n’roll piano etude. This study of massive, repeated chords would have set Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls’ on fire. Movement three was written with the composer's infant daughter Mara sitting on his lap. This connection elicited music that is both pensive and pure, tinged with several moments of earnestness. The overall lyrical nature of Agu marked a strong departure from Mellits' pre-2004 work. And, appropriately enough, the work's title is a phonetic representation of Mara's first ‘word’.

-Andrew Russo

Black

2 Marimbas
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/16
- Marimba edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

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Black

Saxophone Quartet
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/12
- Saxophone Quartet edition -
Program note:
“Black” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. In creating a version of “Black” for Quartet, I wanted to expand the sonic capabilities of the work, make it almost three-dimensional. I choose to not always follow the music literally, but to change some of the parts and even add notes to make it more idiomatic for a Quartet. In the end, I hoped to create five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

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Black

Soprano & Alto Saxophones
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/14
- Soprano & Alto Saxophone edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Clarinets & 2 Bass Clarinets
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/15
- Clarinet Quartet edition -
Program note:
“Black” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. In creating a version of “Black” for Quartet, I wanted to expand the sonic capabilities of the work, make it almost three-dimensional. I choose to not always follow the music literally, but to change some of the parts and even add notes to make it more idiomatic for a Quartet. In the end, I hoped to create five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Baritone Saxophone
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/11
- Baritone Saxophone edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Bassoons
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/11
- Bassoon edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Violins
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/11
- Violin edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Soprano or 2 Alto or 2 Tenor Saxophones
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/14
- Soprano/Alto/Tenor Saxophone edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

4 Bassoons
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/14
- Bassoon Quartet edition -
Program note:
“Black” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. In creating a version of “Black” for Quartet, I wanted to expand the sonic capabilities of the work, make it almost three-dimensional. I choose to not always follow the music literally, but to change some of the parts and even add notes to make it more idiomatic for a Quartet. In the end, I hoped to create five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

Bassoon & Bass Clarinet
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/19
- Bassoon & Bass Clarinet edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

Basset Horn & Bass Clarinet
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/16
- Basset Horn & Bass Clarinet edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

Bass Clarinet & Baritone Saxophone
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/14
- Bass Clarinet & Baritone Saxophone edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Tubas
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/11
- Tuba edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM

Black

2 Cellos
Duration:
5'
Year:
2008/11
- Cello edition -
Program note:
“Black,” was originally composed for two amplified Bass Clarinets, and was written for the virtuoso duo, “Sqwonk.” The two musicians weave tightly woven patterns together, creating a fabric of music that has complete integration. In this “integrated” world, the musicians are equals and complete each other’s every move. As the musical patterns develop, they also move and change, allowing factions to spin off and push the momentum forward. It is five minutes of rapid firing notes combining and merging into one, black (w)hole. Black is also one of the most performed low instrument duos worldwide.

-MM