On Saturday, April 22 at MiMoDa in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Composers Collective will be presenting performances of new works for two sopranos, bassoon and various instruments. I am honored to be a part of this artistic endeavor. My setting of the poem “The Road Not Taken” will be one of the pieces performed. It will be performed by two sopranos, bassoon, and cello.
“The Road Not Taken” (1916) by Robert Frost is a very important poem to many people because it talks about choosing to go one’s own way in life. It’s a poem my mother has always loved. She introduced me to it at an early age and I believe it has had a very positive impact on my life. That’s why in gratitude I’ve decided to dedicate this composition to her.
“The Road Not Taken” (1916)
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
LACC website: www.lacomposerscollective.org
I’ve found that composing what I call “symphonic pictures” is a great source of inspiration. They are single movement pieces that bring to mind a certain place or idea. I’ve composed a number of them already. I want to share highlights from the series with you here.
The first three symphonic pictures are depictions of America. With these three pieces, I set out to create a very American sound with music that is accessible to community, high school, and college orchestras but also has enough depth to be performed by professional musicians. These pieces grew in scope along with our La Verne Symphony Orchestra. It is my mission through these pieces to make quality music accessible to amateurs and professionals alike, a very American idea to begin with.
“Symphonic Picture No. 1: New Frontier” was written for and first performed by the La Verne Symphony Orchestra, a university and community ensemble that seeks to bring people together through the power of music.
I drew inspiration from the composers Antonín Dvořák and Aaron Copland as well as the natural surroundings of my native Southern California. I sought to have a very American sound within symphonic tradition of composers like Dvořák and Copland. I feel this is a great place for me to start as I begin to develop my own symphonic language.
“New Frontier” was premiered by the La Verne Symphony Orchestra in November, 2013 at the University of La Verne.
I find that the natural beauty of America provides endless possibilities for musical inspiration. “Symphonic Picture No. 2: The American West” is also written in the symphonic tradition of Aaron Copland. I like to experiment with putting melodies and harmonies together to see what colors happen when things come together. I imagine places I’ve seen in person: the forest, the running stream, the night sky, the beauty of the American outdoors.
“Symphonic Picture No. 2: The American West” had its successful premier performance in December, 2015 with the La Verne Symphony Orchestra. I had the privilege to conduct the piece and witness a childhood dream of composing and conducting symphonic music become a reality.
“Symphonic Picture No. 3: Journey Across America” is inspired by the beauty and industry of America as well as by the struggles and victories of its people. One can think of the history of America while listening and move through time as well as across the continent in one’s imagination. I am particularly proud of this piece and look forward to the day when it will be performed by a live symphony.
“Symphonic Picture No. 7: Dona Nobis Pacem” is my newest symphonic picture. As the titles says, it is a prayer for peace. Our world today is in great need of peace and understanding between people. Music is one way we can come together to work and create something beautiful. The music is hopeful and passes the simple melody from one unique instrumental voice to the other.
This piece will be premiered by the La Verne Symphony Orchestra in April, 2017.
I am very excited to show you phase one of the second part of my symphony. This part is much longer than part I, 31:31 as opposed to the 8 or so minutes of the first part. That’s because I had a lot of the story to tell in this second part. The movements are as follows:
1)The Quest For Good
2)The Glory of Logres
3) The Holy Grail, “Agnus Dei” by William Byrd
4) Tryptich: 4a. Guinevere Goes A’Maying 4b. Lancelot Rescues Guinevere 4c. Arthur’s Lament
5)The Final Battle
6)Requiem For Arthur, The Once And Future King
7) Return To Chaos
In the file on SoundCloud, I’ve clearly labeled each movement so you know what part of the story the music is telling. I hope you enjoy listening! I am looking forward to creating the completed orchestral version.
The Legend of King Arthur is both timeless and timely…we need people to stand up for the vulnerable and helpless and for what is right in our world today. The mystery and romance of the legend offers a refreshing respite from today’s craziness and shows us how people from ages past stood up to evil and fought for good.
While researching for my first symphony, “King Arthur”, I’ve found that there is so much to explore pertaining to the legend such as the ancient legendary places in England that still exist, how Arthur is portrayed in art and literature, what was happening historically when Arthur was said to have lived, and the rich English heritage in general. There is a vast world to explore when searching for inspiration about King Arthur and his knights.
In case you are interested in setting out on a similar journey, here are some of the resources that I have found so far to start you out:
- I found a very readable version of the legend written by Roger Lancelyn Green. It took me a good year and a half to read it what with balancing family life with cultural pursuits, but it is a good clear edition. The citation is as follows:
Roger Lancelyn Green, “King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table” (London: Puffin Books), first published 1953, reissued 1994.
- English illustrator Arthur Rackham (1867 – 1939) was able to bring forth the magic of the legend in his mysterious paintings.
- Among the romantic legend sites in England, Tintagel Castle, Arthur’s birthplace, stands out with significance. It is, according to the story, where Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon came disguised as Lady Igrayne’s husband Gorlois and won her over so that she became his wife. Their son Arthur was taken away from Tintagel by Merlin soon after he was born. Merlin stole him away by night down the cliffs and Arthur’s true identity was not revealed again for many years. You can learn more about Tintagel and see what it looks like at the following link:
Part I of my symphony tells the story of the land in chaos, how Arthur became King, and the glory of his coronation and wedding day. For Part II, the movements will go something like this: 1) Quest for Good 2) The Glory of Logres 3) The Holy Grail, “Agnus Dei” by William Byrd 4) Lancelot and Guinevere 5) The Final Battle 6) Arthur, the Once and Future King. I’m hoping to have LVSO play the whole symphony once it’s complete. They premiered Part I last fall. I’ll be sharing the whole symphony with you once it’s completed. I’m hoping to have both the string orchestra and the full symphonic versions completed by the spring of 2017. In the meantime, keep up the good fight!
This little original sonata is in the Baroque style. I wrote out the themes and then improvised on them using the ancient idea of “affect” to vary the ideas and explore different moods and musical characters. The movements are as follows:
This is a song reflects a new style for me. It has simple lyrics, an American flavor and a bluegrass bent.
“Singin’ the Blues”
My heart’s as sore as the sun when the moon shines away.
I long to shine close to you brightly as the day!
My soul’s as wide as the sea! Let my heart set sail today!
Ah, how I long to be free and with you I’ll find a way.
As soon as you feel as I do take my hand! We’ll fly away!
Ah, Sweetheart, it feels so right to love you this way!
Fly with me to the sun.
Fly with me to the sun.
Fly with me to the sun.
Fly with me to the sun.