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Orchard, Volume 2 (2018)


  • elderberry
  •  granny smith
  •  granadilla
  •  guava
  •  juniper
  •  kiwi
  •  loquat
  •  peach
  •  persimmon
  •  rose hip
  •  sea grapes


Each of these pieces were originally composed as part of a larger collection of 50 solo piano works, collectively titled Orchard. Each piece in Orchard is named for and inspired by a botanical fruit. This is the second of five volumes, sorted by difficulty: Volume 1 is the easiest set, while Volume 4 is the most difficult. Volume 5 consists of only pieces utilizing extended techniques.

The music in elderberry takes its qualities almost entirely from the name of the fruit. I wanted to create a very slow piece - something that sounded “ancient.” The result is a series of sparse, but connected, fragments of slightly dissonant sound.

When composing granny smith I imagined the sound that the apple makes when eating it. There is a distinct crisp crunch, and it is represented musically with short, slightly dissonant chords.

Sweet granadilla is a member of the passion fruit family, and similarly has a seed-filled, jelly-like pulp. Gregory Szeto commissioned granadilla to be performed with only one hand: this piece features only the left hand. The music initially alternates somewhat randomly between a sixteenth-note subdivision and triplet subdivision, and this is later echoed in the middle, chordal section of the piece.

guava consists of what I feel is dance-like music, but it is also rhythmically derived from the paradiddle, one of the basic patterns of drumming. I became very familiar with guava while living in Tampa, where I most often encountered it in guava pastelitos.

One of the primary culinary uses of the juniper berry is to distill gin, and this is the flavor I considered when composing the music. juniper is music with brightness and clarity: it mostly occupies the upper register of the instrument with short, staccato figures.

Mat Campbell requested a short piano work inspired by the music of Steve Reich. Like much of Reich’s music, kiwi focuses on cell-based, repeated musical fragments that evolve over time. Specifically in kiwi, there are two “full” measures at the center of the piece (the most active moment in the music), with the first half gradually adding material to this point, and the second half gradually subtracting material to the end.

My initial experience with loquat was in the form of a Chinese cough syrup my wife recommended I try to settle an upset stomach years ago. The loquat syrup is a dark, viscous liquid with an herbal flavor, and the syrup is actually the primary inspiration for this music. There is a dark, sticky quality to the music in loquat, which eventually breaks down into florid melodic lines.

peach was commissioned by Michael Giunta to be performed on vibraphone or piano. In this work, the fuzzy skin of the peach is represented by accelerating or decelerating rhythmic figures (“feathered beaming”), and lots of sustain pedal.

There are roughly 21 varieties of persimmon species throughout the world; similarly, in this piece, there are 21 different chords. Grace Huang requested this work be inspired by the music of John Adams, so this work takes inspiration from Grace’s favorite solo piano work by Adams, China Gates (which is also my favorite).

 Rose hips are the bottle-shaped fruit of specific types of rose plants and often turned into a spread (like jam or jelly), or dried and used in herbal tea. When composing rose hip I imagined the shape of the fruit as music, and used this “hip-shaped” gesture as the primary theme of the piece: often the hands move together away from one another, or towards one another. The intensely sour flavor also made its way into the music in the form of a split third chord, which has both a minor and major third in it.

 Sea grapes are small fruits that grow in clusters along long vine-like branches of the plant. I represent this musically by using an 8-note chromatic tone cluster throughout the piece. At the end, this cluster is separated into two chords: one that is major, and one that is minor.

Orchard - Volume 2

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