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Orchard, Volume 3 (2018)


  • blackberry
  •  blackcurrant
  •  blood orange
  •  cloudberry
  •  datil
  •  durian
  •  honeybell tangelo
  •  honeydew melon
  •  tamarind
  •  vanilla bean
  •  yuzu


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 third 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.

There is a gentle quality to the music in blackberry. I almost imagine the music being like a boat on top of black, inky waves gently bobbing up and down. This represents the darkness of the blackberry fruit, but there is an earthy complexity to this music as well, manifesting primarily in the four-over-three polyrhythm heard throughout the piece.

blackcurrant is intended to be a virtuosic performance piece: it’s fast, there’s a lot of notes, and it’s filled with asymmetric meter. This fits in with the properties of the fruit, though, which is earthy and complex, but also refreshing in its own way.

blood orange is dedicated to my wife, Susanna Hancock. This is personally my favorite piece from the Orchard collection: it’s the only piece I’ve performed publicly as a pianist, and it has been orchestrated as part of another work of mine, West of the Sun.

cloudberry was commissioned by Ann DuHamel as part of a set of pieces about fruits native to Minnesota. The overall musical texture is cloud-like, meant to be generally blurry, and is very loosely inspired by Luciano Berio’s Luftklavier from his Six Encores.

The datil pepper - also known as the “yellow lantern chili” - is similar in spiciness to the habanero, and grows almost exclusively in St. Augustine, Florida. datil is slightly dissonant in character, both harmonically and rhythmically, but not in an overt way.

Durians are notorious for the stench they give off when raw: most people describe the scent of the durian fruit as being similar to rotten onion, or even raw sewage. However, it’s also known to have an incredibly complex, yet pleasant flavor, and is sought after in many sweets and pastries across Southeast Asia. This dichotomy is represented in the music by two contrasting and alternating styles: very aggressive “power chords” and a delicate floating melody that interrupt one another.

honeybell tangelo was commissioned by Chace Williams to perform on either vibraphone or piano. The name - and shape - of the fruit comes through the music in the bell-like tones throughout.

honeydew melon is meant to evoke the sight and feeling of golden light: there is a simple, quiet melody in one hand, while the other plays decelerating chords.

The tamarind tree produces long, pod-like fruits with a distinct brown pulp. When composing tamarind, I had this pod-like shape in mind, and all musical figures are derived from this idea. This includes the elongated melody at the beginning, the smaller gestures that move beneath this melody, and the octave flourishes at the end of the piece.

 Vanilla beans are dark, pod-like fruit. When I imagine vanilla as a flavor I think of it as being “plain,” or at least neutral (even though, really, it isn’t). This is represented at the beginning of the piece with a single pitch being played across four octaves; the music gets a little more interesting from there, with elongated gestures across multiple octaves representing the shape of the fruit. Kasey Strand commissioned vanilla bean to be performed on either marimba or piano.

 yuzu was the very first piece composed for Orchard. The music is made up almost entirely of four pitches spread across four octaves; halfway through the piece, a single dissonant note is introduced. The music is meant to represent the bright, yet sour, nature of yuzu fruit.


Orchard - Volume 3

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