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The Barely Cycle

extractable solos for a.fl, cl, pno, gtr


The Barely cycle is an extractable set of solo pieces for different instruments. Each solo focuses on something essential about the instrument at hand, while also somehow limiting or handicapping the instrument, nudging it away from its most common musical uses. During the composition process, this friction between the innate and the imposed is a source of revelation, and serves for me as a metaphor for the human process of self-discovery.

I. Barely for solo alto flute



Premiered by Jennifer Ingertila, July 25, 2011, Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice, Boston, MA


Barely is a quiet assertion that small changes can hold great significance: that transcendence need not be dramatic, nor expression effusive. As a few small gestures develop within its highly reduced musical language, the piece's sonic and temporal space opens very slightly, providing brief glimpses of a larger musical world.

II. This Time Finer for solo Bb clarinet



Premiered by Sophie Huet, May 2, 2012, Hot Air Festival, San Francisco, CA


This Time Finer showcases the unique set of microtones available in each register of the clarinet, but limits the music to narrow bands of pitches within each register, forcing it to simultaneously accommodate tiny microtonal intervals and extremely wide leaps between registers.


III. Between Clouds for solo piano



Commissioned by Mabel Kwan

Premiered by Mabel Kwan, Feb 2, 2013, Chicago Academy for the Arts, Chicago, IL

Between Clouds explores harmony, resonance, and sonic decay in an increasingly sparse landscape of pitches. Its musical language emerges from the limitation the piece places on the instrument: block chords, or simultaneously struck groups of pitches, are (almost) entirely absent.

IV. Wax Figure for solo detuned semi-acoustic guitar



Commissioned by Jesse Langen

Premiered by Jesse Langen, Feb 2, 2013, Chicago Academy for the Arts, Chicago IL


Wax Figure asks the guitarist to detune the instrument quite extremely – the upper strings are so slack that they can’t reliably produce specific pitches. The guitarist plays fragmentary gestures reminiscent of lead-guitar shredding, but the detuned strings warp the pitch and timbre of these gestures, melting them into unpredictable shapes.

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