This compact miniature is an imagined conversation between Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. The opening and closing melody takes the theme from Copland’s Piano Variations (a piece Bernstein loved to play at parties where the guests, sipping cocktails, were expecting less intrusive background music). At the heart of Apropos is a bouncy, jovial (and at times serious) dialogue, inspired by the letters Copland and Bernstein exchanged. (Apropos begins at 1:03:50 – Lara introduces it at 1:00:00)
of The Porch Over the River at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Text by Wendell Berry. Pictured are Chad Sloan (baritone), Carrie RavenStem (clarinet), and Jessica Litwiniec Dorman (piano). Photo credit Alix Mattingly/Kentucky Center.
Wendell Berry’s prophetic words in “The Porch Over the River” describe a pastoral scene which becomes darkly reflective of our human footprint. It’s as though the sounds of the river, frogs, phoebes, and trees are momentarily interrupted by the passing sound of traffic or the distant whine of a jet engine. But our focus returns to the river and trees.
This setting for baritone, clarinet, and piano traces the poems reflective nature, beginning with a figure in the piano that is both moving and static, like a river. As the protagonist looks upwards, a more complex middle section develops over a ground bass (a repeated, descending bass line in the piano), culminating in music that seems to touch the “high dark marked by the flight of men.” Her gaze returns to the river and trees, once again always moving and always still.
Commissioned by clarinetist Carrie RavenStem, The Porch Over the River premieres May 20, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts by A/tonal with baritone Chad Sloan and pianist Jessica Litwiniec Dorman.
Music for Violin, commissioned by Rob Simonds, and recorded here on October 3, 2017 at Michigan State University, Cook Concert Hall.
Later this month at 21C Museum, Orchestra Enigmatic will present a the new orchestrated version of Langston Hughes Songs, with Jan Pellant conducting and Susan Hahn singing. This latest iteration includes a newly-composed overture. The earliest versions of these songs are from 1999-2000, and have been modified (slightly) over the past sixteen years.