Friday, April 29, 2016

Sumer is icumen


The end of semester can only mean one thing: I will be able to transition to my composer duties once again.  It will be glorious, I tell you.

This past winter and early spring has been quite rewarding.  First, the Enid Trio had a week-long residency at NIU.  The highlight for me was the premiere of these dream these rheme these stream, a piece I wrote for a little over a year for them.  The performers were spread throughout a dark hall, allowing space for extended musical meditation.m  I am so incredibly proud of this piece and grateful for the Enids for performing it so well.  I am very excited about future performances in different spaces. You can listen here or see an ethereal video below.

I also had a wonderful performance of Solar Corona by Carolyn Snyder and Ya-chen Jessy Lee in April.  It was the first performance in almost 4 years, and it was great to see how they attacked the piece with such confidence.  You can view their performance below.

Looking ahead, there are many notes to be written!  I will be one of the composers-in-residence at the Mid-Missouri Composers Symposium this July, hosted by the Osage Arts Community.  It will be a wonderful opportunity to discuss musical issues of the day with sharp minds and to have the time and space to work on a number of projects.

First up for May is finishing the details on Shallow Water Blackout for the Quince Vocal Ensemble.  The piece is about drowning, and the voices of Quince are the fading reminder to take a breath during a free dive.  Also spatialized, the room becomes the mind in which this reminder echoes.

The biggest project looming in the future is Runoff, a theater and music experience I am working on with Andy Costello.  Based on the most recent mayoral election, Runoff will be an exploration of if and how progressivism can make inroads into political discourse without having an outright victory.  The role of lowercase m media and capital M THE Media is a primary concern, and the evening should be quite a spectacle.  You can watch the "debate" video we created below.

Lastly on the internet but not in my heart, I am starting work on a series of pieces for various instruments and live processing that are studies in corrosion - specifically rust.  I will have lots more to say about oxidation returning metals to an unfinished state in the coming months.

If you haven't been over to my Youtube or Soundcloud pages recently, you should go check them out.  I have uploaded a number of things on each page from past years that I had somehow neglected to post.  Give them a look/listen.

Thanks for listening and watching!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Long time coming

Happy New Year.

Wow has it been so many months since updating anything.  I do not make resolutions, but I think a touch more internet housekeeping is probably in order.  We shall see if I can hold myself to it.

The biggest change since my last update has been the passing of my father.  He was diagnosed with brain cancer in September of 2014, and fought valiantly until he could not anymore, succumbing to the disease in June of 2015.  It goes without saying that it was and still is a difficult time without him here.  He is sorely missed by all who knew him.  I am lucky to have had a father who was so smart, funny, and supportive.  I can only hope to be that for my kids as well.

I have been fortunate enough to have fallen into some relatively regular teaching hours.  I have been teaching at North Park University since moving back to Chicago, and I began teaching theory and composition at Northern Illinois University.  I have had some great students and have been able to teach some fun classes.  This spring I will be teaching orchestration at both, the first time that I will teach the same class at both institutions simultaneously.

2015 was an interesting year for me musically.  It was largely a period of incubation, but going forward things look to be higher profile to say the least.

Most recently, Steven Banks premiered my solo sax piece Second Meiosis at the NUNC festival this past November.  Steven is an absolutely incredible player, and I am super excited to work with him again this year.  You can hear his performance here.  You can watch it here.

Out of the gate this new year, the Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble is recording their second album.  They will be traveling out to NIU in Dekalb to record with Dan Nichols, and I am happy to say I will be a session producer on this project.  These ladies are monsters of new music, and I can't wait to work with them on their album.

I have a piece in the works for 3 sopranos and a mezzo as well, entitled Shallow Water Blackout.  It has everything you could ask for: spatialization, dim lights, and drowning.  Stay tuned.

In March, the Enid Trio will come to NIU for a week-long residency.  In addition to an all-school convocation and reading session with the composition students, their concert will feature a new work of mine, these dream, these rheme, these stream.  The piece is roughly half an hour, my longest piece to date.  I learned an incredible amount writing it, and it is an honor to have such performers tackling the piece.  If you in the area on March 24, 8pm, come on by!  Keep an eye out for their other events at NIU as well.

I am teaming up with pianist and fellow Chicagoan Andy Costello to resurrect the Vox Humana Music Collective.  We are in the planning and fundraising stage of an evening length theatrical concert based on the 2015 Chicago mayoral election, which Rahm Emmanuel eventually won in a runoff election.  It will be grandiose, provocative, and will (attempt to) present every side fairly and equally.

One of the perks of working at NIU is the faculty that I can call coworkers.  One person in particular has been the percussionist Greg Beyer.  While he is on sabbatical this year, I was able to run the New Music Ensemble in the fall.  A fantastic group of dedicated students volunteered their time and talents to put together a new music "happening."  They performed some of the heavyweights of chance music, as well as recent chance pieces and 3 premiers.  What a pleasure to work with people who are willing to try things out.

The new music festival will return in the fall of 2016, when Greg returns from his sabbatical.  That festival will also include the premier of my new percussion quartet, Amniorrhexis.  It has a lot of fun sounds and actions in it, including cracking a pane of glass by rolling a soccer ball over the surface.  Should be quite enjoyable.

The composition department at NIU was able to host Transient Canvas this past semester as well.  Matt and Amy came through, teaching master classes and private lessons before doing a reading session with the composition students.  They finished with an eclectic concert that showcased their abilities to interpret myriad styles of contemporary composition.  Their travelogue theme is an intimate record of the people they've met and the places they've been.  I am excited to add a piece of my own to their repertoire later this year.  Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading - there should be lots of news at regular intervals coming down the pipe.

And again, Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Hi everyone!

So much has happened in the almost 1.5 years since my last post.  I mean, there should be a lot going on, right?  I would have either been too busy or given up on posting my news for a break that long.

Our most recent news is a move back to Chicago.  I am teaching at two hallowed institutions, North Park University and Columbia College.  Both are very different schools, but I am enjoying teaching a lot - more than I thought I would.

The move took place immediately after my second stint in Basel, Switzerland.  I spent all of January and June on a fellowship at the Paul Sacher Stiftung, researching the manuscripts and sketches for Les Espaces Acoustiques by Gérard Grisey.  I wrote my thoughts on the first 3 movements after my visit in January, and am preparing to consider the final 3 movements as well as the cycle as a whole now that some time has been presenting itself.

The JACK Quartet came to Iowa in October and performed works by composers there.  I was thrilled to have my piece Vṛttāsu performed, as it was supposed to be the last project before my dissertation.  I am quite thankful for the work the JACK put into it, and I think the recording is great.  You should listen to it.

I also wrote Uroboros for Thiago Ancelmo de Souza, who is a pretty terrific clarinetist.  It is a fun foray into a couple of techniques on bass clarinet, and certainly whet my appetite to take more chances in future pieces.  Thiago's performance at the University of Michigan was really tight and can be enjoyed by clicking here.

Instead of diving directly into orchestrating my dissertation, I wrote Abiogenesis for the Center for New Music.  The piece is written for one of everything including sax (extra percussion instead of harp) in what I like to think of as a "kitchen sink" ensemble.  The piece was conducted by Zack Stanton, and the performance was really quite good despite a few obstacles that presented themselves on the way to performance.  Want to hear it?

I completed my PhD in composition (with a minor in theory pedagogy) from the University of Iowa this past May, defending my dissertation Anisotropic Streaming in late April.  The university orchestra with William Jones was kind enough to read the piece, and I am excited to get back to the piece and continue tweaking.

Though beginning the piece Meiotic Tendencies for saxophonist Ryan Smith earlier this year, the next phase of composition has recently commenced.  I have also began work on a piece for the Enid Trio.  If you don't know the Enids, you should.  They are terrific players and terrific people.  Check them out.

There is more news to come, and hopefully sooner than next year in December.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A New Look!

A hearty hello again!

It has been so busy as Kristen, Madeline, Coltrane, Miles, and I welcomed little Eli Penkrot to this world.  He is amazingly strong and a bundle of cuddle.

If you came here via, then you know I have completely overhauled my site.  if you have yet to see it, I recommend going over and seeing what's new besides faster loading times and better pictures of yours truly.

In educational news, I will continue my appointment as a theory assistant this fall at the University of Iowa.  The kind folks at the Preucil School of music have signed me on to teach the theory portion of the Certificate Program once more, and I could not be happier.  I will also be teaching music appreciation at Kirkwood Community College this fall, in a huge three-hour chunk on Tuesday nights.  Should be fun.

Thanks for reading, and watch for more updates as I will post as soon as I can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012



It is finally at the point where windows are open at home and in the car.  It feels so wonderful to be able to let everything breathe for a second before the shutters go up and the heat turns on.

The beginning of the academic year has already proven to be fruitful, as the Iowa chapter of the Society of Composers had its 24-Hour Composition Project on September 16.  Aaron and Janet Ziegler premiered Bīja for soprano and percussion.  The whole concert was a success and will hopefully continue for years to come.  If you haven't gone over to our Facebook page, do so here and now!

This Sunday, September 30, is the first Center for New Music concert.  We are welcoming Stephen David Beck, and the first set of the concert is exclusively his music.  I am proud to say I will be performing on guitar during his Meditations on Hiroshima and will be a laptop player for inChucK.  Information on the concert is here: CONCERT INFO.

On Monday, my post entitled "Feldman and Food Porn" will be published on the Melos Music blog. Check it out!

Angelus Novus II will be performed at the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Iowa Composers Forum in Cedar Rapids.  Margaret Cornils Luke will perform at 1:30pm on October 6 at the Opus Concert Cafe.  I am looking forward to hearing the works of so many other Iowa composers.

Solar Corona is slated to be performed at the Composer's Workshop concert on October 28 and performed at the Midwest Composer's Symposium on November 3 by Manuel Tabora and Tom Maples.  I am so proud of this piece; I am also so lucky to have people excited to play it.  If you are in the area, please come by to listen.

I will be playing guitar in Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera Suite on Sunday, November 4 as part of the Chamber Winds concert.  It is at 4pm in the UCC recital hall.

The JACK Quartet returns this October for another reading session.  I have been pouring myself into a new quartet called Vŗttāsu.  Stay tuned for updates about this and more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New news

Hello friends!

Summer 2012 is upon us.  This past year has been incredibly busy, and the next appears to be picking up steam as we speak.

I am now ABD at the University of Iowa.  I passed my comps this past April and passed my classed this past May, making it all official.  I am writing my dissertation for the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra, thanks to the kindness of Dr William LaRue Jones.  I have also been researching Gerard Grisey's magnum opus Les Espaces Acoustiques, and plan on providing a complete analysis.

I will be traveling to Italy this summer!  I was one of 7 composers selected to participate in the La Pietra Forum for New Music in Florence.  I am writing Solar Corona for viola and cello, to premiered and recorded by the inimitable ECCE ensemble.  I am especially excited to get to work with the faculty, who include Georg Friedrich Haas, Louis Karchin, John Aylward, and Dominique Schafer.

Melos Music is currently in the planning stages of the 2012 annual concert.  This year we will be in Philadelphia, and we are currently making our plans with Ensemble39.  A big update regarding this concert is that Melos has been sponsored by Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit that specializes in sponsoring arts organizations.  What this means for you, dear reader, is that donations to Melos will be tax deductible.  Keep an eye out, as our fundraising campaign is set to kick off soon.

Appointments abound in Iowa:
  • I am going to be the resident assistant for the Center for New Music this year, and I am very much looking forward to working with this ensemble.  It is one of the oldest standing new music ensembles in the country (46 seasons) and is one of the premier new music ensembles in the region.
  • I am the president of the University of Iowa Society for Composers Inc chapter.  In addition to our annual call for scores, we have some great activities in the works, including the formation of the Hawkeye Contemporary Ensemble.  This ensemble will provide the opportunity to have student works performed in addition to masterworks of the mid 20th century to the present.  Concert dates and programs will be announced after the beginning of the academic year, in late August/early September.
  • Zach Zubow, Shane Hoose, and myself have been working tirelessly on the Musical Instrument Samples for some time now.  This is a database of instrument samples recorded in the anechoic chamber at the university.  All the samples are free, and are an especially great resource for anyone interested in researching timbre.  The strings are almost complete and will be posted soon.
Iowa hosted the Exchange of Midwestern Collegiate Composers this past April, welcoming UC Boulder and UMKC to our home for some rigorous concerts.  Marjorie Shearer, clarinetist extraordinaire, was kind enough to write a review of the first night's concert here.  She was kind enough to mention Shooting Snowburst Silhouette Spectacular, a vocal piece I wrote for the Melos concert in San Francisco last August.  You can listen to the recording here.  This year's EMCC will take place in Boulder, CO in late February.  We're driving.

Plenty of excitement planned for this fall, including the Midwest Composer's Symposium at the University of Iowa (with University of Indiana, Michigan, and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) this November and a weeklong residency by the JACK Quartet this October.  Until then, I leave you with my two new favorite pictures of my daughter and me.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

News and Updates

Greetings!  The Fall has settled in and has brought with it a new set of performances and competitions.  

The 2nd Annual Melos Music concert in San Francisco went over incredibly well, and the premier of Shooting Snowburst Spectacular Silhouette was very well received.  A review of the concert can be found here.

Amy Foote - soprano
Sungbin Choi - cello
Jeannie Psomas - clarinet
Daniel Temkin - percussion
Stepan Rudenko - piano
Greg Simon - conductor

Thea Brown - Poet

The concert next year will be in Philadelphia.  More information is on its way.

Angelus Novus received an Honorable Mention in the 7th annual Sun River Prize at the SiChuan Conservatory of Music in China.  Many thanks to Nora Epping for a great recording and the upcoming performance.

November 6 - University of Iowa Composer's Workshop Concert - Riverside Recital Hall

String Quartet #1
crawly - by Jason Palamara

I am coordinating the workshop concerts now, and it has brought me back to my Nextet days at UNLV.  This concert will feature the premier of the final version of my String Quartet #1.  The performers are

Megan Karls - violin
Colleen Ferguson - violin
Manuel Tábora - viola
Eunkyung Son - cello

I am also playing guitar in Jason Palamara's crawly, a duet for guitar and violin.  This is my first true performance since SpaceFuture at the Annoyance Theater.  It is incredibly fun to play and you should check it out if you are in the area.

November 12 -  Indiana University
Midwest Composer's Symposium

String Quartet #1

The folks that perform the premier on the 6th are joining us in Indiana to perform as part of this conference.  I am looking forward to seeing some old friends and colleagues as well as hearing some cutting edge new music.

November 15 - IHearIC - The Mill, Iowa City

Angelus Novus

Angelus Novus will be performed by flutist Nora Epping as part of the IHearIC concert.  This will be the first truly public performance.

November - ChuGye University, South Korea


My first serious endeavor into the realm of electronic music, Apoplexy will get its international debut this month as part of the exchange between the University of Iowa and ChuGye University for the Arts.

Stay tuned for more updates as they happen.  There is another workshop concert on December 4, and many other concerts and conferences coming up as well!