Tone rehearsal


Open Call for Singers

to participate in a rehearsal of the sound sculpture

Tone (excerpt)

Pizza and beer will be served!

Time: 7-9pm Monday 22 August 2016.

Place: The 8-Story “Stairwell C” at The Graduate Center, 5th Avenue and 34th St., Manhattan


The rehearsal: Join your voice in sustaining a single tone over an extended period of time by passing it between groups of singers positioned over the eight stories of a spacious and resonant stairwell. A slow undulation in the sustained tone is articulated as the sound moves vertically through space, passed between singers.

The music: Tone (excerpt) lives on the border between process and object. A single vocalized tone cycles between spatially separated groups of singers, slowly shifting the timbre and location of the sound in a richly resonant acoustic space. Tone (excerpt) moves precariously through time; the same unchanging tone is perpetually remade through different voices.

Here is the score.

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Studies of a Piano

I’m currently writing a set of Studies of the Piano for Imri Talgam. He’ll be performing them at Spectrum, NYC on Sunday 26 February as part of a piano salon that will also feature premieres by Vicente Alexim and Peter Kramer. Hope to see you there!

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The latest sighs of mortality

I performed the latest sighs of mortality, a new work for violin and electronics, on 24 February 2016. Here is a recording of the performance:

The title quotes Charles Babbage’s The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (1837) that posits that all sounds on Earth are etched into the atmosphere where they wait to be heard by the right stethoscope.

My violin teacher was dismayed at the wobble in my bowing. Unable to extricate those unwanted shakes, I left the violin behind for a time. In the latest sighs of mortality that hobbling ghost of music past returns to rattle its chains. Following the process popularized by Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room, this piece recycles live violin playing through a recursive process of recording and playback. What the violinist plays at the beginning of the process will have a dramatic effect on the shape of the piece, but by the time the performer hears the consequences, it is too late to change course. Eventually the live performance is submerged in a swell of room resonance. The process overtakes the violinist who, by the end, is transformed from a producer of sound to a listener.


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Transferred Agency in Alvin Lucier’s “I am sitting in a room”

I will present a paper on Alvin Lucier’s seminar work I am sitting in a room at the McGill Music Graduate Symposium in Montreal, Canada, 18-20 March 2016. Here is the abstract:

Echo and reverb are the aural cues through which we deduce information about architectural spaces. According to Emily Thompson, the modernist design ideal for live-performance spaces set the “optimum reverberation time” to zero. Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room (1969) can be heard as a critique of that aesthetic apparatus: through a feedback process that activates the resonant frequencies of the performance space, the room becomes the instrument. In that influential work the recursive process interpolates between the speech of a human subject and the music of an architectural object, leading Brandon Labelle to observe that Lucier’s stuttering speech builds “an architecture imbued with the problematic of having a body.”

With the human performer silent and seemingly inactive for all but the initial 1’15’’ of the 45’ work, what Jane Goodall referred to as an “agency vacuum,” is created. This paper contends that I am sitting in a room can be heard as a “transfer of agency” in which agency leaks away from the human performer and into the instrument. Through both a textual and a reverberant slight-of-hand, the room-instrument addresses the human performer, as if from another place. More important than the transfer of sound-production from human to instrument, this paper will argue that there is a transfer of the agency associated with the act of listening. In this way I am sitting in a room re-performs the shift of emphasis, enunciated by Lucier, away from “making sounds happen” and onto listening.

Support for this reading stems from 1) my analysis of Joan La Barbara’s live performance of Lucier’s Palimpsest (2014), a kindred piece built upon the same recursive process, and 2) identifying how the transfer of human agency is an implicit feature of the text-based score for I am sitting in a room.

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Elizabeth Martignetti performs

Elizabeth Martignetti performs a new solo for French Horn at Elebash Hall at 7:30PM on Tuesday 15 December 2015 as part of the Graduate Center Composers Alliance DMA Collaboration Concert.

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Live Recording of a Piano Study

Here is a live recording of “Study of a Piano #1” from Imri Talgam’s performance at Elebash Hall, 22 April 2015.

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Imri Talgam performs a new work for piano

The pianist Imri Talgam is giving a great concert 7:30pm Wednesday 22 April at Elebash Hall that includes a short piece of mine. If you are kickin’ around midtown Manhattan on Wednesday, come give a listen to Bach’s French Suite No. 5, Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke IX and X, and my own study for piano. More info and directions can be found here.

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Jago’s laughter, Lorca’s moon

I will have a piece performed at the next Composers Alliance concert.


Here are the program notes that I wrote:

In Verdi’s penultimate opera, Otello, Jago sings slithering descents of laughter that distend the revelry of a drinking song. While setting Federico García Lorca’s poem, Media Luna, I was haunted by Jago’s slippery chromatic laughter and allowed it to infiltrate my music, as if it were sounding in an echo chamber. The opening of my setting has its own tipsy gait during which the soprano sings stuttering syllables from Lorca’s poem. When the music sobers up the soprano finds all of the syllables and is able to sing the poem through.

It was a pleasure to work with Alexis, Elizabeth, Naomi, and Vicente and I am very grateful that they were willing to dedicate themselves to performing this piece.


The excellent quartet that is performing the piece consists of Alexis Rodda (soprano), Vicente Alexim (clarinet), Elizabeth Martignetti (horn), and Naomi Perley (piano).

Here are the program notes written by the performers:

One of the most striking aspects of Daniel’s Media Luna is its timbral palette: in the instrumentation of the work itself, of course, but also in detailed, interdependent instrumental writing with a particular attention to the slippage between the “instruments”. The opening’s staccato fragments feel instrumentally-driven, with the soprano percussively articulating non-semantic syllables, the music only gradually coalescing into a more straight-forward statement of Jago‘s laughter (but in the non-vocal instruments). The air seems to shatter to enter the “echo chamber” to which Daniel refers, created by both the exploitation of the piano’s sympathetic resonance and by the close counterpoint of the chromatic lyricism between voice, clarinet, and horn–linear and fluid and finally vocal–where the poem is finally recited.
Media Luna displays a great contrast of character, rendered in interesting instrumental writing, despite the inherent unity of the compositional material. We were exhilarated by the general will toward discovery and experimentation through this process, and thank Daniel for his efforts for our impromptu ensemble.

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Article on Thomas Ades to appear in PNM

My article “Multiple time-scales in Ades’s Rings” will appear in the July issue of Perspectives of New Music.

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Celestial Rings in Philadelphia

I will be delivering a paper on Thomas Ades’s violin concerto at the first annual THEMUS conference at Temple University. The conference takes place on Saturday 19 April 2014. Joseph Straus and Scott Burnham will give the keynote addresses.

“Rings,” the first movement of Adès’s violin concerto Concentric Paths, evokes the physical process of planetary motion and it is from this process that multiple time-scales arise: the lower-speed outer-orbits of planetary motion correspond to higher registers of pitch where melodies tend to unfold more slowly. The texture of Rings generalizes passages in Bach’s Presto to a post-tonal pitch process: pitches undergo processes that evolve at different rates, causing harmonies to expand, contract, and explode in hexatonic syzygies.

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