Visions of Harriot Tubman for Organ

The Visions of Harriot Tubman- sample – Organ
A couple of years ago,the US Postal Service decided to put the image of the famous African American , Harriot Tubman,on one of its currency denominations. I was struck by the reaction to this decision, and troubled in particular by the negative responses. I decided to read up on Ms Tubman and found her to be a remarkable woman; among other things one of the key figures of the Underground Railroad in the mid- 19th century. Ms Tubman, a deeply religious woman ,claimed that God spoke to her, urging her to lead runaway slaves to freedom.

This inspired me to compose my Visions of Harriot Tubman. In this work the music grows organically emerging into a kind of paraphrase of the African American spiritual Let my People Go.This was the tune that Harriot Tubman sang as a signal to the slaves she would lead to freedom. As the piece progresses, the music travels in phases from the hymn tune, to jazz ,to blues as so forth. The registrations and edits were by organist David Gay of Tucson, Arizona.
The Visions of Harriot Tubman was composed in 2016.

And the Idols Shall Utterly Pass…

Organ Prelude 2016- 5:31 versionCommentary:
And the Idles Shall Utterly Pass Away is a tone poem based on biblical verses from the Book of
Isaiah (2:18). For me,the wonderfully varied imagery of the text lent itself to a variety of musical moods and gestures. The seemingly limitless timbrel possibilities of the organ greatly enhanced my ability to bring these images to life.
The formal structure of the music is based upon the thematic structure of the verses. Formally the work is divided into two groups each comprised of two ‘darker sections sections culminating in a third ‘majestic ‘ section of music. The unifying features of the darker sections are unsteady rhythmic figures along with angular melodies and strident harmonies. This is in contrast to the ‘majestic sections which feature more rhythmic regularity and a solid sense of tonality.
And the Idles Shall Utterly Pass Away was composed in 2010 and commissioned by David and Illona Gay
The sections of music presented with brief pauses are as follows:
1. ‘And the idols shall utterly pass…’
2. ‘And the men shall go into the caves…’ 3. ‘And from the glory of His majesty…’ 4. ‘… a man shall cast away his idols..’
5. ‘ To the moles and to the bats…’
6. ‘From before the terror of the Lord…’
And the Idles Shall Utterly Pass Away
And the idles shall utterly pass away.
And men shall go into the caves of the rocks. And into the holes of the earth,
From before the terror of the Lord,
And from the glory of His majesty,
When he arises to shake mightily the earth. In that day a man shall cast away
His idols of silver, and his idols of gold, Which they made for themselves to worship, To the moles and to the bats;
To go into the clefts of the rocks,
And into the crevices of the crags,
From before the terror of the Lord,
And from the glory of His majesty,
When He ariseth to shake mightily the earth.
Isaiah 2:18

Works in Progress in April 2014


Currently there are three works which occupy my daily composing schedule:

Little Night Creatures is a piece for soprano saxophone and vibraphone. In these whimsical episodes, I endeavor to create a handful of imagined ‘creatures’.There’s no telling who or what these creatures are; essentially it’s really up to each listeners imagination. As is the case with several of my other works, the musical materials are derived from a ‘palette’ of motivic materials. This includes interchangeable pitch and rhythmic materials. It is my hope to make Creatures both technically challenging as well as artistically rewarding for both performer and listener.


The Three Princes is an adaption of a Grimm’s fairy tale for brass quintet and narrator. Although this is one of the brother’s lesser known stories, the tale is filled with magic and adventure. From the composer’s standpoint, there are  a lot of  intriguing materials to work with including everything from encountering a swarm of bees to discovering an enchanted castle with a beautiful  princess.The Three Princes is sure to captivate listeners both young and old alike. At  the same time, the piece  promises to be a lot of fun for members of the quintet to perform!


Trio ( the working title so far)for oboe,cello and piano is the third of my current projects.The piece is being written for Sarah Fraker, Professor of Oboe at the University of Arizona. Prior to this work, Sara has performed the premieres of my Pastorals with the Paloma Wind Quintet and Lyric Passages for Oboe and string trio (violin, viola and cello) a piece which was premiered at the International Double Reed Society Conference in Tempe, Arizona.The  current trio contains some of the same features as Pastorals and Lyric  with a particular focus on the use of the ‘singing’, lyrical qualities of each instrument. What’s more,Trio is also is a bit of a departure from the other aforementioned pieces in terms of its approach to form and harmony. It is my hope that Trio will have its first performance some time in 2015.

Coming Soon: A Desert Aviary

Just  east of Tucson, Arizona in the Rincon Mountain range,one can escape into a pristine desert wilderness. Here, one stands above and beyond the sights and sounds of city life. At this special spot, listen, as the natural world whispers it’s delicate songs. The haunting sounds of wind blowing  through a saguaro cactus; the gentle rustling of desert brush, and ,what is particularly precious, the delicate calls of the indigenous wrens and warblers, all of which create a place of peace and solitude. This delicate aural array is like gossamer in sound. Indeed, the entire experience not only envelops the listener, but seems to fill one from within.


Such is the inspiration behind my composition A Desert Aviary. Formally, the work is a miniature concerto with a solo piccolo accompanied by the other three instruments. The work unfolds with a series of brief musical tableaux.  The bulk of the musical material is drawn from a smattering of desert bird songs awash with textures and timbres of my own design. All an all, I hope to leave the listener with but  a tiny sampling of the  delicate, and enchanting array of sounds emanating from the Sonoran Desert. Here is an excerpt for your perusal.


Sonatina for Tenor Saxophone and Marimba

My Sonatina for Tenor Saxophone and Marimba is now available. You might consider this  three movement piece for your graduate or faculty recital. My intent was to write a work  that is both idiomatic and with the right amount of challenge to the performer.

The Old Women and the Sparrow: The reviews are in!

‘Fascinating’, ‘Looks very interesting!’. Those are the early reviews of my The Old Women and the Sparrow for Flute, Bb Clarinet and Narrator. It is an adaption of a Japanese folk tale. This family friendly work  should appeal to children and adults alike. Its the perfect piece  for children’s concerts and quite appropriate for any recital.

For more information including score and text, kindly contact me at.

Works in Progress for November 2013

I am working on three pieces at the moment: I’ve recently begun a song cycle consisting of settings of poems by the early 20th century poet Amy Lowell. The work  is scored for soprano, oboe and piano. Ms Lowell was quite a controversial character in her day and her verse really resonates with me. I also enjoy Ms Lowell’s poems because they are both lyrical and imaginative.

The Old Woman and the Sparrow is a piece for flute, clarinet and narrator. The text is an adaption of a Japanese folk tale. It is a poignant little story that should appeal to children of all ages (not to mention flutists and clarinetists).

In addition, I’ve begun the second movement of a three movement work called Acacias.  A few varieties of acacias grow here in Tucson and I’m writing this piece to celebrate these wonderful trees. The work is scored for low brass trio ( horn, trombone and tuba).

I hope to have a few  score samples to share by the end of the month so stay tuned!

Classic Blues: My View

Over the centuries, composers have tended to appropriate folk genres into the prevalent ‘learned styles’ of the day. Take for example the Baroque Suite. Bach and his contemporaries took a handful of ‘international’ popular folk dances and stylized them into a multi-movement prototype. The gigue, i.e.‘jig from Ireland; the Courante from France are examples. The 18th Century saw the ‘Minuet’ and the 19th Century the ‘Waltz’. The waltzes of the Strauss family became popular sensations of their day. The more ‘learned’, late romantic, Strauss (Richard) and the impressionist, Ravel, had their more ‘progressive’ versions as well.

An American folk tradition is the blues. From its origins in the Mississippi Delta to the present, the blues, as far as I’m concerned, is central to America’s musical culture. In the sonata cycle of the ‘classical ‘period , the inclusion of the minuet  which originated from a folk dance,became the norm. From a personal standpoint, it seemed  almost natural to include a ‘blues’ movement in my Acacia  for Low Brass Trio. This seems the perfect antidote to the ‘quirky’ first movement and the ‘rollicking’ third movement. My Sweet Acacia Blues is replete with ‘blue notes’ and blues phrasing. These blues lines are imbedded in a rich brass texture with lush harmonies.


My Acacias for Brass Trio will be available to the public in November, 2013.