In my college and grad school days, I focused on composing modern classical music–otherwise known as art music, concert music, or “scary monster music.” Actually, I haven’t changed all that much. I continue to enjoy a biting harmony or complex rhythm. But I’m also a practical person, so I try to work those interesting elements into pieces that people will actually hear.
While I was at Pitt I wrote a piece, 91 Days for Violin and Piano, that was an important part of my transition from composing what I thought I should compose to composing what I would want to listen to. It’s still “art music,” but incorporates more energetic rhythm, harmonies that slip in and out of tonality, and melodies that sound, well, melodic. The piece was premiered by Roger Zahab, the patron saint of new music, with Robert Frankenberry on piano.