Variations for Orchestra (2016)


13 minutes


3 Flutes (3: Piccolo), 3 Oboes (3: English Horn), 3 Clarinets (3: Bass Clarinet), 3 Bassoons (3:Contrabassoon), 4 Horns, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (Bass Drum, Large Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, Finger Cymbals, Bell Tree, Glockenspiel), Harp, Strings


For me, the orchestra has always been a thrilling machine. There have been moments in my life when that thrill was particularly memorable, among them: hearing Mahler 1 for the first time at 12 years old, playing the Rite of Spring at 18 with the Curtis Orchestra and working on the recording of Elliot Goldenthal's score to the movie Heat.

In this, my first orchestral piece, I tried to tap those exciting memories.

The theme of this piece started as the verse of an unnamed, unrecorded pop song I wrote. I kept the melody of the song and some of harmony and surrounded that material with a soundscape based on the interval of the seventh. There are so many sevenths in this piece thatI considered naming it "7."

In the end, I decided to call the piece "Variations" because I think that title gives the listener an idea of what to expect. The piece begins with a big statement of the theme and then runs through a series of differing looks at that material. Later, the theme comes back as a horn solo which leads to an ending that uses material that was the chorus of the song.

Variations was premiered on June 17, 2018 at the Mostly Modern Festival in Saratoga Springs, New York. Martim Sousa Tavares conducted the American Modern Orchestra at the Zankel Music Center on the campus of Skidmore College.

That performance is captured in the video above.

Video by Ian Blau