January 29, 2013

For this program, nu tackled the newest repertoire possible: music by UNCSA composition students. All of the works on this concert were completed in the last few months of 2012; they reflect the diverse interests and influences of the current generation of creative artists.


  • Enemy Wind by Will Dixon b. 1995)
  • String Quartet in D by Derek Arnold (b. 1983)
  • Return to Me by Cheyne Runnells (b. 1994)
  • Sleeping City Sidewalk by Clayton Davidson (b. 1972)
  • From Afar by Dak van Vranken (b. 1992)
  • ÉPOPTEIA by Quinn Dougherty by (b. 1992)


  • Whirlwind by Bruce W. Tippette (b. 1985)
  • Pop Mutations by Nicholas Rich (b. 1984)

Students of UNCSA composition faculty Lawrence Dillon, Kenneth Frazelle and Michael Rothkopf.

Program Notes

Will Dixon, "Enemy Wind"

Of Enemy Wind, the composer writes: “I began this piece with two ideas in mind. The first was a slow theme that echoes how a zephyr or chill might blow softly through the woods at night. The second idea was sort of a rhythmic dance, very dissonant in nature, raucously transferring from instrument to instrument, much like how a storm knocks around what is in its path. The title comes from a place name in the most recent National Book Award winning novel by Louise Erdich. The place is on an Indian reservation in the West, and I imagined that my two winds might find their place there.”

Derek Arnold, "String Quartet in D"

Derek Arnold’s String Quartet in D (of which you will hear the first movement) is written in the style of the Classical Period, a style Derek is very passionate about. In the words of the composer, “This way of writing offers the composer the opportunity to suggest a wide range of human emotion without sacrificing the pleasurable listening experience. It is my goal to compose music that a person can listen to and hum later, and in this sense I feel my audiences will get double their money’s worth.”

Cheyne Runnells, "Return to Me"

Return to Me is a piece written to emulate the contemporary acoustic band, while combining it with chamber music instrumentation. It combines writing influenced by both American and Japanese contemporary music. The piece focuses on the theme of unfulfilled yearning over distance and time, with optimism crushed by reality.

Clayton Davidson, "Sleeping City Sidewalk"

Sleeping City Sidewalk is scored for oboe, english horn, electric guitar, viola, cello and musique concrete. This piece is an attempt to translate a specific moment: the last few minutes of sleep, when outside sounds begin to intrude upon your consciousness and worm their way into your dream landscape. Those sounds change and transform, molding themselves into the architecture of the sleeping mind. The title comes from a line in the Kris Kristofferson song Sunday Morning Coming Down.

Dan Van Vranken, "From Afar"

Of From Afar, the composer writes, “Everyone has wanted something—needed something—and come away empty-handed. From Afar is about desire; it’s about surrendering to the hunger for something that is just out of reach, and learning to find happiness in deprivation.

Quinn Dougherty "ÉPOPTEIA"

Of ÉPOPTEIA, the composer writes: “this doesn’t really contribute much beyond just imitation Messiaen. texts stolen from byron emerson and arrabal. melodies stolen from robins wood thrushes mourning doves meadowlarks and bluebirds. “i call architecture frozen music” said goethe to schiller, he makes it sound like the ‘freezing’ is an abstraction, a cheap imitation, or even a violent appropriation. consider, though, that composers are undisciplined astrophysicists and music is an abstraction imitation and appropriation of the actual depth of the sphere(s). gk chesterton said “the poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. it is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” the secret is that emerson understood stardust theory ON BEING ASKED WHENCE IS THE FLOWER

Bruce W. Tippette, "Whirlwind"

Of Whirlwind, the composer writes, “When I was a member of the “Cirkus Theatre Project” sponsored by Cirque du Soleil in the summer of 2012, our process of creating began with a central idea or title and then we worked outward. Before this project, my compositional process did not typically happen in this way. For Whirlwind, I began with the title and worked outward, creating motivic development, rhythmic passages, and fast repeating patterns that resemble a whirlwind in my mind.”

Nicholas Rich, "Pop Mutations"

Pop Mutations is a planned three-movement concerto for piano and chamber orchestra (the first movement is still under construction). Each movement examines and caricatures an interesting phenomenon found in popular music.

The middle movement, Cool Clear Water, takes as its source material a Western song that has been covered almost continually since its first recording in 1936. The song has been covered by such a diverse array of artists (including Johnny Cash, Odetta, Fleetwood Mac, Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell, Leo Kottke, and the Muppets) for such a long period of time that it has transformed from a singular musical performance to a cultural archetype. “Cool Clear Water” is my “cover” of the song. In it I use the techniques most characteristic of my recent elecro-acoustic work. The ensemble acts like a live looping unit and effects processor for the piano, supplying echo and reverberation to the piano’s gestures, and occasionally feeding back uncontrollably.

The final movement, Chaconne: 1984, addresses the harmonic language of pop music in the 1980s. In the music I like most from this period (Tears for Fears, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, Howard Jones, UB40), the chord progressions are incredibly colorful and often cycle endlessly without identifiable regions of tension or arrival. In Chaconne: 1984, I took this phenomenon literally by constructing the movement around a repeating chord progression. Another indispensable feature of 80s pop music is its rhythm. Many of these songs have rather sophisticated interlocking patterns, composite 16th-note rhythms spread across the band in a jagged, hypnotic groove. My chaconne gradually transforms into a nameless 1980s pop song, complete with that unmistakable New Wave dance beat.