Kirk O’Riordan

composer | conductor | saxophonist

compositions for chamber ensembles
(5 or more players)

Time Lapses for Chamber Ensemble (2015) 14’

Score Sample
Audio: (Coming Soon)

Flute; Clarinet; Alto Saxophone; Bassoon; Horn; Trumpet; 2 Marimbas

Time Lapses was composed for the Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble. It is probably my most traditionally minimalist piece to date… deliberately composed in the style of Steve Reich (and somewhat modeled after his Music for 18 Musicians) as a way to introduce my ensemble to that style.

The piece is in a standard A-B-A’ form…It is quite hypnotic, and the title alludes to the feeling of watching time-lapse photography.

Video:




Avian Requiem for Chamber Ensemble and Electronics (2014) 62’
Composed collaboratively with the members of The Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble

2-4 flutes (incl. picc., alto, and bass); clarinet (doubling bass clarinet); violin, viola, cello, harp, percussion (1)

Scene 1: Flock
Birds flock together and begin to migrate.
Scene 2: Flight
Homage to Olivier Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir.”
Scene 3: Catalog
Based on Michael Pestel’s “Catalog of Extinct
Birds”: Each note is derived from a letter of the
Latin name of an extinct bird species.
Scene 4: Species
Lists of extinct species.
Scene 5: Genome
The Passenger Pigeon’s genetic code.
Scene 6: People
The people are indifferent to the birds’ plight.
Scene 7: Insects
With birds gone, insects thrive and
become over-populated.
Scene 8: Extinction


Premiere: November 10, 2014, The Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble; Kirk O’Riordan, director. Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College

Score Outline

Video: (full performance)

Tonight’s program is the result of a collaboration between LCCME, the Lafayette Art Gallery, and the technical staff of the Lafayette College Department of Theater. The music performed was composed by the members and director of LCCME. Many thanks to Ben J. Novak who provided the mitochondrial protein sequence of a passenger pigeon used in scene 5.

Note: The score outline linked above was used by every player during the performer. Individual players were asked to provide transcriptions of bird calls and texts (poetry, prose, etc.) which deal with birds in some way. In addition, the ensemble performed from two pages of Michael Pestel’s score, Catalog of the Extinct Birds, which was, with his permission and participation, adapted for our performance (Scene 3). Those materials are not provided here.




As In Evening Silence for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet (2014) 13’
Commissioned by Frederick L. Hemke

Score Sample
Audio: (Coming Soon)

As In Evening Silence was composed for Frederick L. Hemke between May and September 2014. It hopes to create that “tender grief that is not woe,” where one can inwardly celebrate one’s life’s work while enjoying the fruits of those labors. It is written by a grateful student for his teacher.




Gone for Chamber Ensemble (2012) 14’

Score Sample
Audio: (Coming Soon)

Flute; Oboe; Clarinet; Bassoon; Harp; Piano; Percussion (2); 2 Violins; Viola; Cello; Contrabass

Gone is dedicated to the memories of two friends: David Les and Jennifer Hawfield Hartman. Both passed within three weeks of each other between May and June 2012. The piece is, for me anyway, the kind of shell-­shocked meditation that lends itself to quiet reflection, violent, frustrated outburst, and uneasy disbelief.




Night of Summer Stars for Percussion Ensemble and Dancers (2012) 11’
Composed for The Lafayette College Percussion Ensemble
and dancers Carrie Rohman and Nandini Sikand

Score Sample

Video:

Premiere: March 23-24, 2012. The Lafayette College Percussion Ensemble; J. Larry Stockton, director. Alvin Ailey Theater, New York, NY.

Bend low again, night of summer stars.
So near you are, sky of summer stars,
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl,
So near you are, summer stars,
So near, strumming, strumming,
So lazy and hum-strumming.

--Carl Sandburg

Night of Summer Stars was composed for the Lafayette College Percussion Ensemble (Larry Stockton, director) and dancers Carrie Rohman and Nandini Sikand. It was first performed on March 23 and 24, 2012 in the Alvin Ailey Theater, New York, NY.




Mantra for Chamber Ensemble (2011) 14’
For the Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble

Score Sample

Flute; Clarinet; Piano; Percussion (3); 2 Violins; Viola; Cello

Video:

Premiere: March 10, 2011, The Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble, Kirk O’Riordan, director. Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College

A mantra (from Sanskrit: man- "to think" and -tra meaning, tool) literally means "instrument of thought." Originating in ancient India out of Vedic Hinduism, mantras serve a variety of functions and are especially popular as aids to meditation and devotion. As powerful sound vibrations, mantras encompass various forms of sacred utterance (syllable, scriptural verse, or sacred formula), which can be repeated silently or chanted for different purposes such as instilling concentration, facilitating spiritual growth, and helping to visualize a deity. It is said that a mantra, when recited with proper understanding and intonation, can revitalize the mind with mystic power and help deliver it from illusion to enlightenment. Mantras have also been used in religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or even allegedly to eliminate foes.

(from the New World Encyclopedia)




Dance Music from The Red Shoes for Chamber Ensemble (2010) 18’
Commissioned by The Cecil College Station Players, Janaea Rose Lyn, director

Score Sample

Video:

2 cl; bscl; asx; 2 perc.; vln; soprano; 1-4 acoustic guitars; 1-4 electric guitars; bass guitar

Premiere: March 10, 2011, The Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble, Kirk O’Riordan, director. Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College

Dance Music from The Red Shoes was composed for the Cecil College Station Players to be part of their annual combined Music/Theater/Dance department production. Cecil College is a Community College in northeastern Maryland: the unusual instrumentation is a result of their (admirable) desire to include as many student musicians as possible.

The score is my first attempt at composing specifically for theater. While much of my music has something of a theatrical or visual quality, this piece—being designed especially to be performed within a play-presented a variety of interesting challenges.




Two Studies After Seurat for Woodwind Quintet (2010) 10’

Score Samples

I. Sunday Afternoon
II. The Bathers
Audio: (Coming Soon)

Premiere (Mvt. I only): September 22, 2011, Moran Woodwind Quintet. College Music Society National Conference, Richmond, Va.

Painter Georges Seurat (1859-1891) is perhaps best known for his A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-86) which hangs in the main stairway of the Art Institute of Chicago. Executed in tiny dots of many different colors, the work is an early example of what later became known as pointillism. More accurately, the work is an example of what Seurat termed “Chromoluminarism,” which strived to create maximum luminosity of color by separating the colors with white space—dots surrounded by blank canvas.

Additionally, Seurat believed that color could create harmony and emotion in much the same way as music: that as the composer uses counterpoint, chords, variation, and form to create harmony (to be understood here in the more general sense, i.e. all components working together to create a unified whole), so the painter uses color.

For this piece, I chose to approach the placement of notes in time in a manner similar to how Seurat used color: I have attempted to surround musical events with the blank canvas of silence; to blend colors into luminescent combinations; and to ask the listener to hear the sounds the same way as he or she might view Seurat’s work—creating images by subconsciously blending and balancing the sounds into interesting and satisfying composites. The Woodwind Quintet is a terrific ensemble for this experiment in that the five instruments that comprise it have such widely diverse sonic properties.




Five Dreams for Five Players for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (2009) 18’

Score Samples

I. Quiet, tranquil
II. Legatissimo e misterioso
III. Gently, freely; quasi-cadenza
IV. Hypnotic, quiet
V. Floating, ethereal

Video:

Premiere: April 13, 2012. The Lafayette College Contemporary Music Ensemble, Kirk O’Riordan, director. Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College

Five Dreams explores those first moments of awakeness, when dream images and reality are indistinguishable; when images from old dreams invade new dreams; when you still feel yourself falling though you know you are not.

I began composing Five Dreams to answer a call for three-minute chamber works to be performed at the national conference of the College Music Society: the first movement was completed rather quickly and submitted. The other movements grew around the first, in mood, size, and concept. While I wanted pieces that shared a dream-like sound, I wanted also to create contrasts of styles, colors, and techniques.




Ductus figuratus for Alto Saxophone and Chamber Ensemble (2008, rev. 2009) 20’
Commissioned by The Eugene Rousseau Celebration, Steven Stusek, host

Score Samples

I. Cadens
II. Abeo
III. Tripudio
IV. Demum

Video of a performance of the first three movements from March, 2016:

Premiere: October 4, 2008. Kenneth Tse, saxophone; Kevin Girardi, conductor. The Eugene Rousseau Celebration, University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Ductus figuratus (trans. “figurative style”) was composed in honor of saxophone virtuoso and esteemed teacher Eugene Rousseau. The work is approximately 20 minutes in duration; essentially a concerto for saxophone and chamber ensemble.

The title of the work came to me during work on the second movement, developed a certain Gregorian quality as it grew. At the time I had been listening to Orff’s Carmina Burana, and I found that there were aspects of my piece that were similar, notably the simple verse form and the medieval-profoundly-reverent mood. My piece reminded me of entering the Cathedral at Rouen, France (painted many times by Monet) for the first time: one is overpowered by the history and ritual. Latin seemed to be the appropriate language for the title and movements.

“Figurative style” here, borrowed from rhetoric, is a bit of a play on words: musical figurations are elaborate ornaments, which, at least here, add to the austerity of the work. The movement titles translate as follows: I. Cadens, “cadenza” (from rhetoric, cadence); II. Abeo, “chant”; III. Tripudio, “dance”; IV. Demum “at last,” or “finally.”

I am pleased to dedicate this work to Eugene Rousseau, with whom I had the privilege of studying saxophone from 1989-91. It is my hope that this piece might speak as a small gesture of thanks for many years of commitment to his students, to the saxophone, and to music.




Quintet for Reeds for Oboe, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, and Bassoon (2009) 16’
Commissioned by The EastWind Quintet

Score Samples

I. delicate, serene
II. lightly, with energy
III. cadenza: freely, espressivo
IV. legato sempre; allegro con spirito

Premiere: March 23, 2016. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.

In the past century, the traditional Woodwind Quintet (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon) has been established as a viable compositional medium. A great deal of interesting music has been composed for the ensemble, with more new pieces composed every year. It is certainly, though, not an easy ensemble to compose for: balance and tone issues challenge the composer in ways that are not as evident in ensembles of like instruments (string quartet, saxophone quartet, etc.).

This ensemble, however, strikes a good balance between color variation and unity. That each instrument produces sound with a reed (or two) makes the differences in timbre and projection less stark. In composing for this ensemble, I wanted to explore the colors and nuances that this group of instruments could create, but I wanted to accomplish that with limitations on pitch material and form: the first and second movements are constructed from the same six pitches, and the final two are constructed almost exclusively from perfect fifths. Each movement is elided, from last pitch to first, and the final movement recalls the first.

The Quintet was completed in July, 2009, and is dedicated to the EastWind Ensemble.




Return, forgotten for Cello Ensemble (2005) 11’
Commissioned by The Cellobration Ensemble, Andrew Rammon, director

Score Sample

“Returning home, anonymous, alone…”




there was life here... for Seven Percussionists (1994) 10’

Score Sample: (Coming Soon)
Audio: (Coming Soon)


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Lafayette College
Easton, Pennsylvania
18042

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