This is the fourth anniversary of an infinite number of curves- time to take a look back at the last 12 months.


Huang Ruo visits. What a brilliant composer. My connection with music has always been closely related to my connection with literature, so it was fascinating to spend time with someone who is more visually oriented. When I tried to give him directions to a nearby restaurant, he pursed his lips, then said, “Could you draw me a map?” Unfortunately, I’m an autodidact when it comes to map-drawing, and I haven’t committed enough time to it to develop whatever innate talent I may have possessed. I think he ended up going to the school cafeteria.


Fifteen Minutes premiered at the Santa Fe New Music Festival by violinist Piotr Szewczyk. Piotr is an amazing musician and a gifted organizer. He’s played his Violin Futura program, which includes works by a number of S21 frequenters, bunches of times all around the U.S. and Germany.

Birth of my second son, already blowing me away with his brilliance.


Salt Lake Symphony and University of Utah Symphony join the Schumann Trilogy commission. Three pieces for orchestra, singers and actor, on the always-fascinating subject of Robert Schumann.


Randall Woolf visits. Very intense but soft-spoken, with great ideas and a real gift for fruitful collaboration.

The Boise Philharmonic and the Mansfield Symphony join the Schumann Trilogy commission.


Cassatt String Quartet commissions Blossom for their Cassatt in the Basin project. Later this month, I’ll be heading to Odessa and Midland, Texas, where Cassatt will rehearse and perform with two local high school quartets. I ended up writing two pieces, Blossom and Brio, and let the students decide which one to play. The kids picked Blossom. Tough pieces to write, forced me way out of my comfort zone — I love it when that happens. Two other things I love: working with outstanding musicians and working with gifted youth. Now I get to do both at once.


Judged a competition sponsored by the London Symphony with John Corigliano and Carter Burwell. Gig came to me through NOTION notation software. So here’s a plug for NOTION. Check them out.


Winner in the first Ravinia Composer Competition. My piece, The Better Angels of Our Nature, is scored for piano trio and narrator. I was happy to have this opportunity come up: I had always had a vague, patriotic admiration for Abraham Lincoln, but reading his correspondence and speeches gave me more insight into the traits that made him a very special man.


Emerson String Quartet commissions String Quartet No. 5: Through the Night. A dream come true for me, and a total surprise. I picked up violinist Phil Setzer from his hotel to take him to a rehearsal when Emerson played here in March. After exchanging some pleasantries (it was the first time we had ever met), he said, “I’ve been following your music, and I’d like to be very proactive in commissioning a quartet from you.” I almost drove the car off the road. Five months later, the details were finalized.


Daedalus String Quartet commissions String Quartet No. 4: The Infinite Sphere. Daedalus premiered my second string quartet in 2003. The few days I spent with them then made me eager to collaborate with them again. They are an intense, thoughtful and outstanding group of musicians. When the Kenan Institute for the Arts announced its LINKS commissioning program in November 2007, I contacted the quartet to find out if they would be interested in having number four. The logistics for this one took almost a year to work out — and therein lies the explanation of how number four was commissioned “after” number five.


My tributes to Alex and Elliott, two guys who have peeled my socks off on many occasions.










Family time. I had my first son at the age of 46, and my second at age 48. Obviously, it took me a long time to get around to it – I had a lot of trepidation about my ability to cope with fatherhood. So far, I couldn’t be happier with the results, but I think it would have been a disaster if I had tried any earlier in life.

As things have worked out, my family has been one of my best teachers.

And here’s wishing you all a peaceful and productive 2009.

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