Re(new)al: Concerto for Percussion Quartet
duration: 16′
Commissioned by the Albany Symphony Dogs of Desire and GE Renewable Energy
Dedicated to Sandbox Percussion

I have tremendous respect for renewable energy initiatives and the commitment to creating a new, better reality for us all. Re(new)al is a percussion quartet concerto that is similarly devoted to finding unexpected ways to breathe new life into traditional ideas, and the quartet therefore performs on several “invented” instruments, including crystal glasses and compressed air cans. And while the piece also features more traditional instruments, such as snare drum and vibraphone, I looked for ways to either alter their sounds or find new ways to play them. For instance, a single snare drum is played by all four members of the quartet, and certain notes of the vibraphone are prepared with aluminum foil to create buzzy, nearly electronic sound effects. The entire piece was conceived in this way, and it was a blast to discover all of these unique sounds with the members of Sandbox Percussion.

In addition to the spirit of reinvention, ideas of cooperation and synergy are at the core of the piece, as I believe we all have to work together to move forward. All of the music played by the solo quartet is comprised of single musical ideas that are distributed between the four players (for those interested, the fancy musical term for this is a hocket). Therefore, the music would be completely dysfunctional without the presence and dedication of all four members. Midway through the piece the quartet divvies up lighting-fast drum set beats, but perhaps my favorite example of synergy is in the very opening, where the four members toast crystal glasses. We always toast glasses in the presence of others, and oftentimes to celebrate new beginnings. This is my simple way of celebrating everyone who is working together to create a cleaner, more efficient future.

The piece is constructed of three continuous movements, each inspired by the transcendent power of hydro, wind, and solar energies. The hydro movement transforms tuned crystal glasses into ringing handbells, the second movement turns each member of the quartet into a blade of a dizzying wind turbine, and the closing movement evokes the brilliance of sunlight with metallic percussion instruments. Heartfelt thanks to David Alan Miller, the Albany Symphony, and Sandbox Percussion for their dedication to this music, and GE for their generous support.

Performance History

Premiere: June 2, 2017. Experimental Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at RPI, Troy, NY
Sandbox Percussion and the Albany Symphony Dogs of Desire, David Alan Miller, conductor

February 10, 2018. Los Angeles, CA
Sandbox Percussion and the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

February 11, 2018. Los Angeles, CA
Sandbox Percussion and the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

November 30, 2018. Michigan State University
Sandbox Percussion and the Michigan State Symphony, Kevin Noe, conductor

May 4, 2019. Church of the Epiphany, Washington DC
Sandbox Percussion and the New Orchestra of Washington, Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, conductor