Compositional Philosophy

There are several recurring themes in my music. Different pieces reorder emphasis, but these general characteristics ideas frequently emerge. 
I am fascinated by the sensation of movement in music. Journey metaphors are often aptly applied to my music and I’m interested not only in the illusion of travel and arriving but in delineating topographies and viscosities of the medium travelled through.

Related to the above is a desire for transformation, for a sense that something – the material, me, the listener – is changed by the journey. As a result, my music tends to be a one-way trip.

My music tends to explore fringe states of consciousness rather than brand-name emotions (anger, love) but I aspire to maintain contact with the fundamental human urges that brought music into being – singing, dancing and the search for transcendence (praying) – with terse melodies, rhythms that come from the body and evocative textures. A segment of my work can be aptly described as vernacular music from a culture that doesn’t actually exist.

I should mention that there is a lot of music that I like that sounds nothing like my music, which caused me to realize that music I compose is not the only music I want to hear, but it is the music I most enjoy composing. That is, the daily act of exploration and discovery is as important to me as the finished product. Of course, composing is no fun at all if you don’t love what you are creating.

 

Steven Mackey composer page on Boosey and Hawkes

 

 

Compositions

*Click titles for program notes.

Orchestra (with soloist)

  • Stumble to Grace – concerto for Piano and Orchestra, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Louis Symphony and the New Jersey Symphony for Orli Shaham. Boosey and Hawkes (2011). (25’)
  • Four Iconoclastic Episodes – Double concerto for violin, electric guitar and strings. Commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields for Anthony Marwood and Steven Mackey. Boosey and Hawkes (2009). (24’)
  • Beautiful Passing – concerto for violin and orchestra, commissioned jointly by the BBC  Philharmonic and the St. Louis Symphony for Leila Josefowicz, Boosey and Hawkes, (2008). (24’)
  • Time Release – concerto for Percussion and Orchestra , commissioned by the Residentia Orkest Den Hague, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, L’Ensemble Orchest de Paris, for Colin Currie, Boosey and Hawkes, (2005) (33’).
  • Animal, Vegetable, Mineral – concerto for Sax Quartet and Orchestra, commissioned by the Nashville Symphony and the Prism Saxophone Quartet, Boosey and Hawkes (2005) (32’)
  • Dreamhouse – for Orchestra, amplified vocal quartet, performance artist, and 4 electric
    guitars, commissioned by the Holland Festival, Boosey and Hawkes (2003)    (52’)
  • Pedal Tones – for orchestra and pipe organ (2002), commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, Boosey & Hawkes (2002). (30')
  • Tuck and Roll – concerto for electric guitar and orchestra Commissioned by The New World Symphony, Boosey & Hawkes 1999. (33')
  • Deal (1995) – improvising electric guitar soloist, optional drummer and small chamber orchestra (16 players), commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for guitarist Bill Frisell. Boosey & Hawkes 1995. (28')
  • Banana/Dump Truck – cello solo and orchestra, commissioned by Arts at St. Annes for Fred Sherry, Boosey & Hawkes 1994 (25')
  • TILT, – orchestra, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, Boosey & Hawkes - 1992. (14')

Orchestra (without soloist)

  • Turn the Key – for orchestra, commissioned by the Miami Performing Arts Center for the New World Symphony. Boosey and Hawkes, (2006). (10’)
  • Lost & Found – for orchestra, commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, Boosey & Hawkes (1996). (6')
  • Eating Greens – orchestra, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boosey & Hawkes - 1994. (20')

Music Theater

  • Slide – music theater for Tenor/actor, electric guitar and mixed chamber ensemble. Commissioned by The Ojai Festival, Stanford University, University of Richmond, and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, for eighth blackbird. Boosey and Hawkes (2010).
  • Ravenshead – staged monodrama for tenor/actor, violin, tenor sax., bassoon, keyboard synth, mallet kat synth, electronic drums, electric guitar (1998), Boosey & Hawkes, (1998). (95')

Large Chamber Ensemble (8 or more players)

  • Groundswell – concerto for viola and large chamber ensemble, commissioned by Hsin-Yun Huang, Boosey and Hawkes, (2007).
  • Gaggle and Flock –  string octet, commissioned by The Joseph Haydn Society for the Borrmeo and Brentano Quartets, Boosey & Hawkes - (2001) (25')
  • Deal – improvising electric guitar soloist, optional drummer and small chamber orchestra (16 players), commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for guitarist Bill Frisell. Boosey & Hawkes 1995. (28')

Small Mixed Chamber Ensemble

  • Five Animated Shorts – for Cimbalom, and mixed chamber ensemble, commissioned by Psappha, the Cheltenham Music Festival with funds provided by Beryl Calver-Jones and Gerry Mattock, the Network for New Music with funds provided by the Philadelphia Music Project (an Artistic Initative of the Pew Charitable Trust, administered by the University of the Arts). Boosey and Hawkes (2006). (24’)

  • Heavy Light – for flute, cello, electric guitar, percussion and piano. Commissioned by Mosaic. Boosey and Hawkes (2001). (30’)

  • Micro-Concerto – for Percussion and Five Players (Fl. Cl. Vln. Vla. Pno.) (1999) Commissioned by Meet the Composer for New York New Music Ensemble, Boosey & Hawkes 1999. (18')
  • Gathering – Soprano, Alto, Marimba, Harp, 2 Trombones, commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Festival. Boosey and Hawkes (2005) (5’)
  • Indigenous Instruments (1989); flute/piccolo/alto flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello & piano; commissioned by Chamber Music America for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Shawnee Press- 1989. (18')

Chamber Music featuring strings

  • Interior Design for solo violin (2003), commissioned by Curtis Macomber, Boosey and
    Hawkes (2003) (21’).
  • Gaggle and Flock –  double string quartet, commissioned by The Joseph Haydn Society for the Borrmeo and Brentano Quartets, Boosey & Hawkes - (2001) (25')
  • Ars Moriendi – string quartet, commissioned by The Koussevitzky Foundation for the Borrmeo Quartet, Boosey & Hawkes - (2000) (25')
  • String Theory – for amplified String Quartet and digital delay (1998), commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, Boosey & Hawkes 1998. (18')
  • Humble River, for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello (1997) commissioned by The Rotterdamse Kunstichting for Leonore Pameijer and friends, Boosey & Hawkes (1998). (32')
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano   (1996), commissioned by The McKim Foundation of the Library of Congress, Boosey&Hawkes-1996 (20')
  • Physical Property (1992), string quartet & electric guitar, commissioned by Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival for the Kronos Quartet, Boosey &Hawkes – (1992). (15')
  • Troubadour Songs – string quartet & electric guitar, commissioned by the National Endowment of the Arts for the Kronos Quartet, Boosey & Hawkes – (1992). (14')
  • On All Fours – string quartet, commissioned by Chamber Music Chicago for the Vermeer String Quartet, Boosey & Hawkes (1992). (14')
  • among the vanishing – soprano & string quartet, commissioned by Dawn Upshaw, the Kronos String Quartet and Lincoln Center, Boosey & Hawkes (1992). (35')

Chamber Music featuring percussion

  • It Is Time – percussion quartet, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and Chamber Music America for SO percussion. Boosey and Hawkes, (2010).
  • Five Animated Shorts – for Cimbalom, and mixed chamber ensemble, commissioned by the Network for New Music (Philadelphia), and Cheltenham Music Festival (UK), Boosey and Hawkes (2006).
  • Jango – Classical Guitar Quartet and Percussion, commissioned by The Los Angeles        Guitar Quartet, Boosey and Hawkes (2003) (5’).
  • Gathering –  Soprano, Alto, Marimba, Harp, 2 Trombones, commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Festival. Boosey and Hawkes (2005) (5’)
  • Micro-Concerto – for Percussion and Five Players (Fl. Cl. Vln. Vla. Pno.) (1999) Commissioned by Meet the Composer for New York New Music Ensemble, Boosey & Hawkes 1999. (18')
  • Busted – solo Percussion, commissioned by Peggy Benkeser, Boosey and Hawkes (2003) (8’).
  • No Two Breaths – Marimba, Violin and Percussion Quartet, commissioned by the Fromm Foundation for Marimolin, Boosey&Hawkes-1995. (17')
  • Feels So Baaad – Violin, Marimba, Guitar, Percussion, commissioned by Catalyst/BMG, Boosey&Hawkes-1994. (5')
  • See Ya Thursday – solo marimba, commissioned by Meet The Composer/ Reader’s Digest for New Music Marimba, Percussive Arts Society, William Moersch, Nancy Zeltsman and Robert Van Sice, Boosey & Hawkes - 1994. (13')

Chamber Music featuring winds

  • Animal, Vegetable, Mineral for Saxophone Quartet, commissioned by Chamber Music America for the Prism Quartet, Boosey and Hawkes (2004) (30’).
  • Never Sing Before Breakfast –  woodwind quintet, commissioned by the New York
    State Council on the Arts for the Quintet of the Americas, Shawnee Press -1989. (12')

Chamber Music Featuring Voice

  • The Attic Which is Desire for children's chorus (2002) Commissioned by the Young Peoples Chorus of New York, Boosey and Hawkes (2002) (6')
  • Slide – music theater for Tenor/actor, electric guitar and mixed chamber ensemble. Commissioned by The Ojai Festival, Stanford University, University of Richmond, and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, for eighth blackbird. Boosey and Hawkes (2010).
  • Gathering –  Soprano, Alto, Marimba, Harp, 2 Trombones, commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Festival. Boosey and Hawkes (2005) (5’)
  • Ravenshead – staged monodrama for tenor/actor, violin, tenor sax., bassoon, keyboard synth, mallet kat synth, electronic drums, electric guitar (1998), Boosey & Hawkes, (1998). (95')

Chamber Music featuring guitar

  • Jango – Classical Guitar Quartet and Percussion, commissioned by The Los Angeles
    Guitar Quartet, Boosey and Hawkes (2003) (5’).
  • Heavy Light – for flute, cello, electric guitar, percussion and piano. Commissioned by Mosaic. Boosey and Hawkes (2001). (30’)
  • San Francisco – cello and electric guitar. Boosey and Hawkes (1998) (6’)
  • Fusion Tune – cello and electric guitar. Boosey and Hawkes (1998) (6’)
  • Feels So Baaad – Violin, Marimba, Guitar, Percussion, commissioned by Catalyst/BMG, Boosey&Hawkes-1994. (5')
  • Physical Property (1992), string quartet & electric guitar, commissioned by Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival for the Kronos Quartet, Boosey &Hawkes – (1992). (15')
  • Troubadour Songs – string quartet & electric guitar, commissioned by the National Endowment of the Arts for the Kronos Quartet, Boosey & Hawkes – (1992). (14')
  • miscellaneous solo guitar music in manuscript.