Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (2006)

Variations On

(2006, 7′)

Chamber Concerto for Seven Players
Words by Benjamin Rogers
Written for the 2006 Aspen Music Festival and School and the 2006 Aspen Contemporary Ensemble


Flute, B-flat Clarinet, Piano, Percussion, Violin, Viola, Cello
(*all players also speak.)


Variations On (2006) is a chamber concerto for seven players, and was written for the 2006 Aspen Music Festival and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. The short movement makes use of five very different strains of text, which are all spoken by the members of the ensemble. Sometimes fragments of these texts overlap. Sometimes the text is incomprehensible. Sometimes the voices are heard over the accompanying music, and at other times the music takes over and becomes the focus. The result could be described as concurrently overhearing different corners of a decidedly very different type of party.

The creative process for Variations On began with my approaching Benjamin Rogers, a writer friend of mine living in Chicago, in March of 2006. We brainstormed ideas for the piece, the texts, the music, the title. Benjamin sends me various sketches of text, and I send him piano renditions of musical fragments for each text. In the end, we decided on five different voices for the piece, and I set out to integrate all of these voices into the work. In 2007, Variations On was adapted for the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, with new Chinese translations and adaptations of the original text by Lap Lam.

Finally, what exactly happens when you hear words and music together? How does one change the meaning of the other?


October 26, 2007 Hong Kong Sinfonietta, with Yip Wing-sie, conductor.
July 13, 2006 Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, at the Aspen Music Festival and School, with Sydney Hodkinson, conductor.