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About this Piece

My 2nd violin concerto (Violin Concerto #2) was composed in 2020, during a particularly excruciating part of the COVID-19 pandemic - the first half of the year. Coupling anxiety and depression about the existential threat which COVID presented for humanity, with the drudgery of this new anti-human social distanced paradigm we now found ourselves in, I set pen to paper with a few ideas for motifs. The 3rd movement, the most angular and dense of the three, was written first because agitation and edginess were the first things that occurred to me. But I knew I didn’t want the piece to begin like that; I wanted it to end with that - an assertive resilience which spoke to personal triumph over our fears about COVID, American race relations, and environmental issues which were exacerbated in 2020. This was the first sentiment that prevailed in my mind as I set out to compose the piece.

Actually, I composed the piece backwards: movement 3 was composed first, then movement 2, and finally movement 1. If one were to compare the various moods of the movements to the stages of grief, then movement 3 would be anger, movement 2 would be grief or sadness, and movement 1 would be acceptance. But programmed in reverse, the piece now conveys the opposite progression: from rejoicing and acceptance (movement 1), though remorse (movement 2), and finally arriving at anger and resilience. Interestingly, I gave each movement a name based on the mood which I was trying to convey (1. Romance/Rejoice 2. Remorse 3. Resilience), but I didn’t give the entire concerto a title, other than Violin Concerto #2. I don’t know why that is the case…

It’s difficult for me to talk about the piece from an analytical point of view; my process for composing is so internalized that I simply compose where the piece seems to take me. If a section seems to go on too long, I’ll truncate it; if it’s not long enough, I’ll extend it. All of these judgements are based off of what “feels” right. I know that lately I’ve become enamored with extended ternary forms, forms which state and then restate exposition-like and recapitulation-like outer sections, with a developmental middle section. This is loosely the case with all three movements, but there is much variation within those parameters.

The violin is, in my mind, the voice of the piece, describing each sentiment through melodic shapes. The orchestra is used in a variety of ways: as accompanist, as interjector, and as a foil for the leading violin voice.

I want to thank the great Rachel Barton Pine for commissioning this piece - my third composition written especially for her. It is truly an honor to compose a piece for such a singular and extraordinary soloist.