Smear Music was written in the summer of 2013, immediately after receiving my Bachelors in Music Composition from California State University East Bay in Hayward. All at once, I found myself working a 9 to 5 job in the bustling city of San Francisco, constantly on my feet and amid the whirlwind of living around, and commuting in, a modern major metropolis.
My composing in this new life, formerly a craft I could commit an entire day to, became reduced to sporadic 20-30 minute intervals whenever I could win over an open seat on the various buses and Bart rides that now cluttered my day. Now a part of the "real world" and feeling isolated and unsure of my own place within it, I pieced together the strands of ideas written over the course of my daily commuting. I believe that because of this, Smear Music took the form of a rhythmically fueled piece of music, composed at a time of strong isolation and aggression at a new world constantly shifting and churning with little regard to my seemingly tiny space within it. Recommended listening in a dark room, alone, without moving.
In the Autumn Foliage
In the Autumn Foliage was written in the summer of 2016 as a gift for the union of two very special people, to be premiered at their Seattle wedding in October later that year. The piece first introduces the two violin voices and the initial melody stated in the warm key of D major, the "key of the golden sun" as once described by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. As the pieces moves forward, this melody is re-introduced with a variety of rhythmic and tonal variations, finally completing its last statement in the bright and effervescent key of A major at the finale of the piece.
The electronic track was created by recording and then manipulating takes of myself "playing and bowing" wine glasses filled with water in the kitchen of my Oakland home. The glasses were filled with just enough water to produce as close to a D major triad as possible. When the piece shifts to A Major near the end, the electronic track, once serving as a comfortable blanket of the home key, brings a lifting, heightened sense of elevation to the strings A Major. Recommended listening at dawn or dusk, with or without falling leaves nearby; with or without thoughts of regret/nostalgia/hope.
I: Mists, II: Freeways, III: Sequoia
California Nocturnes, a love letter to the west coast, is a three-movement fantasy of sorts. A kind of psychedelic tone poem, each movement seeks to illuminate the imaginative colors and sounds teaming with each scene. An eerie and brooding shroud of fog lurking on the coast; a darkened forest that springs to life, teaming with all manner of imaginary creatures; and even a bustling maze of interlocking highways, with machines whizzing by. As is customary with Nocturnes, California Nocturnes exists in the hours near half-light, where the lines of reality and fantasy blur, to become something odd entirely. Recommended listening when outside, very high up in a tree, or on a mountain.
Written under the tutelage of Mason Bates, this piece is Taylor's graduate thesis piece from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and was awarded second place in the prestigious Highsmith Orchestral Composition Competition.
The Other Side of the Sky
for brass quartet, violin, viola, and live electronics
Inspired by retro science fiction, as well as a collection of Arthur C. Clark short stories by the same name, The Other Side of the Sky is an experiment in tone, color, and sound. The brass instruments begin with a chorale like chant establishing the piece's mood, with assistance by the droning sounds of Saturn, tuned to the key's home tonic of Ab Major. As the piece develops, the strings are introduced and become the central driving force of the piece. Written similarly to a Concerto where the featured instrument engages in a back and forth dialogue with the accompaniment, here the strings act as the foreground instrument, with the brass layering luscious pads of sounds underneath and engaging in their own dialogue with the strings.
There is no true moment of ecstasy in the piece, no "peak" that the piece eventually reaches. The piece entertains the build up of sounds and tension while referencing and developing the initial Brass chorale, but is much more interested in the dramatic aftermath of that tension and the space surrounding it, as opposed to the climaxes they can sometimes create.
The electronic sounds, the majority of which were collected by the Kepler and Cassini spacecrafts and released by NASA, are triggered at moments in the piece to aid in establishing the tone and atmosphere. Near the end of the piece, the sounds fade away as the strings pluck out their final expressions into nothingness before fading off into the void. A soothing ambient pad then picks up the piece in a sort of epilogue, where the strings repeat in unison a broken and vague musical idea before drifting off forever into space. Recomended listening at the end of your day.
for violin, clarinet, and piano
I: Ascent, II: Contact, III: Descent
Metropolis was commissioned in 2011 by the California State University East Bay Music Department, as the undergrad recipient of the annual Glen Glassow Fellowship award for excellence in overall body of work. The piece signifies a change in sound in my overall body of work as a student under the tutelage of composer Frank La Rocca. Recommended listening for when staring at something bright and magical, and then cold, and then bright again.
for three percussionists and electronic playback.
Composed in the winter of 2016 atop a tower in San Francisco, Half Light was my deepest foray into using electronics and sampled sounds throughout a piece. Samples used in this piece come from the sounds of cicadas buzzing, classically trained singers auto-tuned humming, myself playing several differently tuned harmonicas, the sound of rain falling, organs, as well as a bunch of other strange, crackling and popping sounds. I first presented a rough version of this piece to Mason Bates who was my mentor at the time, after compiling a wealth of metallic and wooden percussion instruments into his studio and recording all the parts myself.
Coming directly after a year long project for orchestra, Half Light was a sort of call back to my earliest passions of playing music; poly-rhythmic, driving, and fast. Recommended listening when driving fast or when walking on a wooded trail by yourself, or perhaps even in a concert hall.
for 2 marimba, 2 vibraphone, and 1 glockenspiel
Originally a Garageband experiment in listening to too much Beethoven piano music and Thom Yorke piano music and loving the sound of the celeste, Cerebral Cortex was first written on my suburban home piano in 79 Club Drive, San Carlos, CA. After transferring it to Garageband and then taking it to Dr. Frank La Rocca, my composition professor during my undergrad, we started working out how to transition it to the chamber hall. An "adventure piece" and generally a crowd please-er at recitals, Cerebral Cortex always has the sinews of the brain in mind, and would become my first out of state performance. Huge thank you to the New York University Percussion ensemble under the direction of Simon Boyar who absolutely kill it in this video. Recommended listening when wanting wafts of C# minor to trickle down your hall.
Earth, Water, Fire, Ether, Air
An experiment in wanting to pull off my own version of a Vivaldi Seasons, mixed with Ravel's Gaspard de la Nui, Elements came about as the body of work comprised of my last year working with Dr. Frank la Rocca during my undergrad. Inspired by feminist elemental works by LA photographer Craig Barnes, these pieces are meant to reflect the power and nature of the element they represent.
Electric Bass and Vibraphone with Motor
The Number of the Sirens as Two
Inspired by Greek Lore, and toxic infatuation, this piece exists in a space where dialogue is the focal point. A masculine and feminine presence exists at all times simultaneously with the two instruments. The bass and vibraphone ebb and flow between different musical vignettes that sometimes battle and sometimes harmonize with one another. The end is pessimistically vague and airy. The piece has been described as "like watching an entire day, from the sun rising, all the way until it sets". One of the most directly stream of conscious pieces I've written, it holds a special place in my heart. Recommended listening at the end of the day, alone or with others, after a scary movie or a couple of drinks.