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Solo Works

  • le mieux
  • BA(da)SS
  • Boombox Serenade
  • Euphonium>Plutonium
  • Farbenmusik
  • The Women of Leopold Bloom
  • scenes from a solitary beach

le mieux

for solo clarinet and tape

Duration - approx. 9 minutes

Program Notes:

le mieux was originally written for Ed Nishimura, who was looking for a composition for clarinet and electronics. I started the work in 2011 and finished the score in 2012. Unfortunately, no concert was scheduled and I got bogged down with other commissions (and some life stuff like getting married and having a kid) so the realization of the tape part was put aside.

Then, in 2014 I met Caitlin Felicia and told her about the unfinished piece. She was looking to program a modern work for her recital and asked for me to finish the tape portion of le mieux.

The title has a double-meaning: foremost it is French for “best”, but fans of hockey will see that it is also the name of one of the game’s iconic players, Mario Lemieux. The sound world of the tape portion uses a majority of ice, water, and hockey rink sounds. The clarinet part is more mellow, with no extended techniques, like a skater gliding atop the ice.


-Ryan Jesperson

to be premiered on April 4th, 2015 by Caitlin Felicia at The Hartt School


for solo bass

Duration - approx. 4 minutes

Program Notes:

The idea for BA(da)SS came to me during a recent concert after seeing the bassist Ryan Ford perform Peter Askim’s Edge. The piece was incredible and the first thing I wanted to say to Ryan after his performance was that it was “badass”. It was then that I realized that the word incorporated another word, “bass”. Always one to give my works ironic, catchy, or tongue-in-cheek titles, I wrote it down and took it home. I told Ryan about it a few days later and we decided that I would write him this piece.
Two other aspects of Askim’s piece stuck with me: his use of repeated notes and double natural harmonics. I wanted to explore both of these techniques in the piece. The title also brought with it many connotations, most notably a mental association with heavy metal or aggressive playing. So sufficiently inspired, I took all my new techniques and concepts and started writing. It’s a short and fast piece, with a lot of aggression and some improvisation. I hope you find the title fitting. Enjoy.

-Ryan Jesperson

Premiered on June 7th, 2012 by Ryan Ford in West Hartford, CT. Performed on June 23rd, 2012 at the New Hampshire Bass Fest.

Boombox Serenade

for trumpet and electronics

Duration: 6:35

Boombox Serenade is written for and with the assistance of Chris Belluscio. He asked for this piece and I was too busy and put it off for too long, but now it’s done and I’m extremely happy to have written it for him.

Boombox Serenade is a trip into the mind of a street musician. The real, ambient sounds that he/she hears during a performance and the imaginary accompaniment in his/her head coalesce into a single tape part that accompanies the solitary performer. Not much more needs to be said. The “tune” played throughout is an original I wrote a few years ago called Without You, There’d Be No Summertime. The big band audio used is from segments of my own original big band charts, recorded by either the WSU Big Band or the Hartt Big Band. The recorded trumpet is from Chris himself.

Whether you are hearing this piece in the concert hall or on the street, enjoy!

–Ryan Jesperson 4/13/2010, Kansas City, MO.


Boombox Serenade was premiered by Chris Belluscio on April 24th, 2010 in Boston, MA.

Euphonium > Plutonium

for solo euphonium

Duration - approx. 5 min.

Program Notes:

Euphonium > Plutonium was written for and with the assistance of Nate Gay. It was the result of the UMKC Composers’ GUILD program CO(mp)LLABORATIONS, which took place in the spring of 2009.

A History of the Piece:

In the year 2000 top scientists at NASA began developing brass fusion technology. The theory was that if a euphonium player could play fast enough, he/she could tear open a wormhole and travel back in time, preferably to the year 1756 and demand that the newborn W.A. Mozart compose nothing but euphonium concertos. Three brave souls volunteered for the first mission.

No one returned.

Then, in 2009, a series of unexplained euphonium encounters shook the nation. It began at the inauguration, when a burning euphonium solo temporarily mesmerized Chief Justice Roberts as he was swearing in Barack Obama. Then, a random scatter of euphonium glisses propelled the Arizona Cardinals to the Superbowl. Soon enough it was apparent to all the astrophysicists in the world that the failed experiment in 2000 had stumbled upon a new renewable energy source. A world arms race has ensued to develop clean euphonium technology. Tonight, you will all be witness to the first sanctioned American euphonium experiment since the year 2000. Nate has bravely volunteered to command this dangerous mission. He has been trained to withstand the substantial amount of G-forces that will be attempting to pry his fingers from the triggers. If he is successful, you will feel a euphoric release of what we call “phonons” a subatomic particle responsible for all life in the brass universe. You will also know if he is successful if after the piece the lights come back on. They will have been charged with clean euphonium power, and will be able to stay on until at least the next work. We can only hope that we are not too late to save the world…

A final word of caution: remember to turn off all cell phones, as the euphonium wormhole might cause them to explode…

-Ryan Jesperson


Portions of Euphonium > Plutonium was premiered on April 8th by Nate Gay as part of CO(mp)LLABORATIONS, a UMKC program that pairs composers and performers. The entire piece will be premiered in the fall of 2010 in Kansas City, MO.

Nate and Ryan
Nate and Ryan at Pi & Coffee CO(mp)LLABORATIONS 4/8/2009


for solo piano

Chappell White Memorial Award
Honorable Mention
NACUSA Young Composer's Competition

Duration - approx. 8 min.

Program Notes:

Farbenmusik is a series of works that explore coloristic possibilities for solo instruments.

Farbenmusik for solo piano is the first in the series. In the piece attempts were made to explore extremes in register, timbre and density. The piece is set up in a sort of arch form, with the emotional high point somewhere around the golden mean section. Extended techniques are used to enhance the coloristic possibilities of the instrument. In this way the piece is also a sort of etude of timbre. The use of the German title is meant to evoke a correlation to the Second Viennese School and their use of texture and timbre.


-Ryan Jesperson

Performance Notes:

Accidentals apply throughout the measure, in the octave of occurrence, in the usual tradition.

Tuplets are always written to represent a higher ratio. So, for example, 7 sixteenth notes will always be written in place of 4 sixteenth notes, not 8 sixteenth notes.

When directed to “hit the side of the piano with open hand” the performer should do so not for the percussive sound, but to get the strings inside to vibrate.

When directed to “mute strings inside piano” the performer should attempt to use his/her hand to mute just the range of strings needed, creating a “pizzicato”-esque sound.

When directed to “touch first harmonic inside piano” the performer should attempt to lightly touch the node halfway up the string (producing a note an octave above), although, if this proves difficult, any harmonic capable of being produced will suffice.

When directed to “roll fingers on piano lid” the performer should rapidly tap all five fingers on any wooden surface above the keys of the piano.

When directed to “use finger to gliss strings” the performer should reach in the piano and attempt to gliss the notated range. Ranges are approximate, so if the piano construction does not allow a direct gliss to occur, then the performer has the ability to alter the range or notes, but not direction or approximate duration.

To perform the cluster chord, the performer is welcome to utilize his/her palms or forearm to get the desired range.

When directed to “stomp feet on ground” the performer should attempt to make a deep sound rather than a high sound, something like a bass drum if possible. For this reason it might be best that female performers do not wear heels for the performance, although, if a sufficient sound can be produced, then the performer is welcome to wear any shoes of his/her choosing.

The performer is encouraged to create “characters” for the different sections, and is free to employ rubato or other stylistic decisions in order to create these “characters”.

Due to use of both the una corda pedal and the sostenuto pedal (as well as the necessity of reaching inside the instrument), this piece can only be performed on a grand piano.

Farbenmusik was premiered by Kari Johnson at the CMS Great Plains Conference on April 4th, 2009. The revised version of Farbenmusik was premiered by Amanda Arrington in February of 2010 at the 2010 Nebraska at Kearney New Music Festival and was also performed at UMKC, the UCM New Music Festival, and a NACUSA East Coast Chapter concert in New York City.

Amanda Arrington and Ryan Jesperson
Amanda Arrington and Ryan Jesperson

The Women of Leopold Bloom

for solo bassoon

Duration - approx. 9 min.

Program Notes:

The Women of Leopold Bloom is a set of pieces that caricature the women surrounding Leopold Bloom during James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. He has a wife that will cheat on him before the end of the day, a mistress that he only communicates with through the post, an infidelity that occurs from across a beach, and various barmaids and prostitutes that hassle and proposition him throughout his busy day. Bloom is Joyce’s modern Odysseus, a character lost in his own city and in his own life, who spends a day around Dublin finding himself and his way home.

Molly Bloom (morning)

The morning begins with Poldy leaving to get breakfast while he contemplates Molly’s impending infidelity. Before dinner, Molly will have slept with Blazes Boylan, and this piece represents the two lovers in Molly Bloom’s life. Bloom is the low slow notes and Boylan the fast high passages. The piece ends as ambiguously as Molly’s day, asking, does the last lone short eighth note represent her return to Bloom or her continuance with Boylan?

Martha Clifford

Martha, a pseudonym, is one of the women who answered Bloom’s ad looking for a typist. Although they have not met, there is a feeling of possible infidelity associated with their continued correspondence. Martha’s letter reads as part S&M and part ignorant sheltered housewife. The piece represents this in the “aggressive” staccato notes and the more slow innocent moving lines. The piece is slow, and unfolds like a letter that asks to be savored.

Lydia & Mina

The “Sirens” of the Ormond Hotel, Lydia and Mina try and “crash” Bloom with music. One of the more seductive songs of the chapter is the street ballad “The Croppy Boy”. This piece takes “The Croppy Boy” and creates three variations of the melody in F major, with a final unmarred repetition in A major.

Gerty MacDowell

Late in the afternoon Bloom winds up on the beach and sees Gerty MacDowell, who is at the beach with another lady and some children. Gerty, a parallel of Homer’s Nausicaa, notices Bloom and shows him her upper thigh and underwear. Bloom is aroused and masturbates. This piece starts with a glissando (a sexual innuendo) and continues with spastic, fast-moving passages until the climax of the piece.

Zoe Higgins

Zoe Higgins is the prostitute that Bloom meets while trying to save Stephen Dedalus. She asks Bloom many crude questions, and eventually gets annoyed with him after a long oration. This piece creates the aura of Zoe’s crassness through offbeat notes and fast register jumps.  Bloom’s responses are the fast connected lines. The adagio section is an homage to Wagner’s Ring cycle, which is alluded to in the climactic moment in the novel. he piece ends with an ascending run that represents Bloom’s terrifying vision at the end of the chapter.

Molly Bloom (evening)

This piece is derived from the experimental final chapter to Joyce’s novel. The final 44 pages of Ulysses is written in a “stream-of-thought” style that focuses on the thoughts of Molly Bloom. The piece is directly created from the chapter, with the length of each word used serially to determine interval-size (direction and octave displacement allowed). Also, the rhythmic notation is static, like the novel, with tempo accelerations and decelerations creating an elasticity like which would occur naturally during a reading.

This piece was premiered on a NACUSA concert on June 5th, 2006 by Richard Kandetzki. The current recording is from Keel Williams' recital in 2009 at UMKC.

scenes from a solitary beach

for solo clarinet

Duration - approx. 7 min.

Program Notes:

These pieces were written for, and with the assistance of Sarah Wilson to be premiered at the 2004 Washington State University New Music Festival.

The first piece, Sand, explores the subtle effects of pressure and time that create the grains of sand on a beach. To show this, the clarinet slowly bends from one half-note to another, displaying an infinite number of steps in between Western music’s smallest tonal interval. Slowly the melody expands, eventually leading to the climactic moment when the clarinet ascends a minor ninth, then descends a minor 25th, showing just how miniscule the earlier minor second was in relation to the rest of the world.

The second and third pieces, Waves and Undertow, are related both melodically and metaphorically. They are symbols of opposites. A wave breaks visibly on a shore demonstrating its power, while the undertow silently pulls the water back out to sea invisible underneath the flow of the waves. Similarly, the second and third pieces are organized to be completely opposite. With few exceptions, Undertow is an absolute retrograde of Waves. By making the two pieces mirror images, it allows the music to flow into the ear then slowly back out to the clarinet, creating an auditory illusion of a wave and the subsequent undertow.

The fourth piece, entitled Frosted Glass, is an impression of the interesting shards of glass that one often finds on the beach. Most of these shards are broken bottles, man-made containers, that carelessly were abandoned and taken in by the ocean. But in their abandonment a magical thing happens—the glass is reabsorbed by nature and when it is rediscovered it displays a newfound beauty. In the music this is represented by the static nature of the rhythm. It isn’t until the last segment, when the melody is released back to the audience in a tempo-free form, that the beauty is truly uncovered.

The final piece, Tide, is derived from the last four measures of Undertow. In this piece the clarinet repeats the same tone for different durations, producing a driving effect that implies a connection to a larger force. The repeated notes produce an interesting affect to the ear. Instead of listening for the next note, the ear instead refocuses on the richness of the single tone. Tide twice moves down a minor third, ending the piece on a sustained note a tritone away from the original. By moving as far away from the original sustained note as possible, the long tones create the feeling of sinking into a much larger space. The piece ends the same way the first began, with a slow bend up a minor second.

Performance Notes:

This piece requires a grand piano for the first and fifth movements. During these movements the sustain pedal on the piano is continuously depressed, and the performer plays into the sounding board.

Premiered by Sarah Wilson, cl, at Washington State University. Pullman, WA. January 22nd, 2004
The first movement, "Sand", was one of the winners of the 2009 Kalv Festival Composition Competition

Upcoming Performances

April, 2020: CANCELLED! Janet and Jordan Jacobson will premiere a new violin and trombone concerto called And Violet Makes Three with the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra at The Hartt School.

October 10th, 2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Vršac, Serbia.

October 9th, 2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Sombor, Serbia.

October 8th, 2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Niš, Serbia.

October 7th, 2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Pirot, Belgium.

October 6th, 2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Smederevo, Serbia.

October 4th,2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Belgrade, Serbia.

September 2019: Prometheus Duo will perform Icarus in Redding, CT and Bloomfield, CT.

August 24th, 2019: Boombox Serenade will be performed by Dan D'Addio at Hartford Artspace Gallery.

Spring 2019: Attention Deficit...Squirrel will be premiered by Woody Witt and Pamela York in Texas.

May 14th, 2017: High Times for Low Brass will be premiered at the New Britian Museum of Modern Art.

April 29th, 2017: What we talk about when we talk in 140 characters will be performed by HICO at The CT Historical Society in Hartford, CT.

April 12th, 2017: What we talk about when we talk in 140 characters will be performed by HICO at Eastern Connecticut State University.

March 9th, 2017: Concerto for Trombone "Cowiche" will be premiered by Matthew Russo and the UCONN Symphony Orchestra at the UCONN campus in Storrs, CT.

February 2nd, 2017: Boombox Serenade will be performed by Dan D'Addio at CCSU in New Britain, CT.

October 1st, 2016: From Sabres to Satellites will be premiered by US Army MI Corps Band in New Mexico.

April 30th, 2016: Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops? will be premiered by Glen Adsit and the Hartt Wind Ensemble.

October 10th, 2015: but in this dark night I am stationary and time is a river will be premiered by Elisabeth Halliday and The Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra.

June 6th, 2015: Souvenirs/Miniatures will be premiered at June in Buffalo.

May 14th, 2015: David Tayloe and Marko Stuparevic will premier A Page Out of Zen in West Hartford, CT as part of ACF's "Composers Night Out".