Farnsworth: Four Portraits of a House (2004)

scored for four clarinets, flute, violin, piano, and percussion
duration 8 minutes

When one looks at Nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House it takes on a deeper significance then when one stands outside. More of nature is thus expressed—it becomes part of a greater whole.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1958

In 2003 I became interested in the Farnsworth House. Mies described the house as a lens through which one becomes more aware of the changing colors and forms of the natural world outside, and it was this description that prompted me to create a series of four musical portraits of the house and its environs.

The instruments in my piece are divided into two ensembles. The four clarinets form the House Ensemble. In each of the four movements these instruments render a different elevation of the house in musical terms, the lengths of the notes determined by the proportions of the porch, floor, roof, and vertical supports of the house. While the music of the House Ensemble is timbrally uniform and rigorously systematized, the music of the complimentary group of instruments, the Nature Ensemble, is just the opposite; the flute, violin, percussion, and piano play non-coordinated gestures—many determined by chance procedures—meant to evoke the ever-changing colors and forms of the natural world.


Farnsworth: Four Portraits of a House was premiered at USC in 2004 and has since been performed at the University of Hawaii and the Aspen Music Festival.