Solo & Chamber Ensemble, Instrumental
for piano trio, with optional tape
ephemera was commissioned by Jennifer Howard for the Delphi Piano Trio.
for cello and piano
Gather was commissioned by Music@Menlo for David Finckel and Wu Han, to mark the opening of the Spieker Center for the Performing Arts.
Spring Meditation (2020)
for solo violin
Karen Kim, violin; Maara Ensmann, dance and choreography; Megan Slusarewicz, costume design and videography
Spring Meditation was commissioned by the Experiential Orchestra
Mina Cecilia's Constitutional (2020)
for solo violin
Premiered June 20, 2020, by Jennifer Koh
Jennifer Koh // June 20, 2020, Alone Together – Week 10 (Finale)
Mina Cecilia's Constitutional was commissioned by ARCO Collaborative for Jennifer Koh's "Alone Together" series.
Winter Light (2020)
for two violins, cello, and piano
Winter Light was co-commissioned by String Theory at the Hunter, Apex Concerts, and Emerald City Music.
Skyline Palimpsest (2020)
for string quartet
Premiered February 11, 2020, by the Jasper String Quartet, Crosslands, Kennett Square, PA
Jasper String Quartet // February 13, 2020, Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting – Skyspace, Philadelphia, PA
Skyline Palimpsest was commissioned by the Jasper String Quartet with support from the Musical Fund Society in partnership with Temple University's Center for Gifted Young Musicians.
The writing of Skyline Palimpsest took place near the end of my first year as a displaced New Yorker & newly minted Philadelphian: the tenth move of my life, this time departing the place I had lived the longest. My occasional visits back to New York—approaching the lower Manhattan skyline for several miles of the New Jersey Turnpike—have continued to feel like homecomings. Yet the razing and rebuilding never cease. Every visit feels like discovering a new city.
When leaving, and when revisiting, the sites of our lives’ experience, we confront the sobering reality that life goes on without us; that as much as we might measure how we change by the time we spend in these places, so do those places change—even places we think of as “home”—utterly indifferent to us. An especially disquieting way in which home changes: before long, New York City, like many other homes to millions of other people, will be underwater.
Music for Four (2017)
for flute/alto flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, and cello
Premiered February 3, 2018, by Hotel Elefant, St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, NY
Hotel Elefant // February 3, 2018, St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, NY
Music for Four was commissioned by Hotel Elefant.
Music for Four is a paean to the spirit of discovery, as embodied equally in the creative process—a writer discovering the exact turn of phrase to capture what she means to express; a composer mining a melodic fragment for all of its potential implications; etc.—and in the play of a young child. Nabokov, in Speak, Memory, describes observing his infant son: “It occurs to me that the closest reproduction of the mind’s birth obtainable is the stab of wonder that accompanies the precise moment when, gazing at a tangle of twigs and leaves, one suddenly realizes that what had seemed a natural component of that tangle is a marvelously disguised insect or bird.” Another prompt here is the rhetorical cadence of Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop (“Pup up. Brown down. Pup is down. Where is Brown? WHERE IS BROWN? THERE IS BROWN! Mr. Brown is out of town!”)—reading material in heavy rotation these days with one-year-old Oliver, to whom Music for Four is dedicated, and whom I so delight in watching as he suddenly realizes that what had seemed a natural component of a tangle of twigs and leaves is a marvelously disguised insect or bird.
Tria Peccata (2017)
for oboe, bassoon, horn, violin, and bass
Premiered October 5, 2017, by the Experiential Orchestra, American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC
Experiential Orchestra // October 5, 2017, American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC
Tria Peccata was commissioned by The Experiential Orchestra.
In the fall of 2017, I was one of five composers (with Kate Copeland Ettinger, Christopher Wendell Jones, Kirsten Volness, and Wang Lu) invited to create a set of bagatelles to accompany an exhibition of American painter William Woodward’s The Seven Deadly Sins at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Each of the five composers wrote short pieces on three of the seven sins; each sin was thus interpreted by two composers, with the program culminating in Wang Lu’s musical response to Woodward’s “The Sins in Concert.”
I drew Envy, Sloth, and Lust. (Woodward’s paintings can be viewed online at http://williamwoodward.com/home/paintings/seven-deadly-sins.)
Invidia. The most private of sins – a toxic bitterness that resides in the sinner's innermost thoughts.
Acedia. Woodward says, "Sloth is too lazy to do anything when something bad is about to happen." Here is a laconic horn song, unaffected by a vulnerably naked young woman moments from being mauled by a tiger and exploded by a box of dynamite.
Lvxvria. What struck me here was the painting's wicked suggestion of various ménages à trois: the call girl and the two gentlemen; or call girl-gentleman-judge; cherub with two monkeys; etc.
Living is easy with eyes closed (2017)
for twelve strings and electronics
Premiered April 20, 2017, by Quodlibet Ensemble, Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church, New York, NY
Quodlibet Ensemble // April 20, 2017, Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church, New York, NY
Narrative structure has emerged as a prevailing concern in much of my work. Living is easy with eyes closed is specifically concerned with imagery. On reading Mary Gaitskill’s short story “An Old Virgin,” I was struck by how, in the absence of virtually any plot (a woman gets in her car and goes to work), the author deploys images so densely compressed with meaning. This work aspires to a similar narrative alchemy. (I considered titling the work An Old Virgin, but this felt somehow misleading; even worse, the inadvertently predatory After “An Old Virgin.” Gaitskill’s story first appeared in The New Yorker as “A Dream of Men,” but appropriating this title seemed unnecessarily erotic. And after all, this is not program music. I’ve borrowed instead from the Beatles: “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.”)
Living is easy with eyes closed was commissioned by Quodlibet Ensemble
Through the Panic (2016)
for solo cello
Premiered December 6, 2016, by Mihai Marica, Harris Theater, Chicago, IL
The Way Things Work (2016)
for violin and cello
Premiered October 21, 2016, by Karen Kim, violin, and Michael Nicolas, cello, St. Barthlomew's Church, New York, NY
Karen Kim, violin; Michael Nicolas, cello // October 21, 2016, St. Bartholomew's Church, New York, NY
Leah Asher, violin; Meaghan Burke, cello // September 27, 2019, Areté Venue & Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
EmmaLee Holmes-Hicks, violin; Zan Berry, cello // December 16, 2018, Firehouse Theater, Newport, RI
The Way Things Work, for violin and cello, takes its title from a poem by Jorie Graham, who suggests that the way things work “is by admitting / or opening away. … by solution, / resistance lessened or / increased and taken / advantage of. … The way things work / is that eventually / something catches.” It seems to me the practice of composition—like, I imagine, any creative endeavour; or, indeed, any worthwhile endeavour, creative or otherwise—follows these same prescriptions. But there’s more: there’s intention: “I believe in you, / cylinder lock, pully… your head is the horizon to / my hand.” The Way Things Work was composed as my wife, Karen, entered the third trimester of her pregnancy. During this time, considering the way things work has suddenly felt a profound responsibility. (Incidentally, Jorie Graham has of late become our regular bedtime reading; all the books and websites encourage reading to your child in utero.)
To Hear You Tell It (2016)
for flute, violin, cello, and percussion
Premiered June 8, 2016, by Cadillac Moon Ensemble, DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, NY
Cadillac Moon Ensemble // June 8, 2016, DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, NY
Commissioned by Cadillac Moon Ensemble.
I’ve been reading a lot of Nabokov lately—he of the notoriously unreliable narrators (as in Pale Fire; Ada, or Ardor; Lolita, of course). Such a wondrous thing happens in these storytellers’ storytelling. A narrative fantastically emerges outside of the story being told. The reader is invited to step back from the ostensible story and, like viewing one of those Magic Eye images, discovers the novel’s truth.
Our interaction with time—a narrative in its own way, and music’s vital force—is similarly unreliable: time is a seeming constant, but slippery in how we mark it. Our memories fail us. Time “stands still.” Twice a year, we savagely bend it to our will, adjusting our clocks by an hour. Etc.
The comfort of music, of course, is that its marking of time is steadfast (this piece is about fourteen minutes long). And, of course, it can always be trusted.
like the tide... (2016)
for three flutes (flute, flute/alto flute, flute/bass flute)
Premiered April 15, 2016, by Areon Flutes, Center for New Music, San Francisco, CA
Areon Flutes // April 15, 2016, Center for New Music, San Francisco, CA
In the conception of this work, sections were thought of in descriptive terms—in turn, and to varying degrees, technical and poetical—which it might be informative to share: Introit – meccanico – in which motivic figures emerge – flight (fancy free) – waterfall music – recap [of meccanico] – like the tide washing upon the shore, then receding back into the sea. These were inevitably corrupted over the course of the work’s realization. While writing, I had in mind various images: one was, indeed, the rising and falling of the tide; another was the evolutionary emergence of life from the ocean, and a return to the ocean. (I was subsequently reminded of this line from a Björk song, which I love: “Your sweat is salty. I am why.”)
Incident no. 2 (2015)
for violin and piano
Premiered July 10, 2015, by Karen Kim, violin, and Andrew Armstrong, piano, Green Lake Music Festival, Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts, Fond du Lac, WI
Karen Kim, violin; Orion Weiss, piano // May 3, 2016, National Sawdust, Brooklyn, NY
Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin; Wu Qian, piano // March 29, 2018, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York, NY
Incident no. 2 for violin and piano is the third of my Incidents (following one for cello and piano and another for string quartet). These are instrumental chamber works that probe singular abstractions from within a deliberately narrative framework. An incident is something that happens (a spilled drink, an argument, a car crash); any incident, when deeply considered, may reveal some underlying truth (gravity, impatience) beyond its superficial details. My Incidents forgo the car crashes and spilled drinks, aiming immediately for the underlying phenomena. Mendelssohn wrote Songs without Words; these are Stories without Plots. The principle concerns of Incident for violin and piano are memory and elasticity: each a thing that may be tried to a breaking point. The work is dedicated to Karen Kim, my favorite violinist and favorite wife.
Dreamers often lie (2014)
for violin, spoken word, and electronics
Premiered April 25, 2014, by Kristin Lee, violin, and Patrick Castillo, spoken word and electronics, World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA
Kristin Lee, violin; Patrick Castillo, spoken word and electronics // April 27, 2014, (Le) Poisson Rouge, New York, NY
Dreamers often lie was commissioned by the Metropolis Ensemble for violinist Kristin Lee.
And we mean well in going to this mask;
But 'tis no wit to go.
Why, may one ask?
I dream'd a dream to-night.
And so did I.
Well, what was yours?
That dreamers often lie.
In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.
(Romeo and Juliet, I.iv.48–52)
Music for the Third Place (2012)
for violin and electronics
Premiered September 15, 2012, by Karen Kim, violin, and Patrick Castillo, electronics, The Third Place Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
Karen Kim, violin; Patrick Castillo, electronics // September 15, 2012, The Third Place Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
Music for the Third Place is an aleatoric work for violin and electronics comprising pre-composed fragments, found sounds, field recordings, synthesizers, and live audio processing systems. The shape of the work is governed by a set of rules in the style of competitive board games and the players’ choices in accordance with those rules. Aside from the content of the violin fragments, found sounds, and field recordings, nothing is pre-determined.
This is a recording of the world premiere performance (first of two readings) at the Third Place Gallery in Minneapolis, for which the site-specific work was composed. In addition to the violin fragments and electronic components, a variety of bells - collected from antique shops in St. Paul, Stillwater, and elsewhere - were distributed among the audience: listeners were invited to to ring bells whenever they heard something they liked or did not like, thus contributing to the overall soundscape of the performance.
Incident (no. 1) (2010)
for cello and piano
Premiered January 19, 2011, by Dmitri Atapine, cello, and Adela H Park, piano, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Dmitri Atapine, cello; Adela H Park, piano // August 1, 2011, Music@Menlo, Atherton, CA
This short movement for cello and piano is a study in the expressive potential of seemingly impassive musical materials: repeated notes, juxtaposed half steps and whole steps, and the all-trichord hexachord among others. The work comprises three distinct sections unified by these devices. In the first section, an introductory dialogue between the indifferent cello and quick piano figurations gives way to a lyrical melody with introspective piano accompaniment. The climactic cello monody follows. The apparent tranquility of the closing section, poco meno mosso, belies a remaining anxiety from the preceding music.
Two Pieces after Grass (2009)
for tenor saxophone and sampler
Premiered April 18, 2009, by David Castillo, tenor saxophone, Connecticut College, New London, CT
Ed RosenBerg III, tenor saxophone; Patrick Castillo, sampler // May 8, 2015, IBeam Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
for solo violin
Premiered May 7, 2007, by Piotr Szewczyk, violin, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI
Karen Kim, violin
Karen Kim, violin // May 17, 2020, Hotel Elefant COVID-19 Artist Relief Virtual Concert
The Quality of Mercy (Innova 926): http://www.innova.mu/albums/patrick-castillo/quality-mercy
Lola (2001, rev. 2004)
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano
Premiered May 6, 2005, by Andrea Fisher, flute; Pascal Archer, clarinet; Jessie Montgomery, violin; Claire Bryant, cello; and Ching-Wen Hsiao, piano, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, New York, NY
Mvts. I–IV: Andrea Fisher, flute; Pascal Archer, clarinet; Yaniv Segal, violin; Laura Usiskin, cello; Barbara Podgurski, piano // V: Andrea Fisher, flute; Pascal Archer, clarinet; Jessie Montgomery, violin; Claire Bryant, cello; Ching-Wen Hsiao, piano // May 6, 2005, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, New York, NY
Recipient of the Brian M. Israel Prize (Society for New Music, Syracuse, NY)