composition

Les Larmes

Les Larmes is a vocal setting of a poem written by my mother, Céline Suzanne Laflamme Forte. The text has been set to music composed for vocal quartet with electronic processing using MAX/MSP software. The poem itself was written in a time of personal and familial strife: the diagnosis, decline, and eventual passing of my grandmother from Alzheimer’s disease, on top of an illness misdiagnosed as terminal cancer that my mother recovered from. As a school nurse and educator, and the matriarch of her household, Céline’s healing hands and words are shared with many. Her poem continues to resonate, offer solace, and has taken on even more meaning in these times of social-political unrest amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The poem Les Larmes can be read here in both French and English.

Performed by Quince Vocal Ensemble and premiered virtually on August 4th, 2020 at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Triptych for Percussion Quartet

Each movement represents a different historically-informed compositional style inspired by three historical/contemporary figures.

 

Movement I: Many Landscapes is based on the life and work of Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645), a 17th-century Japanese samurai, writer, and artist. The score is graphic notation made up of Sumi ink and watercolor on paper. Performers are given free choice of three instruments/objects each with which to interpret the score.

 

Movement II: Quincunx is based on the life and work of Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983), a British serialist and experimental composer, and is one of quasi-atonal, decaphonic serialism. Five 10x10 matrices were arranged in a quincunx shape (like the number 5 on dice) and used in combination with chance operations to inform both melodic and rhythmic structures.

 

Movement III: Ceiling Fan Ratios takes its name from the ceiling fan in the studio of American visual artist Jon Verney (b. 1987). Each voice of the ceiling fan, from the slight hum of electricity, the whirring bearings of the electric motor, the blades spinning through the air, the light bulbs rattling against their glass enclosures, to the clinking of the pull-chains, all have certain repetitive numerical relationships to the others, both intervallic/harmonic and rhythmic, which informed the composition of this final movement.

Performed by Mobius Percussion on February 13th, 2020 at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Graphic scores for Movement I: Many Landscapes

Sumi ink and watercolor on paper

15"x22.5" each

Ratios I

When I sit at the piano to practice, I begin with a meditation to clear and prepare my mind and fingers: the left hand plays an ostinato pattern in rhythmic groups of 3 while the right hand is free to phase in and out of synch using patterns of opposing numbers. Left to right, respectively, it may be 3:1, 3:2, 3:3, 3:4, etc. This piece, Ratios I, evolved from these piano meditations into a larger composition for string ensemble and piano. It utilizes Serialist processes (i.e. tone matrices) applied to a Minimalist tone-pallet (i.e. rhythmic and melodic structures). One may think of it as scenery viewed from the window of a moving train: the piano’s driving ostinato (sempre forte) as a constant horizon off in the distance, sometimes obscured by hills and valleys; foreground, midground, and background created by the different string sections.

Performed by the Aurora Chamber Orchestra on June 17th, 2019 at the North Kingstown Public Library.

cries&screams//subterranean_meditation 

A threnody dedicated to my ancestors and to all those affected by displacement and oppression. Through researching my family's genealogy I discovered ancestry in the First Nations People, Métis, and Filles du Roi. The deeper I dug into this history, the more inner turmoil and existential anguish developed, resulting in the creation of this piece.

Mechanically, it is a 4-track composition for analogue modular synthesizer consisting of off-kilter percussive sequences in a polyrhythmic, odd time signature; disjointed wind/water sounds made with pink and white noise; and human-like cries fashioned from dissonant harmonies of sine, triangle, and square wave oscillators.

Recorded in 2018 using a Starkey Laboratories Analogue Modular Synthesizer

cries&screams//subterranean_meditation -
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Ylem

Played by Hapax Trio, this piece takes its name from the theoretical original substance that existed before the formation of the chemical elements, the source for the cosmic background radiation. From a compositional standpoint, it borrows from Modes of Limited Transposition, Positive Harmony, and Monkian melodic techniques.

Samuel Brunner, electric guitar

Antonio Forte, electric piano

Brian St. Pierre, drums

Recorded at Chris Devona Recording Studio in 2018

Ylem - Hapax Trio
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Accumulations for Three Musicians 

A graphic score consisting of acrylic paint on orchestral staff paper is given to three musicians. With no prior rehearsal, the trio is asked to examine the word accumulation and interpret the score through performance.

 

Kevin Eikenberg, vibraphone and cymbals

Antonio Forte, trumpet

Evan Oliver, piano

 

Recorded in the Abramson Recital Hall at American University in 2013

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Eupithecia Absinthiata

Composed in the Jazz idiom, this piece is a sonic representation of a species of moth after it has hatched from its chrysalis. This moth is named for the wormwood plant that it inhabits, a key ingredient in the liqueur absinthe (historically associated with poets and artists like Arthur Rimbaud and Vincent van Gogh). This recording comes from my senior recital/installation entitled Music for Moths, and is part of a multi-media exploration of a moth's life-cycle.

Kevin Eikenberg, drums

Antonio Forte, flugelhorn

Luke Stewart, contrabass

Andrew Welch, piano

Colin Wick, tenor saxophone

Recorded live in the Abramson Recital Hall at American University in 2012

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Copyright © 2020 Antonio Forte

Eupithecia Absinthiata