Estudios de Frontera
for 5 percussion players
BUY score & parts
1st movement: Homenage a Nancarrow (play) 8' 20"

2nd movement: Of Melody & Pulse (play) 7' 50" (new)

3rd movement: Visita a la Frontera (play) 8' 30'' (old 2nd mov.)
Percussion Area
the 1st & 3rd movements were commissioned by the Peabody Conservatory.
the 2nd movement was commissioned by a consortium of players consiting of:




Catalogue of works

index of works

Programme notes


Reviews & articles

Audio excerpts




Annie Stevens - Virginia Tech.
Rob Snaderl – Radford University
John Kilkenny – George Mason University
Scott Herring – University of South Carolina
William Moersch – University of Illinois
Peter Neville
Jim Petercsak – SUNY Potsdam
Omar Carmenates – Furman University
Andrea Venet - University of North Florida

Tom Burritt – University of Texas
Phil O’Banion – Temple University
Colin Hill – Tennesee Tech
Cécile & Robert Van Sice
Svet Stoyanav – University of Miami
Eric Willie – University of North Carolina Greensboro
Michael Burritt – Eastman School of Music
Laurent Mariusse
Justin Alexander - Virginia Commonwealth University

These percussion etudes explore ideas that in my view have been for some time at the frontier of new music.

The 1st one -Homage to Nancarrow- is concerned with the perceptual illusion of multiple simultaneous speeds or tempi.Nancarrow’s music developed in actuality multiple speeds. This was not an illusion. Yet, the irrational rhythms necessary to create his music cannot be played accurately by human performers. Mechanical pianos or computers are required for their precise reproduction. This movement explores the type of rhythms that create the illusion that multiple independent tempi are being heard while remaining playable by musicians. These polyrhythms are playable because they contain a common pulse that binds them together. The illusion of multiple speeds works when the composer and the performer manage to conceal this common pulse exposing only that which makes these rhythms ‘feel’ completely independent. In the resulting music the five percussion players share one time while creating the illusion that each instrumental part is running free at its own independent time. The type of polyrhythms I worked with were used already by Chopin in his Fourth Ballade and more recently by Ligeti in his 6th piano etude. However, I wanted to ‘stretch’  their possibilities to the very limit. I wanted to explore not only the appearance of having two or more musical lines running at different speeds but also the illusion that these lines were accelerating or decelerating with regards to each other.

The 2nd slower movement is a melodic etude, but one where we perceive melodies and themes, slow and fast, entwined or laced in layers of pulse. In a poetic sense, I would like to think that the recurring melodies are progressively heard through ‘layers of time’. The movement opens with a melodic phrase in its simplest form. As we hear this  slow tune, we barely think about time and pulse because of the simplicity and bareness of the context. As the movement progresses, the context changes and the initial melody is presented in various polyphonic incarnations, each layer suggesting a different pulse, and to that extent too, a different time. In this way, what changes in this melodic etude as the music unfolds is not only the pitch and phrasing that give the melodies their identity, but the complexity of the context in which we hear them.

In the 3rd movement –Visita a la Frontera- I wanted to revisit a central theme in 20th century art: the discontinuity of form when more than one story are told at the same time.
From the opening bars the listener is confronted with two seemingly unrelated or even incompatible types of music. The fist one is fast, loud and relentless. The second one is slow, gentle and static.
I sought to reach a point in the composition where the juxtapositions, interruptions and collisions between these two types of music become the central force and drama of the piece. I wanted the listener to focus less on the content of each type of music and more on the narrative that emerges from their extreme interaction.

AV, May 2017.