…the [Book of I] soundtrack composed by Sarah Wallin Huff stands out as both a powerful album, taking its listener on an emotional journey of beauty, despair, and hope, as well as a fascinating study of the composer’s visceral and intellectual connection to the source material. Featuring the stellar work of musicians Darrell Peries, Caleb Barnes, Cathy Alonzo, Jenna Ford, Lainey Elizabeth White, Brett Bird, Jonatas Mostacato, Ayla Draper, and [Wallin] Huff herself, the album is a stunning collection of gorgeous, orchestral selections comprised mostly of string instruments that are, at times, vividly haunting but always entirely engrossing. [Wallin] Huff, who previously released her own album, Soul of the Machine, earlier this year, clearly has a passion and a gift for sharing every ounce of her mind, body, and soul with the listener, as if providing a warm invitation for the listener to share the same in response.
Sarah’s music has a classy, understated sound, yet it is baroque and ornate, tipping the hat off to genius composers like Debussy, but also tipping the hat off experimental ideas and cinematic scores. Opening number “Intrepid” is a very dynamic composition with a unique color, almost echoing the work of modern composers like Yann Tiersen.
Weeping Willow, featuring “Michael Jung,” is one of our favorite tracks on this release. I love the romantic, dramatic high notes of the string section, as well as the timeless sound of the sparse piano melodies, almost flirting with shades of Tango, in the vein of Astor Piazzolla. A true masterpiece, with so many nuances. The album is also home to a suite extending over 3 tracks, “Leviathan of the Ancient Deep.” These songs also features ambient samples, as well as electronic elements and ornate percussions, making for a really diverse set of colors.
It is the third piece “The Oracle” that is the crème de la for me with its incredible depth and creative complexity. Dynamics take deep hold here with sudden bursts and calming moments. I really hear the room when flute and clarinet parts elevate along with the brilliant staccato keyboard hits. There are moments when time seems to fall apart and then strings back together in a wonderful interplay among the musicians.
Sometimes the idea behind the music is just as interesting as the music itself…the music on this album “…explores the relationships between mechanical structures, organic beauty, and identity.” …Wallin Huff presents three unusual compositions that tackle some intriguing ideas and topics… Her music is quite complex and unusual and yet…very easy to absorb and appreciate. There’s a lot to take in here… Our favorite is the wonderfully moody and subtle “Gypsy Wanderer”…nothing short of breathtaking.
Based on an unaccompanied violin partita variation from the eighteenth century by Bach, layers of electronic elements breathe new life into this classic. Also appearing on this release is “Sonata Moderna (Remastered)” from 2010. “Sonata Moderna” is based on a piece from the seventeenth century (“Sonata sopra la Monica” by Biagio Marini). It was the May 2016 Akademia Winner for Best Ambient/Instrumental Song. Featuring two violins and cello with rock rhythm and chords, the past is united with the present in this driving work.
Enjoy this little amuse-bouche of mashed-up music! 🙂
“The Elusive Everyman and Her Majesty” represents our main character, forced to live everyday with his mental illness, unsure who is real and who is not… Though that’s not entirely true– all the characters are very real to him.
Here’s how I put the work together; it’s really my most formulaic of the whole suite, which I think suits the mental state of our character…
This track represents one part of the two-fold heart of the main character’s ultimate saga, in my musical interpretation of it. Essentially, this track is comprised of an increasing hodge-podge of melodic fragments — ripped violently from the original works in which they are first found (from “I Know What Death Sounds Like,” “Faces in Foam,” and The Everyman and Her Majesty themes at the beginning of this present track) — that swirl into an angry and frustrating mass of sound and angular textures, up until the very end, when they merge together into The Whiteness of Teaston’s mind. My next track will strive to illuminate musically the flip-side of Teaston’s disjointed thoughts, and the ways in which he attempts to come to terms with his schizophrenia….
Technique-wise, I assembled these fragments by first labeling them both alphabetically and numerically, then, taking seven of Teaston’s own chaotic fragments of thought from random places in the book (“Ever will I?”; “Can I?”; “Consumption”; “Hello Blood”; “The Cliff, Thanks”; “And the Water”; “Even My Face”), I used the letters and syllables of these phrase-lets to “spell” out and overlay the musical phrases.
How many of the phrases from these earlier tracks can you recognize, rushing and overtaking Teaston’s poor troubled mind?
I am fascinated with this work but I have yet to be happy with a performance of it… it’s just such a wickedly tricky work!
There are two versions you can listen to at this point: a live version that’s not entirely accurate but has a lot of heart, and a digital rendition that is spot on as far as accuracy goes but is missing a little bit of the humanness to it… See what you think! 😉
“Greek Dance” is one of my earliest pieces; I believe this is one of those tunes I wrote while sitting on the bus during my tour years, like “Face in the Moonlight“…
Composed in 2002, this charming and enthusiastic work for string quartet makes playful use of the various rhythmic textures able to be derived from odd-beat patterns. Though it stands, in its spontaneity and brevity, as one of Wallin Huff’s earlier works, it remains a favorite among those who have tackled its deceptively simple intricacies.
It seems so simple, yet it’s such a challenge and a blast to play!
Earlier this year, Ryan M. Luévano invited me to include a short piece for string orchestra of my own during the debut concert of the Neue World Orchestra Project, so I decided to arrange this old quartet for the group. I really love the extra layers of color and texture it provides!
I composed this odd little quartet in 2014 for the Chamber Music Institute of So Cal, at the request of its president and founder. Specifically, she wanted something she and I could play with our electric fiddles, while two others played acoustic strings. You know how I love unusual combinations! 😉
For Acoustic Violin, Acoustic Cello, Electric 5-string Violin (with octave drop pedal), and Electric 6-string Violin (with delay and chorus pedals).
“Organic Circuitry” is a unique string quartet, pitting the acoustic violin and cello against electric 5- and 6- string violins with effects. It evokes a futuristic state of being, merging ancient instruments with new technology.
I also used the opportunity to start playing around with various combinatorial processes… You know me– I like to see how weird and yet still melodic I can get! 😀
“Dance the Dream” merges an electronic ostinato with looped parts for electric and acoustic violins, accompanied by electric bass, creating a rich tapestry of dreamy color.
This little piece was meant to be a “spiritual sibling” to the 2003 electric violin work “Personal Echo,” utilizing a electronically looped ostinato as well as repeated phrases in the string parts that layered in and out of each other over the course of a basic ternary form. It’s really a very simple concept, but out of that evolves a lot of possibility!
I especially dig the chord progressions and the rich texture that blossoms out of them…
Enjoy listening to the live single of “Dance the Dream” below!
“Dance the Dream” can be performed by an early-intermediate ensemble. There are a couple different ensemble versions of this work available:
Get the original version (with parts for 6-string (or 5-string) electric violin, 4-string acoustic violin, and electric bass, as well as the mp3 Official Backing Track created to accompany this ensemble) here.
Get the all Acoustic Version (with parts for two acoustic violins, viola [or cello], and electric bass, as well as two mp3 Official Acoustic Backing Tracks created to accompany this ensemble — one of which includes a pre-recorded bass part, and the other which is the electric ostinato only, to accompany all four parts live) here.
Using 50 tarot cards to create the framework, there is both an element of chance (in that the process of drawing the cards and their placement in the 5 separate tarot spreads, is all random) and an element of “foreordained knowledge” (or pre-compositional structure).
“The Oracle” has thus emerged as a multi-faceted, deeply layered, story-driven reflection of the human condition.
I totally dig the intersection of free-will or chance and structural formula at which Art’s uniqueness can emerge… 😉
Come join me THIS Saturday afternoon in Pasadena for, not only the debut concert of an exciting new orchestra, but the world premiere of my short, spunky work for string orchestra, “Greek Dance“! Originally written for string quartet back in 2002, I was specially invited to create this arrangement of that tune for the strings of the Neue World Orchestra Project.
NWOP’s first concert will open with a world premiere arrangement of the animated and whimsical new piece, “Greek Dance”, arranged specifically for the group by contemporary composer Sarah Wallin Huff. Following the Wallin Huff premiere piece, violinist Yu-Ting Wu performs Saint-Saëns’ dazzling and seductive “Havanaise for Violin and Orchestra”, a piece that commands a balance of athletic virtuosity and grace from the violin. Concluding the program is Russian pianist Ekaterina Bessmeltseva, who makes her LA debut with Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major”, a concerto that is overflowing with songful melodies suffused with delicate and impressive artistry from the soloist and orchestra. (—>Concert Info)
Again the concert is FREE, and it’s Saturday March 10, starting at 1pm. Reserve your place by getting tickets here!
I’m really looking forward to it; hope to see you there! 😉
This original work…creatively weaves the beloved Amazing Grace melody in and out of a second original tune titled “In the Forest,” evoking a meditative and melancholy sense of wandering and reflection, as if hidden from the outside world.
This string quartet was composed in 2011 at the request of Danielle Rosaria Cummins. The piece (as only “In the Forest”) existed originally as an unfinished sketch for solo piano, started some years prior. When I was requested to compose a quick-and-dirty string quartet arrangement of the traditional Amazing Grace for a formal fundraising banquet being held in two days, I decided to take this old sketch of “In the Forest” and turn it into this present string quartet.
Enjoy the performance of this haunting little work below!
Today’s tune is another really special piece to me, with lots of good memories attached to it. ^_^
“Anima Mechanicae: Soul of the Machine” is a string quartet that I wrote in 2007, during my grad school days and toward the end of my utter obsession with Minimalism, specifically after the stylings of Philip Glass. Listening to the recording of it below, I’m sure you’ll be able to hear the similarities. :p
But this work has a story element to it, that’s near and dear to my heart. The Mechanical Star of the work is actually a character that makes her first appearance in the second book of my original Kesher Chronicles series, “Questions of Faith.”
This character, SARA (an advanced “Security Analysis and Records Archive’ malleable-Paradigm”) — over the course of the second and upcoming third books — becomes very involved in the lives of the humans around her and tries to orient herself within her constantly evolving thought-processes…
You can see why I included the following quote in the score to the quartet:
Dedicated to the computers and robots of the future, who long to dream as the humans do.
The structural details behind this almost-12 minute work include:
…moments of mechanical coldness [in the opening], gradually giving way to moments of tender and emotional beauty. Wallin Huff intentionally derived and fashioned her various rhythmic and tonal patterns throughout the work from strict mathematical relationships — to showcase that a mechanically constructed framework can give way to striking beauty on its surface, much in the way a computer program of the future might evolve into its abstract dream-state.
The sections of this single-movement work include: Mechanically, Quixotically, Pensively, With impish behavior, Tenderly, and Surreal.