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As my love and respect for the lute deepened over the years, I felt more and more strongly that the lute is an instrument capable of communicating in a variety of musical languages. Its natural ability to express emotional nuance, and its tremendous palette of tone colors make it an ideal vehicle for expressing music of our own time.
In past centuries, the lute player and the composer of lute music were one and the same person. There was no gulf between the performer and composer as we often have in classical music today.
In recent years, I have written a number of original compositions for the lute, drawing from the centuries-old tradition of the lutenist-composer. Like lute music of the Renaissance, many of these new pieces tread the borderline between popular, folk and classical music
Some of the new pieces draw heavily from Renaissance and Baroque styles, while others are written in a completely modern musical language.
Cathedral Cave is an underwater cave beneath the Tasman Sea off the coast of Australia. Amazing and colorful undersea life surround the cave, making it an alluring spot for divers. A remarkable series of photographs in National Geographic (January, 1997) were the inspiration for this tone poem.
Mt. Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley) is the highest mountain in North America. Its icy peak juts into the sky with harsh, uncompromising majesty. But the surrounding land is surprisingly gentle, green and lush. These opposites in character are the inspiration for "Denali" which seeks to capture the icy hardness, the majesty and the gentleness in a single musical vision.
The tune for Overland came unexpectedly during a tour with the Baltimore Consort. Driving in a wide valley between two mountain ranges in Montana, I noticed that, although our car was speeding along at quite a clip, the mountains seemed to pass with glacial slowness. The melody - sometimes expansive and arching, and combined with a more rapid, driving accompaniment - felt inextricably linked with the scene passing before my eyes.
Pinetops was written on a hot July afternoon in Houston. I was thinking of the Pinetops of Maine, swaying in a cool breeze while noodling an open-string warm-up exercise on the lute. The muse was truly hovering over me as my fingers seemed to find a real piece of music. The bluegrass flavor came as a surprise: the music refused to develop in any other way!