top of page

Steppenwolf Theater - LookOut! Series - August 5th, 2022




Limestone & Felt presents two kinds of surfaces – essentially hard and soft. These are materials that can suggest place (a cathedral apse, or the inside of a wool hat), stature, function, and – for me – sound (reverberant or muted). In limestone & felt, the hocketing pizzicato and pealing motivic canons are part of a whimsical, mystical, generous world of sounds echoing and colliding in the imagined eaves of a gothic chapel. These are contrasted with the delicate, meticulous, and almost reverent placing of chords that, to our ears today, sound ancient and precious, like an antique jewel box. Ultimately, felt and limestone may represent two opposing ways we experience history and design our own present.


THE SKY HAS NO COLOR by Sixto Franco

The sky has no color was inspired by a collaboration with the American Indian Center of Chicago and their educational programing. I was intrigued by some of the group activities they develop. One of them talked about how knowledge is created by taking into account the observations of all participants. The activity consisted in each participant describing a rock that is been passed around. This activity had the goal of defining the object in a way that everybody’s description was equally important. This  prompted me to start thinking about perception and how subjective perception can be. In this piece I intentionally wrote musical motives that are somehow ambiguous (different meters are used as well as harmonics that appear to be randomized) to try to appeal to each listener’s subjectivity. This piece also intends to pay tribute to the oral traditions and how they connect us to the past through story telling and common knowledge.



This piece proceeds from the initial conditions of the existing sound in the room, providing the performers with dynamically-produced notation that appears as the computers listen, in a sort of human/computer information feedback loop. The exploration is broken into six continuous sections, each with its own rules. As they co-navigate a performance that is part sight-reading, part improvisation, and full of spontaneous interpretation, we can hear the shape of the friendship and deep musical connection that exists between Sixto and Juan.


CRIMSONING by Sixto Franco

A short piece inspired by the opening track of the Beat album by King Crimson.  This track is defined by its polyrhythms. Crimsoning starts with a 5/8 gesture that serves as the accompaniment for a melody that varies between 7/8, 6/8 and 4/8.


PROXIMITY by Shawn Decker

Proximity  is a work for generative computer software and  string duo that was commissioned by, and written for the Quijote Duo.  The piece relies both on the musician's ears as well as their improvisatory skills.  The computer software generates tones for each musician, who then must attempt to match their pitch as closely as possible just by listening.   The title Proximity refers to the various beating tones, rhythms, and sonic dissonance that resultwhen the performers pitch is close but not quite the same as the computer’s.. The performers are also presented with various additional possibilities for improvisation by a score that is produced on the comuter in real time.  Every performance will be unique.  The entire result is meant to be sonically ethereal.

OLIVE COTTON by Osnat Netzer

Olive Cotton for cello solo was written during a year I spent living in Berlin (2009-2010). Longings back to the United States led me to incorporate some echoes of bluegrass music. Echoes are motivic in the piece also as it zigzags between materials, yet constantly obscures the memory of past materials. It is a short story with some emotional peaks, some dropping off a ledge, and some ghostly echoes.



available stops is a work that takes art of organ registrations—with all of its possibility for timbre variation—as a point of departure. This is heard in the constant change of color for the hocketing unison notes and figurations, as well as an extended “mixture" stops section, with its constant parallel motion voicing and orchestration. Finally the “organ" reference is almost literal in that I use performer vocalization as another kind of registration/color palette—a technique explored in much of my recent work. The music is written, with admiration, for the Quixote Duo, premiered at the 2021 EarTaxi Festival in Chicago.


AMERICAN HAIKU by Paul Wiancko

Growing up in California, Paul Wiancko’s Japanese American heritage became increasingly important to him as he grew both as a man and musician. Wiancko was enchanted with Appalachian music as well as Japanese folk music. His American Haiku is an attempt to reconcile these different esthetics. It offers it’s listener an elegant rapprochement of two cultures all the while delving into the emotional depths of the three-part Haiku in its three movements: I. Far away, II. In Transit, III. Home. Each movement brings with it percussive rhythms coupled with rich, spacious chords recalling vast, rugged mountain ranges. The blending of viola and cello also play a crucial role in the composition’s harmoniousness, with the instruments overlapping in range and texture. In many ways, American Haiku is a treatise on the life of Wiancko and his journey into his own roots, showing that the universal language of music is perhaps the clearest way to translate the depths of Haiku.

bottom of page