DIVERGENT TRAJECTORIES

For Flute, Clarinet (Bass Clarinet), Violin, Violoncello and Piano

Divergent Trajectories presents a struggle between two opposing manifestations of individualism. The first section of the work takes the form of a process fugue—a kind of operation-based musical texture in which each voice works independently to execute a prescribed series of tasks that, in the case of this work, ultimately transform the means by which pitch material is generated. In this system, individualism is based on the autonomy with which each member goes about discharging their assigned duties. It gradually becomes apparent, however, that this form of individualism is based on a fundamental flaw, as the freedom with which each member can express their individuality is eclipsed by the rigidity that the texture demands.

The latter section of the work presents an alternative approach, one that is marked by struggle, but ultimately arrives at collective triumph. Here, each instrument’s individual freedom is intrinsically connected to the expressive freedom of the ensemble as a whole. As the collective creative power of the ensemble grows, so too does the freedom of each instrument to express their individuality by staking their own unique path through the music. The result is a transcendent collectivism that, instead of suppressing individual freedom, sublates it.

  • Composed Summer of 2017
  • Premiere July 26, 2017 | Jewett Auditorium at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA | Composers Conference Ensemble.
  • Duration 10.5 minutes
  • Recorded July, 2017 by the Composers Conference Ensemble in Wellesley, MA.
  • Performers Barry Crawford: flute, Benjamin Fingland: clarinet (bass clarinet), Gabby Diaz: violin, Joshua Gordon: violoncello, Steve Beck: piano, James Baker: conductor

De somniis

For Viola and Piano

For millennia, dreaming has occupied a prominent station within the human experience. For many people, this activity is thought of as a gateway to realms that are otherwise inaccessible, connecting us to hidden thoughts and desires, to deceased loved ones, or even to god. In this view, dreams reveal a more complete image of our true selves. Others conversely believe that dreams are simply random hallucinations caused by the brain's activity during sleep, particularly the phase of sleep known as "rapid eye movement."

In any case, dreaming is not something that I regularly do, or at least recall doing.The experiences associated with dreaming, that have throughout history had such significant impact on the human race, are not available to me. I am therefore particularly curious about the dreams of others, and it is in this spirit that I have composed De somniis. This work was inspired by a variety of sources, among which are the overture to Marcel Proust's Swann's Way, Salvador Dali's painting Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, and Oliver Sacks' short story "The Dog Beneath the Skin."

  • Composed Fall of 2016
  • Premiere March 9, 2017 | James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, White Recital Hall, Kansas City | Musiqa Nova
  • Duration 8.5 minutes
  • Recorded Live in White Recital Hall
  • Performers En-Ting Hsu: viola, Charles Tsui: piano

Sonic City

For Flute (Alto Flute), Clarinet (Bass Clarinet), Percussion, Harp, Piano, Violin, Viola and Violoncello

Commissioned by the AURA Contemporary Ensemble, Sonic City presents three cityscapes that come together to form two contrasting explorations: the first of urban life, and the second of death in—and potentially of—the city.

The street crawls undulant, inspired by Lola Ridge's 1918 poem "The Ghetto," evokes the vibrancy of cities. It focuses on the idea of the city as a single uniform entity, but that is made up of millions of creatures, each with their own individuality. I represent this concept musically through the use of Klangfarbenmelodie, a kind of musical pointillism. The second movement, New York Nocturne emerges quietly out of the first and presents a hazy, dreamlike view over the rooftops of early 20th-century Brooklyn.

The third cityscape, if not for this burning down..., addresses death and injustice in the city. It was inspired by a photo that I encountered while viewing coverage of the 2015 Baltimore Riots. The image shows a boarded-up window that had been marked by graffiti that reads, "If not for this burning down, what would've happened?" Like the graffiti artist, I too raise more questions than I am able to answer as I contemplate the role of death within developing urban societies

  • Composed Winter of 2015/16.
  • Premiere April 19, 2016 | Moores Opera House, Houston | AURA
    Contemporary Ensemble
  • Duration 14.5 minutes
  • Recording Live at the Moores Opera House
  • Performers Rebecca Poole: flute, Alexandra Doyle: clarinet, Allen Vinson: percussion, Cynthia Xiao: Harp, Jessica Myers: piano, Roberto Alonso Trillo: violin, Shelby Thompson: viola, Andrew Cavazos: violoncello, Alejandro Basulto: conductor

Conversations

For Trumpet and Vibraphone

Conversations explores four unique encounters between trumpet and vibraphone: declamation, gossip, colloquy and chatter. In the piece, both performers are asked to demonstrate a diverse expressive palette, presenting moments of delicate intricacy, forcefulness, lyricism and jagged rhythmic activity. This work was commissioned by Da Camera of Houston's Young Artist Program for a concert featuring the work of composers living and working in the Houston area.

  • Composed Winter of 2014
  • Premiere January 31, 2015 | Houston Center for Photography, Houston | Allen Chen and Brandon Bell
  • Duration 9 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Houston Center for Photography
  • Performers Allen Chen: trumpet, Brandon Bell: vibraphone

Fluid

For Flute, two Percussionists, Piano, Harp & Cello

The long, sustained lines and ever-shifting harmonies of Fluid draw the listener into a completely foreign sound world. Here, even time and pitch seem to melt into a continually flowing river of sound. The middle section presents an enchanting Debussyan gesture in the flute, but this moment of stability is short-lived as it dissolves into a sonic vapor.

  • Composed Fall of 2014
  • Premiere December 2, 2014 | Moores School of Music, Houston | Lindy
    Thompson, Nicolas Diaz, Christopher Kimball, Bailey-Siamone Mason, Anna Waldron, and Kent Childress
  • Duration: 10 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Moores School of Music
  • Performers Lindy Thompson: flute, Nicolas Diaz: percussion
    Christopher Kimball: percussion, Bailey-Siamone Mason: harp, Anna Waldron: piano, Kent Childress: cello 

into memory (in memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich)

For String Quartet

Into Memory is a contemplative, stirring and, at points, violent essay for string quartet that pays homage to Dmitri Shostakovich, who composed fifteen works in the same medium. The piece balances Mr. Booker's affinity for rich harmonic palettes and contrapuntal writing with a more Shostakovian starkness. Into Memory is the winner of the 2014/15 Sarofim Composition Award and has been recognized by the Robert Avalon International Composers Competition as well as The Other Competition hosted by the University of Miami's Frost School of Music.

  • Composed Spring of 2014
  • Premiere April 27, 2014 | Moores School of Music, Houston | Jisu Shin,
    Felix Alanis, Shelby Thompson, and Sonya Matoussova
  • Duration: 11 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Moores School of Music
  • Performers Jisu Shin: violin, Felix Alanis: violin, Shelby Thompson: viola, Sonya Matoussova: cello

variations

For Flute, Viola and Piano

This trio, commissioned by the flute studio at the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music, was Jonathan Booker's first work to be performed for the public. It is comprised of an introduction followed by a theme that is heavily influenced by Maurice Ravel and five subsequent variations. It was premiered at the Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, Colorado in February of 2012.

  • Composed Fall of 2011
  • Premiere February 24, 2012 | Newman Center, Denver | Jennifer Slaughter, Nicole Christian, and Skylar Anderson
  • Duration: 12 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Newman Center
  • Performers Jennifer Slaughter: flute, Nicole Christian: viola, Skylar Anderson: piano

Audio not yet available.

mOMENTA (in progress)

For Solo Flute

Coming Fall of 2017.


Audio not yet available.

Imprint

For Solo Violin

One of my favorite areas in Houston is Buffalo Bayou Park, a stunning urban green space that runs directly through the center of the otherwise industrial megalopolis. As I was jogging through the park one day during the spring of 2016, I noticed the perfect imprint of a leaf in the footpath that, I presume, had formed during the
trail's construction by a leaf falling into the still-wet concrete. This image inspired me to consider the coexistence of two things that we often think of as conflicting:
nature and machine. 

Imprint embodies these musings by building a relationship between materials from two very different sources. The piece begins with the violin working vigorously to realize the tone row from "Strings in the Earth and Air", the first movement of Luciano Berio's Chamber Music and the first example of the composer's use of the twelve-tone technique. In the next section, the performer is allowed greater expressive freedom as they present fragments of Debussy's "Feuilles mortes"
(Dead Leaves) from the second volume of Préludes. Finally, the materials coalesce
to form the dense counterpoint that shapes the third and culminating section.

Imprint was commissioned by Da Camera Chamber Music and Jazz and is the final work that I completed as a member of the Da Camera Young Artist Program. It was premiered by Jae-Won Bang on May 12, 2016 at the Menil Collection in Houston.

  • Composed Spring of 2016
  • Premiere May 12, 2016 | Menil Collection, Houston | Jae-Won Bang
  • Duration 3.5 minutes

ON PLANTS AND CONSCIOUSNESS

Four Experiments for Solo Violoncello

On Plants and Consciousness is both a concert work and a sound installation created for the Galveston Artist Residency's Spring 2015 show Plant People. It was inspired by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird's 1973 bestseller The Secret Life of Plants. The solo cello in this piece is used to create a musical description of plant-human interactions. The work imaginatively recounts several experiments conducted by humans in the effort to understand plant consciousness, including subjecting plants to light, physical touch, fire and even an investigation by the English naturalist Charles Darwin in which he played his bassoon for a sensitive mimosa plant. Both performer and listener enter into the "mind" of a plant as they experience its truly otherworldly reactions.

On Plants and Consciousness was featured on Houston Public Media's Music in the Making. Listen to Jonathan's interview with host Joshua Zinn.

  • Composed Winter of 2014/2015
  • Premiere April 18, 2015 | Galveston Artist Residency, Galveston | Courtenay
    Vandiver Pereira
  • Duration 8 minutes
  • Recorded Houston Public Media's Geary Performance Studio
  • Performer Courtenay Vandiver Pereira: cello

Thelonious sonatina

For Solo Piano

Being both a pianist and composer, Jonathan Booker approached this work by considering some of his favorite works for solo piano: Ravel's A la manière de...; Alban Berg's Piano Sonata, Op. 1; and Thelonious Monk's 1967 album Straight, No Chaser. In Thelonious Sonatina, these worlds come together to create a truly unique addition to the solo piano repertoire that is rewarding to both listener and performer. Thelonious Sonatina was commissioned by the Composers Symposium at the Oregon Bach Festival and was premiered at the Festival's 2014 summer program at the University of Oregon.

  • Composed Summer of 2014
  • Premiere July 2, 2014 | Aasen-Hull Hall, Eugene | Caleb Wenzel
  • Duration 2 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Oregon Bach Festival
  • Performer Caleb Wenzel: piano

THREE PAINTINGS BY CLYFFORD STILL

For Solo Harp

Jonathan was inspired to compose this piece after visiting the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver during the summer of 2013. His goal was to essentially translate Still's work into a sonic language. To do this, he chose three contrasting works by Still – PH-118 (1947), PH-97 (1960) and PH-21 (1962) – and created a basic system that aligned intervallic structures with colors in the paintings. He then arranged this material into rising and falling figures as he thought best represented his own perception of movement on the canvasses. The result is a piece that invites listeners to aurally experience the genius of Clyfford Still and to further explore this great artist's life and work.

  • Composed Fall of 2013
  • Premiere November 24, 2013 | Moores School of Music, Houston | Abby Sliva
  • Duration 9 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Moores School of Music
  • Performer Abby Sliva: harp

Audio not available.

 

war is a gemini

For Soprano and Piano

War is a Gemini was commissioned in 2015 by Houston Grand Opera for the third installment of the Veterans Songbook project. This unique initiative invites military veterans of all ages, genders and branches of service to share their stories. I was asked to compose songs based on these accounts in order to draw attention to the significant—although oftentimes silent—struggles that many veterans face after completing their service. I had the privilege of interacting with the authors of these texts throughout their six-week writing workshop and was struck and humbled by the raw candor of the work they produced.

  • Composed Summer of 2015
  • Premiere November 11, 2017 | Christ Church Cathedral, Houston
  • Duration 6 minutes

FUTURE NAME FOR MY WAY

For Soprano and Piano

Future Name for My Way was composed in 2014 for Houston Grand Opera's Create an Opera program at Kashmere Gardens Elementary School in Houston, Texas. Char'dette Young, a student at Kashmere Gardens, wrote the text. Soprano Priscilla Salisbury gave the song its first performance in May of 2014, accompanied by Mark Buller on piano.

  • Composed Spring of 2014
  • Premiere May 28, 2014 | Kashmere Community Center, Houston | Priscilla Salisbury and Mark Buller
  • Duration 2 minutes
  • Recorded Live at the Kashmere Community Center
  • Performers Priscilla Salisbury: soprano, Mark Buller: piano