composer • educator

Composer, Carolyn O'Brien

Three interlinked pieces:

0:00-2:00: Tethergrowl, for Tom Snydacker, baritone saxophone (excerpt)

2:00-12:26: Ich ruf zu dir, for guitar, Jesse Langen and piano, Mabel Kwan

12:26-15:00: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ: for Meret Bitticks, piccolo; Shanna Gutierrez, bass flute; and Mabel Kwan, toy piano

Here are three movements from Kinetic Suite:  Courante, coda, cadenza; Two Marble Machines;  Follow the Leader Sarabande. They are performed by the amazing Shanna Gutierrez on flutes (and gong tree) and dazzling Mabel Kwan on toy piano.

The lovely Ellen McSweeney performing Caprice for violin, by Carolyn O'Brien

Composer, Carolyn O'Brien

Four interlocking pieces including the following:

0:00-1:30 Sand Dancer: Tristan Bruns, on sand

1:30-3:35 Wind-Up Prelude: Meret Bitticks, piccolo; Shanna Gutierrez, bass flute; and Mabel Kwan, gong tree

3:35-5:21 Automaton, tap dancer, Tristan Bruns  

5:21-9:30 Proud Hoofer, tap dancer, Tristan Bruns 

Here's another film from my doctoral recital. This one shows the juxtaposition of a tap piece on one end, Ritornello for string quartet in full in the middle, and how it interacts with the bass piece at the end. The quartet, performed by Ellen McSweeney (violin), Myra Hinrichs (violin), Carrie Frey (viola) and Helen Newby (cello) is triggered by the ending of Tristan Bruns (tap) and followed by Scott Carter Thunes (bass.)

Hellbusker for electric bass, performed by Scott Carter Thunes.

Czesc Hyla, Lee Hyla in memoriam, composed by Carolyn O'Brien. Performed by Thomas Snydacker on baritone saxophone, Meret Bitticks on alto flute, Shanna Gutierrez on bass flute, and many friends on a flock of chirping bird whistles created by mechanical engineer, Adam Stager.
Runaway Prelude is a movement from a suite for a duo. The instrumentation includes a rare 37 key Michelsonne toy piano, toy instruments, music box with a hand punched roll, and multiple flutes. This is a small section at the end of the prelude, cranked by my pal and partner in playful musical giddiness, Mabel Kwan.
This is the rehearsal of Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ, (I call to thee Lord Jesus Christ) in miniature, an organ prelude by J.S. Bach arranged for piccolo, bass flute and toy piano. Here we see Meret Bitticks, Shanna Gutierrez and Mabel Kwan in the first rehearsal.

This is a short movement Follow the Leader Sarabande from my duo called Kinetic Suite for flutes, toy piano and gong tree, written for my beloved Shanna Gutierrez and Mabel Kwan. In this particular rehearsal, Mabel is on toy piano with one hand on the keys and the other one using a brass glockenspiel mallet playing glissandi inside the piano.

My friend, the gifted and curious pianist Mabel Kwan, and I are playing with ideas for a quasi-improvisatorial piece for toy piano and my brother Michael O'Brien's sculpture, the Gong Tree. Glissandi are performed inside the piano and on the Gong Tree with brass glockenspiel mallets. This piece led to the Follow the Leader Sarabande shown above.

This is a chorus of birds created by mechanical engineer, Adam Stager. He and I worked together to create four sizes of whistles and I wrote a piece which incorporated quotes from Lee Hyla and material of my own.  Soon a video of the full piece, Cześć Hyła, will follow. Below is a rehearsal of the opening of this piece. Huge thanks to composer Nomi Epstein for the candid video from her balcony seat.

These whistles are my new pride and joy, created by mechanical engineer Adam Stager. I coaxed that gentle inventor to add three more sizes to his flock and the results were beautiful. This video shows me chirping them from smallest to largest. They were all used in a huge group for a recital in March 2016. More videos to come of the final project with about twenty five whistle players in all. The sounds of these whistles in a huge flock are truly not to be believed!

P.S. To answer your question, no, I really do not have time to comb my hair these days. I'm all about the chirp.

Cześć Hyła rehearsal with Meret Bitticks, Shanna Gutierrez on low flutes, Tom Snydacker on bari sax, and slowly transitioning to bird whistles by Adam Stager.

This video snippet of Tristan Bruns is the end of an improvised cadenza that Tristan created to segue into the next piece on my doctoral recital. The piece before it lasts quite a bit longer. I asked him to create a more obvious cue for musicians to follow and he chose the perfect use of "shave and a haircut" to complete the third movement of my piece entitled Proud Hoofer. I cannot wait to share the full show. Tristan in a private living room is a delight. But on stage, oh my God! He's masterful.

This is a sound sculpture, Gong Tree, created by my brother Michael O'Brien, sculptor. It is made from a stainless steel sprue tree that fell victim to a short pour (too cold to fill the full mold in a metal casting) and a gorgeous walnut resonant base. The video doesn't do the resonance justice.

Today marks the first rehearsal for a composer-dancer collaboration with Tristan Bruns on Feb 9, 2016. We are working to incorporate both of our ideas into a piece which starts on sand and moves to some serious hoofing. Tristan was giving me options for steps to showcase the rhythms I wrote for him.