Four Creatures of the Middle Ages (2012)

Commissioned by Rachel Van Amburgh

These four short movements for solo oboe, written for Rachel Van Amburgh, each depict a beast in medieval mythology. The music was inspired by descriptions and illustrations of these creatures found in the Medieval Bestiary. Some are imaginary and some are real animals that played roles in medieval tales and religious allegories. The first, the Ibex, is a mountain goat with "horns so strong that if the ibex jumps from a mountain it can land on its horns and be unharmed by the fall." The Leucrota is a cross between a hyena and lioness, with an eerie smile that reaches across its face from ear to ear. The Magpie likes to "hang from branches and chatter annoyingly." According to the Bestiary "There is a certain kind of magpie that can learn words; they become fond of some words, and not only repeat them but can be seen to ponder them." The Sphinx, as you might know, has the body of a lion and the head of a man, and guarded the entrance to the city of Thebes by devouring anyone who could not answer its riddle.

The movements are not meant to be strictly programmatic, but merely are musical representations of the feeling or mood that struck me when considering each creature. At the time that I was writing this music I was also learning a Baroque oboe solo, and looking at my music after it was completed I discovered that it had been influenced in an interesting way by the idea of structural pitches and by sequences in Baroque music.

Rachel Van Amburgh, oboe

Performance History

Rachel Van Amburgh – M.M. Recital – Feb. 2013 (USC)
USC Composition Showcase Concert – Nov. 2013 (USC)
Octava Chamber Orchestra Summer Chamber Music Concert – July 2014 (Maple Park Church: Lynnwood, WA)
Clare Glackin – BM Recital – Feb. 2015 (USC)
“Introductions” at MECA – April 2016 (MECA Cultural Center, Houston, TX)
New Art/New Music at Rice Gallery – April 2016 (Rice University)