Trouble Ensemble

Avant-gospel band, focused on spirituals and radical liberation.

Talking with Spirituals

Avant-garde piano arrangements of spirituals.

The Ives Band

Quasi-improvised compositions using preexisting melodies in the tradition of Charles Ives.


Keyboard/drums duo with David Douglas

Heaven Down Here

Avant/gospel representation of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, dedicated to the victims of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre.


(2016) “God Save the Ode” — An obsession with playing separate melodies in different keys and tempi at the same time. When someone pointed out I happened to have chosen the anthems of the two entities that split as a result of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, I decided this was my response to “Brexit.” The two tunes don’t always get along…

(2013) Ice — With drummer Robert Lopez.  Robert and I had been playing as a duo for almost two years. We have had some interesting experiments in combining the discipline of our own musical backgrounds with our passion for spontaneous creativity. In this piece, my strategy is to act as an extension of Robert’s drum set, adding my own rhythmic layer with my own set of chords on the piano, played as if they are drums.

(2013) Inside/Don’t trouble last (excerpt)

Semi-improvisational composition performed by the Trouble Ensemble (Joshua Marshall, Karl Evangelista, Jordan Glenn and myself).  Based on repeating musical figures and variations on them, and also on the gospel song I’m So Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always.

(2012) Etude #1

 I composed a rhythmic line for players to improvise off of.  Sometimes I ask them to play the written rhythm, and other times I ask them to play against it!  Performed by the Trouble Ensemble.

(2013) Where Perhaps It’s Worse for tenor saxophone, violin, piano, percussion, two speaking voices and electronics.  Based on preexisting a wide variety of preexisting musical and textual material, especially Berio’s Sinfonia, itself a quote collage.  Performed as part of the 2013 Signal Flow Festival at Mills College.

(2011) eighth note = 120 For a small group of improvising performers; notes at a steady “eighth note” pulse, and Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

(2012) Idi Sea II: Canon for String Quartet 

I began composing this piece on an island off the coast of Belize.  I do not know the name of body of water I had to cross to get there, but I like to call it “Idi Sea.”  That trip was a slow journey from one place to another, and back again, as is this piece.  Meanwhile, E, D, and C are notes that pervade the listener’s experience.  Recorded April 2012 by the Arditti String Quartet.  I apologize for some pops during the recording.

(2012) In Prayer for alto flute, english horn and viola.  Based on the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus

(2012) All Blueses for Tenor Saxophone, piano and electronics.  Live blues-inspired improvisation on top of our own layered recordings of blues tunes.

(2012) Idi Sea for flute, clarinet, violin and cello.

(2012) Everyday Pitch for piano, organ, two synthesizers and marimba.  I wrote one note at the end each day I lived in Guatemala, and turned the sequence of pitches into a new piece for a large group of keyboard instruments.

(2011) Will I Enter for solo voice.  A reworking of two contemporary Christian songs in a jagged cut-and-paste reminiscent of John Oswald’s Plunderphonics.

(2007) Rauha Me (excerpt)

Piece for chamber orchestra inviting audience participation in a simple chant.  Performed by the Northwestern Contemporary Music Ensemble.  Words (Rauha me, Jumala, siyuna) are adapted from a Finnish prayer meaning that says, “God, grant us peace.”

(2010) Rauha Me II (excerpt)

Adaptation of Rauha Me for an improvising ensemble and audience.

(2009) First Suite for Cello and Tape 

For cello and fixed electronics.  Cello music composed to imitate a jazz soloist “blowing” over grooves and textures built from Anner Bylsma’s recording of Bach’s First Suite for cello in G.  This recording by Lucas Fels.

(2010) Music for six players 

 Shamelessly abstract exploration of some of the chords, timbres and interlocking rhythms that I love the most.  For flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello and double bass.  This recording by members of the Callithumpian Consort.

(2009) Goldsmith of the Kingdom (opera/oratorio) — scene #3 aria; scene #2; finale (based on the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel) — An original oratorio also featuring music from religious traditions and social movements, speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and a libretto by Allyson Briner.  The story of a life of a carpenter-turned-activist from an undocumented immigrant family.  A sort of gospel, or story of Jesus’ life and work, retold in 21st century Los Angeles.

(2010) Without Music for a percussionist who could ordinarily play any number of percussion instruments, but in this case plays “without”…

(2010) forte for two saxophones of the same type.

(2010) Along the way for trombone and electronics, based on the hymn Lead Me, Guide Me.

(2009) i               p                   a                   o                   n for solo piano.

(2008) pH-Ann: 2c for solo piano.  Performed by Maxwell Lee on an all “fantasy” program.

(2008) Koan with Guitar for solo guitar, requiring live retuning with florescent lighting.

(2007) and in my rhyme for baritone voice and piano.  Setting of words and phrases from a Shakespeare arranged into a new order.

Performances and Arrangements

Much of my musical work takes place in worship, or has another spiritual function.  Here are some examples:

(2013) Let Us Break Bread Together On our Knees from early May.

Also video (starting at 50:00) of this piece from the Annual Gathering of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ.

(2012) Playing the hymn I’ll Fly away 

(2010) Lead Me Guide Me arrangement — Performance at Friendship Baptist Church in Evanston, IL July 2010

Concert Arrangments (samples)

(2013) Break/Together II — Piano solo based on the spiritual Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees

(2013) Spirit of the Living God

(2012) What a friend we have in Jesus arrangement

Experimental Improvisations (samples): This more unusual music leads me to some of the most creative moments I ever have.

(2012) Improvisation with Robert Lopez based on Thelonious Monk’s Evidence. 

Improvisation with members of the Music Improvisation Ensemble at Mills College.

Music from Ell3.  Ell3 is a trio unlike any other. Made up of Joshua Marshall on horns, Andrew Jamieson on keyboard, and Jakob Pek on guitars and endless etceteras, Ell3 offers their listeners sonic excursions into and out of the unimaginable.

“Track 7”

Ell3 on Soundcloud

Other Music:

I also arranged string parts for Allyson Adair’s 2012 album Lark Song.  More information here:

Music by Diego Villaseñor: