Inferno: the Nine Circles of Suffering  [2012 ]

for string quartet

Rest in Peace [ 2009 ]

for flute, english horn,

violin, 'cello, double bass, piano, percussion

The Masochist's Tango [ 2006 ]

for clarinet, violin, viola, 'cello, double bass,

and two percussionists



Inferno: the Nine Circles of Suffering [ 2012 ]

for string quartet



choreography by Alisa Fendley


Through the lens of Dante, Inferno: The Nine Circles of Suffering casts the experience of strife as a populated landscape, starkly contrasting the musical material of environments with that of their appointed stewards. In the former, the full force of the quartet gives us elemental brutality— relentless winds whose eternal playthings are the frustrated souls of the lustful; the searing heat of the Inner Ring of Violence, where specks of flame fall as needle-like pizzicato; the counterpoint that soars with ritual solemnity over the fearfully imposing stone pits of the Eighth Circle. These grand structures are contrasted with the more intimate encounters with hell’s guardians, where improvisatory melodic lines assign theatrical character to Minos, Cerberus, Minotaur, and Geryon. Cruelty is thus ever-present while continually changing its shape.

Within this grotesquery, however, there is something tenderly empathetic in the way these sounds unravel suffering to reveal its myriad forms. It is as if the composer sought to affirm that the inhabitants of hell had not been forgotten, offering as tribute a narrative account of the soul’s unrest. Hell is presented as an unjust place, where punishment and crime are so hopelessly lost to one another, that all that remains for us to comprehend is the anguish of those imprisoned there. We cannot condemn the mournful violins of the Second Circle for their indiscretions; what divine

jurisprudence deemed lust was, to a human being, nothing more than sincerity.

Inferno leaves us with a coda, whose title alludes to the moment at which Dante and Virgil emerge to behold an early morning sky still teeming with stars. The movement is saturated with familiar material, but its character is unmistakably that of the opening, Limbo. Perhaps this is to temper our relief; the night sky is quieter than hell, but its silent inhabitants are as remote as the souls of the dead. Any gesture we offer toward them must end unfinished, frozen as a tribute that is, at best, a surrogate for comfort.

Rest in Peace [ 2009 ]

for flute, english horn, violin

'cello, double bass, piano, & percussion



choreography by Andre Megerdichian

Rest in Peace, a collaboration between Andre Megerdichian and Whitney George was premiered and performed at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. The work's programmatic detail follows the life of the choreographer's mother who battled cancer at the end of her life before eventually losing. Starting in complete darkness, music also comes from silence, timed with the inconsistent, flickering flames of lighters that eventually illuminate our main subject. 


The movement for the other dancers, meant to represent family members, reflects the emotional reaction of those close to her to the unfortunate news of her dwindling health. Covering the stages of grief, the choreography moves seamlessly from anger to bargaining and eventually to acceptable as those close to lay her to rest at the end of the work. Just as the piece began, the light fades, leaving us in the same darkness and uncertainty we began with.


The Masochist's Tango [ 2006 ]

for clarinet, violin, viola, 'cello, double bass

& two percussionists


choreography by Julia Romanskaya

The Masochist's Tango for chamber ensemble and two choreographed dancers enjoyed multiple performances at the California Institute of the Arts in 2007. The work features the clarinet as the solo instrumental voice, and the musical embodiment of the female lead. She spends the introduction presenting herself to her male counterpart before engaging in a furious tango for the remainder of the piece. Utilizing a simple stage prop of a chair, the performance also involves the musicians as part of the ongoing scene. 

Julia Romanskaya and Whitney George would later collaborate on her opera Alphabephobia: Something Goes Wrong Everyday the following year, using more modern choreography, whereas The Masochist's Tango makes use of more traditional choreography associated with the traditional couples dance of the tango. The dance begins with a slow and sensual ostinato which eventually works itself into a a fury by the end of the work, and regretfully cools of in a languid coda.