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ClassicsOnline Home » HICKEY: Left at the Fork in the Road / Flute Sonata
Sean Hickey (b. 1970)
Left at the Fork in the Road
Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1970, Sean Hickey's earliest music education began at age 12 with an electric guitar, a Peavey amp, and a stack of Van Halen records – the early ones of course. He studied jazz guitar at Oakland University, completing his studies with a degree in composition and theory from Wayne State University. His primary instructors were James Hartway and James Lentini.
Sean has pursued further studies with Justin Dello Joio, Leslie Bassett and Gloria Coates. His works include string trios, a string quartet, a flute sonata, a woodwind quintet and trio, several pieces for solo instruments and duos; church, choral and orchestral music. He has also worked on a film score, and composed the music for a children's play, the latter of which received over 80 performances. His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, CAMI Hall, Symphony Space, the Philadelphia Art Alliance and Madrid's Sofia Reina among other venues. In 2004, Hickey was awarded a grant from the New York Department of Cultural Affairs as well as a Composer Assistance Grant from the American Music Center to mount concerts of his work. He has fulfilled commissions for Ars Futura, New York's One World Symphony, the Adesso Choral Society in Connecticut, the Spain-based piano/accordion duo An-Tifon and the Gringolts-Weiss-Fiterstein Trio. On radio, his work has been heard on NPR's Theme and Variations, Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar and broadcast nationally on Spain's Musica España.
His principal instruments are guitar and piano and he is the recipient of numerous awards from ASCAP among others. Recent performances include New York, Washington, Madrid, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Jakarta, Ireland and Turkey. He is an ASCAP member and is published by Cantabile Publishing and Wolfhead Music. Other affiliations include the New York Composers' Circle, Vox Novus, American Composer's Forum and the American Music Center.
His recording and concert reviews may be found in the pages of the New Music Connoisseur, 21st Century Music, Modern Dance and other publications. He is also a principal contributor to the Omnibus Guide to Classical Music on CD and has provided liner notes to dozens of recordings. His travel and adventure articles have appeared in numerous publications. Otra Dia, a travelogue of his travels in Peru, was published in 1998. www.seanhickey.com
The sextuplet motive that opens Left at the Fork in the Road quickly yields to a dry accompaniment over which a flute intones a logical melody. A somber midsection pairs the flute and bassoon, who state a forlorn theme in unison - a rarity - while the clarinet obstinately interjects a dotted, falling figure. Returning to the starting tempo, the instruments enter a denser thicket of changing meters and complex rhythms, careening to a showy, tah-dah, sort of ending. The work was partially inspired by the study of Latin rhythms in the works of several composers, notably those of the Argentine Alberto Ginastera. The title came early in the piece's composition, and any political inference that can be made may not be entirely off the mark. It was premiered at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in 2003 and has become one of my most frequently performed works.
The Flute Sonata, composed in 1993 and the oldest piece on this disc, was first performed in the same year in Detroit, Michigan. The first movement begins with the piano demonstrating the wide melodic leaps of the principle theme, which later becomes compacted, the flute stating a tuneful stepwise melody that seems both sure and simple. The second movement is a lively divertissement where the flute is able to showcase its melodic capabilities. The midsection is marked by a piano ostinato, over which the flute soars into its higher register. The brisk, final movement is marked by the constant alternation of 2 and 3 meter, where the musicians - except for a contemplative e minor middle - hang on to the rapidly changing patterns for dear life.
Fool's Errand was composed specifically for my 2004 grant recital, made possible by generous support from the New York Department of Cultural Affairs and the Brooklyn Arts Council. As such, it has a bit of an "occasional" nature about it. Its basic melodic germ, without any real development, is a two-bar clarinet phrase of a somewhat French caste.
Tango Grotesco was premiered in 2001 and is my only work for solo guitar. Despite my familiarity with the instrument, I find it to be the most intimidating to write for. The piece has benefited from the tremendous advocacy of one of the great champions of new music for the guitar, Oren Fader, who performs it here. Lyrical passages and intricate passagework alternate with heavily-strummed chordal sections that suggest the characteristic rhythms of the tango - a humble example of one of my greatest fascinations: the music of Latin America.
Fluff, for solo flute, was written for the brilliant flutist Stefán Höskuldsson in the final days of 2003 for a Vox Novus concert the following February, and premiered in New York's East Village. The brief piece begins with the dotted rhythm and wide intervallic leaps that demonstrate the dexterity of the instrument in all registers. These dotted rhythms are developed in a slower, more meditative section; tempo then increases and the flute finds itself in a swiftly moving 7/16 meter leading to a light and exuberant conclusion. Fluff is just that.
To the Wars was written for the ensemble you hear here, and premiered in 2004 in Brooklyn's St Ann's & the Holy Trinity as part of a One World Symphony concert. The text comes from a portion of the poem To Lucasta: On Going to the Wars, one of the most celebrated works of Richard Lovelace (1618-1657?), a particularly tragic figure in an age of such figures. Jailed for petitioning Parliament for the restoration of the bishops, the Royalist penned his best work while imprisoned, including, "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage". The poet's words to Lucasta - an unrequited love - held a special relevance for me while I composed this often somber piece, as Americans went to war in Iraq, and lovers bound to duty - parted.
Pair of Pants, for solo flute and clarinet, is in three short movements. The first establishes a contrasting triplet and dotted rhythmic pattern in each instrument, resulting in a somewhat whimsical dialogue. The slow, enigmatic second movement keeps to a steady 7/8 and gradually develops a motive of a single note, framed by semitones on either side. The energetic final movement features lively filigree from the flute, paired with a stubborn ostinato pattern in the clarinet.
Granfaloon - The title of this work comes from Kurt Vonnegut who defines granfaloon as "a proud and meaningless association of human beings, e.g. The Veterans of Future Wars." The most recently-composed piece included, it was inspired by and dedicated to two marvelous champions of my music, Alden Banta and Eleonor Bindman, who perform it here. The issue of balance is critical when pairing the bassoon and piano and a sparseness pervades this work, the climaxes sounding especially thunderous. The two instruments navigate a relentlessly changing meter and the light, rhythmic buoyancy is intended to showcase agility and to dispel the unfortunate clownish reputation of the bassoon. The lyrical nature of this instrument is best exemplified in the middle section.
Sagesse - The text of the final work on this disc comes from the 16th poem in the collection entitled Sagesse (1881), one of the most celebrated works of the French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Portions of the epic work have been set by a variety of composers including Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Honegger, Sorabji, Reynaldo Hahn and others. Verlaine's verse has inspired instrumental music from numerous composers throughout history, the most notable being Debussy's popular Clair de lune. The English translation utilized here is that of C.F. MacIntyre. Commissioned by the One World Symphony, I wished to find a text that contained a strong element of music within it, not necessarily in the meaning of the words, but rather an inner music found in great poetry that all but begs to be set, in this case for voices and instruments. The most literal English equivalent of the title is wisdom. Sagesse is in two parts, beginning with an instrumental prologue of sorts, in a rolling, pastoral 6/8. The second section is the meat of the piece. The faster, dense texture that begins soon dies away in high, sustained chords in the strings. The voices enter individually. Most of the stanzas are separated by short, instrumental interludes, the longest of which interjects a repetitive ostinato into the calm texture, an overt homage to the sun and the moon in my musical firmament; Stravinsky. The voices re-enter and the music dies away as the instruments bow out and the texture thins to a contemplative silence. Sagesse was premiered in November 2003 by Sungjin Hong leading the One World Symphony, with Jennifer Greene and Sean Fallen as soloists.
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