From Zodiac to Prison

The original idea, when my colleague Dr. Nikolasa Tejero approached me for a composition, was a set of short variations for clarinet and piano on the signs of the Zodiac. Over the next several months, just prior to the pandemic, I had the pleasure of composing 12 variations inspired by various musical styles from the past 300 years. These variations were based on an original theme fashioned after a Baroque chorale, and they progressed chronologically through the various historical, musical styles from which I drew inspiration. More importantly, each variation drew inspiration, individually, from one of the 12 signs of the Zodiac, and reflected characteristics often associated with people born under those signs. Because I was most interested with how practitioners of Astrology define a person’s “moon sign” differently from their “sun sign”, I naturally called my set of variations Moonsign.

The ensuing COVID pandemic stalled the premiere of this set of variations several times, and they finally premiered only last year at my Parkside Sessions chamber music series. Fast forward to this year when, planning the program for a concert to be presented for residents of a prison, I had the opportunity to arrange several of these variations for a quartet of clarinet, violin, viola, and cello. As part of its mission, the non-profit Arts Capacity takes innovative musical programming into prisons with surprising and inspiring results! (You can learn more about Arts Capacity HERE). As I love to do, I was able to do a little back-and-forth with the musicians, in this case, the amazing Rachelle Goter, Holly Mulcahy, Cynthia Cook, and Susan Mayo who would be playing my newly arranged variations in the prison. Here’s a little video shot while working with the group:

When I realized that most, but not all, of the 12 Moonsign variations would work well with this quartet instrumentation, and because delving into a technical conversation about the Zodiac seemed counterproductive given the short amount of time we had available with the prison residents, I decided to let this shorter set of variations stand on its own under a different title. I’m proud to present Moon Phases, a set of 8 variations on an original theme, which you can find here.


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