Selected Original Works

Like Seeds of Light takes its name from the opening verse of the poem “The Dark Forest” by Edward Thomas:

Dark is the forest and deep, and overhead

Hang stars like seeds of light

In vain, though not since they were sown was bred

Anything more bright

As a contrast piece Like Seeds of Light examines the relationship of opposites – light and dark, abstract and concrete, chaos and order - and reveals much in common as each is dependent on the other for clarity and definition.  Without the below there is no above, without the wax there is no wane etc…They are bound together inherently.  In this sense, polar differences in belief systems, politics, age, economic background and race can be viewed differently, maintaining a sense of hope and creating dialogue, leading to progress and meaningful connections. In the seemingly bleak, sterile and unforgiving desert environment blooms the most beautiful, rare and special flowers.  

Recorded live in Jessen Hall, University of Texas at Austin

*Originally composed for and inspired by The Colour Inside, by James Turrell at the University of Texas at Austin.

https://turrell.utexas.edu/

The title Sameness of the Canyon, is an excerpt from the book “The Man Who Walked Through Time” by Colin Fletcher. As many others have before me, I bought the book when I visited the Grand Canyon gift shop (I also bought a great hat there). When I read that passage, it seemed to articulate so many of the moments and observations I have experienced on my many outdoor adventures in spectacular places. While I was reading the book - many years ago now - I marked the passage and promptly forgot about it until I recently (and serendipitously) stumbled upon a reference to it in one of my many notebooks! It immediately got me thinking about the SkySpace installation and its light sequence. The twice-per-day devotion to the rising and falling of the sun against an always-changing sky seemed like a perfect analogue to the subtle yet ever-shifting geography and light of the deserts and canyons of the Southwest.

“And as I sat looking out over the huge and mysterious blue-black space it occurred to me that the pioneers who crossed the American prairies in their covered wagons must have felt, many days out from sight of mountains, the power of this ceaseless rhythm. For them the understanding would have been generated by the monotony of the plains. For me it had something to do with the colossal sameness of the Canyon; but that was a sameness not of monotony but of endlessly repeated yet endlessly varied pattern. A prodigal repetition of terrace mounting on terrace mounting on terrace, of canyon after canyon after canyon after canyon. All of them, one succeeding the other, almost unknown to man, just existing, existing, existing, existing. There seemed at first no hope of a beginning, no hint of an end. But I knew now, more certainly and more easily, that the regularity and the existence were not really timeless. I knew they were echoing reminders of a time, not so very long ago, before the coming of the noisy animal, when the earth was a quiet place.”

There are three sections: Silence, Water and Hope (drawn from an excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s poem From The Heights of Macchu Picchu which is referenced in the opening of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire).

Violins (Sean Riley, Nick Montopoli, Ting Davidson)

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

The concept for this piece has personal origins.

I am adopted. I have always known so as my mother was open about this with my sister and I while we were growing up. It was simply part of my story. It was a fortunate turn for me, since my parents were caring, generous people who loved raising and providing for their children. I had everything I needed, much of what I wanted and the encouragement to follow my ambitions. My mother told me what she knew and always maintained that if I ever wanted more information about my origins, she would help in any way possible. For most of my life I was content to know I could get more information if I wanted.

When my parents passed away and I experienced that peculiar feeling of being orphaned, I started thinking about my biological roots, specifically medical history. I came to learn that the State of Ohio was opening previously locked records to adoptees between the years 1964-1994. After some deliberation I took the bait, paid my $20 fee and requested my original birth certificate. While I did consider the ramifications, I don’t think I was quite prepared for the impact that such a document would have on me. Seeing a different name, address and other personal information about myself and my birth mother was moving, interesting and even confusing. Like having two completely different identities. I felt both fascinated and guilty, as if digging this deep was a betrayal of my wonderful parents who gave so much to me. But there was also something poetic about seeing so much profound personal information crammed into a bleak-looking government form.

My investigations led me to some compelling, surprising and disappointing conclusions. Unfortunately, my birth mother had passed away in the late 1990s at a relatively young age. This was a blow I had not expected or considered. She was the one person who could have answered most of my questions and I wanted the opportunity to thank her for making the decision that resulted in me having a fortunate childhood. But the opportunity for that moment has passed and coming to terms with that was difficult.

The text for Empty Boxes (by the composer) is inspired by information both provided and excluded from my original birth certificate. One door opens, another closes. The incomplete boxes have left me with more questions than answers.

With Silver nitrate in my eyes I cannot see her.

134-68-012953

The box is empty. The box is blank.
 She was twenty.
 They called her obese.

Was she sad?
 Was she ashamed? Did he die?
 Did he leave?


The box is blank.

Quince Vocal Ensemble: Soprano (Carrie Henneman-Shaw), Soprano (Liz Pearse), Mezzo-Soprano (Kayleigh Butcher)

The Owl, Chimes (Andrew Stoltz), Vibraphone, bass drum (Travis Weller), Cello (Elizabeth Lee)

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

The tape sources for this piece go back 20-25 years.  The spoken text is of unknown origins: a cassette tape that was floating around in the Cleveland rock music scene erroneously titled “Rod Serling’s Suicide Note”.  This is inaccurate for two obvious reasons: firstly, Rod Serling did not commit suicide but died of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of 50 and secondly, the voice on the tape is clearly not Rod Serling’s.  It is also not known whether the person who made this recording did in fact commit suicide.  It’s possible the tape could be the personal ravings of someone feeling helpless and the process of articulating these thoughts and feelings out loud was in and of itself, helpful therapy.  Nevertheless, this recording has always captivated me for it’s poetic, raw and desperate stream of consciousness.  I have never felt suicidal but I have struggled with depression (who hasn’t?) and I feel a strong connection to this expression of fear and isolation.

The second source is a sixty-minute improvisation from two of my fellow music students at Cleveland State University sometime in the early to mid 1990s: Chas Smith (piano/prepared piano) and Mell Csicsila (percussion). About ten years ago, Mell handed me a CD version of this old cassette recording and said “here, do something with this someday”.  Chas was quite a bit older than me and had arrived at music school as a cancer survivor, former drug addict, veteran of the Cleveland punk scene and a promoter of all sorts of bizarre and esoteric ideas that I had never heard of before (Church of the Sub-Genius comes to mind).  He was an artist in every sense of the word and those of us who were younger, looked up to him and sought his approval.  He had a real gift for experimental rock motifs and moody dirges that dovetailed perfectly into avant garde classical music.  I spent many moments with him discussing cowboy music and the lonesome Southwest landscape that we both loved.  I would show up in the composition room and there Chas would be, working his way through a joint and playing an old familiar cowboy song in a different, unexpected mode.  That kind of casual yet contemplative creativity made a huge impression on me. Chas passed away in October of 2007 at the age of 50 from HIV-associated pneumonia.  While we were never very close personally, I consider him to be a strong early influence on me while I was learning about being a composer and an artist. 

I approached the manipulation of these tapes very honestly. With the spoken text, I tried hard to stay out of the way, only editing a few sections out, cutting everything into a series of phrases and putting it back together in a natural yet spacious way, leaving time to absorb the impact of each thought. With the instrumental parts, I cut and organized everything into similar categories, picked the sequences that I was most drawn to and assembled them into a new form of loops and events that fit as a backdrop to the text.

As a guitarist, so many of my musical ideas and sensibilities are tied up in the feel and sound of the guitar.  But as a composer, I have spent much of my career avoiding the instrument.  The guitar is a very idiomatic instrument containing specific tendencies, limitations and techniques that can only be performed a certain way.  The electric guitar in particular, with its vast array of variables – string material, different woods, pickups, effects pedals, amplifiers and even pick type – offer a different set of challenges from standard acoustic instruments, especially in regards to blend and dynamics.   With Plaques and Tangles, I was looking to blur the lines between each of the different instruments and their specific sonic footprints, instead aiming for one aggregate sound that merges the instruments together and makes them indistinguishable from each other. Utilizing open capo tunings and various percussion mallets, the guitars are free to explore a different and unexpected nature.

The phrase Plaques and Tangles refers to one of the suspected causes of cell death and tissue loss in Alzheimer’s disease.  The plaques are clusters of sticky proteins that build up between nerve cells and tangles are twisted fibers that form inside of dying cells.  Together, these disintegrate the transport system of synapses in the brain and prohibit essential supplies from moving through cells.  This contributes greatly to learning and memory loss which causes distortion in spatial and temporal relationships.

*Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

When I was a little boy - maybe 3 or 4 years old, my mom would let me sit out on the stoop to watch (and listen to) the garbage trucks while they made their slow, deliberate way down our street. Their churning, droning and mechanical gasping always made me feel calm and relaxed. I would usually fall asleep by the time they reached the next house past ours. Most likely, my mom was utilizing this as a welcome break from my high-energy toddler personality. Eventually, she was able to integrate fans and vacuum cleaners into the mix, reinforcing my sensitivity and attraction to drones. And it’s totally OK if you fall asleep while listening to this piece.

The organ, with its incredible palette of timbres, keys, switches, stops and pedals, is the ultimate drone machine. The mechanical nature of how it works is a true marvel of instrument design.

Organ (Storm Knien), Flute (Bryan Kennard), French Horn (Mikal Hart), Tuba (Thomas Helton)

*Recorded live at University Presbyterian Church Austin, Texas.

Dredging the Thick is a reference to working through the most difficult part of any process. This could be anything: dealing with grief, losing weight, building a house, climbing a mountain...or writing music.  For me, laying the initial plan, organizing materials and making crucial connections is the hardest and most time-consuming part of any worthwhile endeavor.  The rest is just stacking stones- i.e., busy work. The use of this term is not specific to this particular piece music, just something I saw reading a sports blog that had a certain resonance with me.

*Performed by Ensemble Pamplemousse and recorded live at First Street Studio Austin, Texas

Written following a series of passings between 2009-2012, Dead Not Gone is a reflection on loss and grief. Originally performed in Santa Fe at House Concert VI: presented by composer/performer Jeremy Bleich, this studio recording is from 2018. There are five movements:

  1. Stages

  2. In the Absence of Clarity

  3. Where are you now?

  4. Time to Move

  5. Echoes and Reminders

The Owl and harmonium (Andrew Stoltz), Viola (Travis Weller)

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

Originally written for the Austin New Music Co-op’s concert: Music for Bird Island, Drift was conceived as a piece to be performed outside, in the natural elements without adornment. The original performance took place on a small island on Lady Bird Lake in metropolitan Austin. Concert-goers were ferried across 7-10 at a time until everyone was present. The day was beautiful and music filled the air.

Violin (Travis Weller), Clarinet (Josh Ronsen), Trombone (Steve Parker), Harmonium (Andrew Stoltz)

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

In their generational theory book Generations and the subsequent The Fourth Turning, historians William Strauss & Neil Howe posit that in Anglo-American history there are four distinct generational archetypes: Prophet, Nomad, Hero and Artist. These archetypes share age locations in history as well as sensibilities about family, risk, culture, values and civic engagement. These archetypes repeat in sequence roughly over an 80-90 year period (with a new generation coming on roughly every 20-23 years) and correlate with four social eras - or turnings - labeled High, Awakening, Unraveling and Crisis. The correlation of archetype to turning is determined by the time of the generation's birth. As the generation ages, they pass through the various turnings and contribute their particular set of philosophies and notions to the happenings of their time. Recent examples of this cycle would be the Missionary Generation (Prophet/High) born between 1860-1882 during The Reconstruction, Lost Generation (Nomad/Awakening) born 1883-1900 during the Missionary Awakening, G.I. Generation (Hero/Unraveling) born1901-1924 during WWI and Prohibition and the Silent Generation (Artist/Crisis) born 1925-1945 during the Great Depression and WWII. Each generation becomes young adults during the next generations birth turning.

Nomad Unraveling refers to our current moment where the 13th generation to call themselves Americans, a.k.a. Generation X (born 1961-1981) is approaching midlife during a predicted Unraveling (our current “edgy culture” with general cynicism and distrust of leaders and institutions and the splitting of America through value differences seems to fall right in line) to emerge as pragmatic leaders during the next crisis (environmental or global financial crisis?). This is somewhat ironic since GenX was early and often criticized as a lazy, over-protected, unmotivated, unambitious, apathetic me-first generation of slackers more interested in pontificating than committing to long-term plans. These early criticisms seem to have been possibly over-blown as this generation is turning out to be extremely well-educated, diverse, independent, resourceful and self-sufficient.

Nomad Unraveling is a Ritual of Acknowledgement – a moment for the 13th generation to reveal itself as it approaches the transition from coming of age to midlife and assumes whatever responsibilities the era asks of us.

The text used in the work was culled and organized by the composer from the book Generations and multiple articles on Generation X:

Thirteen.
We are not who you thought we were.

We were born during a spiritual awakening when historical events radically altered the social environment during our youth.

We have learned to cope with the debris of failed marriages and a hurried childhood. We have been taught to keep our eyes open and expect the worst.
We have been driven more by appetites than ideas.
Instead of free love, we got AIDS.

We have been aborted, separated, abandoned, criticized, unprotected, imprisoned and murdered. We have taken our own lives more than any generation before us. And yet we are balanced, active, happy, social, independent, self-sufficient, educated and adventurous. We are defiant, resilient and pragmatic.

We are not who you thought we were. Tomorrow is another day.

*Recorded live at The Mexican American Cultural Center Austin, Texas

Soprano (Gitanjali Mathur), Mezzo-Soprano (Laura Mercado-Wright), Tenor (Paul D'Arcy), Bass (Cameron Beauchamp)

The Owl (Travis Weller), Harmonium (Andrew Stoltz)

Jhator – which literally means “giving alms for the birds -  is the Tibetan funerary practice of sky burial in which a human corpse is cut into small pieces and placed on a mountaintop and offered to the elements and animals, particularly birds.  It is considered an act of generosity and transformation to other living souls.  Since many Tibetans generally follow the Buddhist belief of reincarnation, there is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty reliquary.

 Jhator has nothing stylistically in common with Tibetan music nor does it follow a strict interpretation of any ritual.  The title is simply a suggestive metaphor to the manner in which the piece unfolds: the changing of the whole into smaller disconnected components. Using glass and brass slides as a means of striking the strings, long (8-10 second) delays, and layers of non-narrative text, Jhator exists as a meditative expression of transition.

*Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

Lazo Perezoso (lazy loop) is a short improvisation that ultimately served as an etude for me learning a few new pedals (can’t remember which ones now). It was a sparse setup: delay pedal, a couple of fuzz pedals, a tremolo pedal and the built-in reverb on my Fender tube amp.

*Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz


Eftah (2004-2005) is a collaborative project between composer/performer/engineer Andrew Stoltz and oudist/composer Jeremy Bleich. The following tracks (Eftah, Line, Daya, Chant, Say I Am You, Path, 913), were all written/recorded and subsequently performed live as part of the NWEAMO Festival (Mexico City, Portland Ore, San Diego) and the High Mayhem Festival (Santa Fe) along with several other dates in San Fransisco and Cleveland. Eftah (OPEN in Arabic) is a marriage of composition, improvisation, sampling and digital manipulation. With the exception of some spoken dialogue and hand claps, the oud is the singular sound source. As a process, the instrument was recorded in complete performance, and then mediated to produce a vast spectrum of layered environments ranging from ambient sheets to harsh, percussive dissonance. There are 3 short solo oud pieces separating the larger collaborative pieces.

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

*Produced by Andrew Stoltz and Jeremy Bleich

“Eftah was the one work on the program that seemed to fulfill the NWEAMO mission of uniting the avant garde with popular music. Jeremy Bleich nimbly performed a series of Ralph Towner-esque licks on the oud, which were processed and accompanied by Stoltz’s laptop, at times laying down a thick modal carpet of sustained tones, at others gently ripplings of processed notes…”

-Christian Hertzog for SanDiego.com


A collaboration between sculptor Charles Tucker and composer/sound artist Andrew Stoltz. The title is a combination of the two seminal books by Charles Darwin: On the Origin of the Species and The Descent of Man.

Originally presented at B.K. Smith Gallery, Lake Erie College Painesville, Ohio

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

A collaboration between sculptor Charles Tucker, text artist Lane Cooper and composer/sound artist Andrew Stoltz, Semiosis deals with one of western culture’s most potent and pervasive symbols: the cruciform. As an installation the work presents a poetic revilement, through sound and imagery, of the meaning of that image. Central to the work’s theme is the image’s transformation over time as the result of various cultural and individual responses. These meanings are often so integrated into everyday western life that they disappear into the fabric of cultural space. Semiosis is therefore meant to recontextualize this symbol so that the meanings ascribed to it are made visible.

Originally presented at SPACES Gallery, Cleveland Ohio

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz

A collaboration between sculptor Charles Tucker and composer/sound artist Andrew Stoltz, Disputa presents beliefs from a variety of cultures and deals with the nature of existence. The language selected: texts from Plato, Darwin, Kant, Buddhism, the Bible and other seminal sources, represent the human attempt to express truth, to explain the essence of life. A construction that is often only understood when contrasted with that moment we cease to exist, death.

Originally presented at The Cleveland Sculpture Center, Cleveland, Ohio

*Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz


This trio of guitar-based pieces was a deliberate attempt to recontextualize the possibilities of what the guitar could be as a sound source. Like recycling, the original guitar sounds I recorded were resampled and modified into hundreds of other useful combinations. Rhythmic and layered, these pieces became a point of departure for me both stylistically and conceptually.

*Performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Stoltz