On fire…no, after you

February 26th, 2022 (premiere)

for mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano

Text by Jennifer Beattie (used with permission)
commissioned by Concert Artists Guild &
the BMI Foundation for Jordan Bak


Poet/mezzo Jennifer Beattie and I met at the Chamber Music America Conference in 2017 and talked about working together. Time passed, and then by happenstance, I bumped into her while performing in another state. We knew we had to make time to chat, and after reading her poetry I definitely knew that a collaboration needed to happen. Her words are emotionally direct, just like the music I write – which is perfect for the narrative I wanted to create by putting these three poems in a sequence. It is about that moment when you realize you have fallen in love and that breathless-passionate-yet-anxiously-fragile feeling that can overwhelm you in the early stages of such a relationship.

I have been carrying these three poems around for a while now, so I am thrilled to have this commission made possible by BMI and Concert Artists Guild to bring these words to life, especially in the hands of fellow violist Jordan Bak. This piece is dedicated to the mutual friend who introduced Jennifer and me – pianist Adam Marks. He died unexpectedly in his sleep last year, leaving behind his loving husband and a community of colleagues who sorely miss his spirit.

Life is short, and love should always win.


on fire

i am on fire.
and I’ve decided to be very calm about it
after all, burning is one way to go—

i hold you in the space of other worlds
a radio signal going on and on
and on

love falls around us
the unruly embers of a windblown campfire


when you say no
i fall down this long dark well
a discarded instrument with strings still gently vibrating

but i too mean what i say
and what i say is that life is rushing by us so fast
so fast that we are already dead.

and since we are already dead
it follows
that we don’t have to feel like it’s a risk
to burn in the light

after you

it wasn’t just that one time
it was every time
it was that and no other
it was buzz and snap,
crackle, fly, fall.

afterward turning inward
broken open
it felt


itself. grasping. broken