In Roots and Groves, for piano quartet

I have always been attracted to trees. My fascination with them has been with me at least since adolescence—walking beneath them, planting them, writing about them, and studying them. I have written numerous musical works about domestic trees, but this piece is my first foray into the foreign. The Middle East is rich with histories, languages, and cultures in which trees and various flora are regularly invoked as symbols—symbols of land, struggle, peace, nationhood, and memory. Recent events have drawn my attention to the region and the trees—the living signs and symbols—that it hosts.

Although any attempt at summary risks oversimplification, the movements of this work for piano quartet have emerged from some of the following ideas:

I. Remembering and Oranges

Orange exports and the “Jaffa orange” were once a symbol of economic prosperity in Palestine. In 1948, Zionist militias appropriated the Palestinian land, the groves, the oranges, and with them, a powerful symbol of Palestine’s identity. Now known as the “orange robbery,” this citrus symbol of prosperity has transformed into a symbol of loss. Ghassan Kanafani wrote a short story titled “Land of the Sad Oranges,” in which he describes being forced out of Palestine through the voice of a young boy:

“When Ras Naqoura came into sight in the distance, cloudy on the blue horizon, the lorry stopped. The women climbed down over the luggage and made for a peasant sitting cross-legged with a basket of oranges just in front of him. They picked up the oranges, and the sound of their weeping reached our ears. I thought then that oranges were something dear and these big, clean fruits were beloved objects in our eyes. When the women had bought some oranges, they brought them over to the lorry and your father climbed down from the driver’s side and stretched out his hand to take one. He began to gaze at it in silence, and then burst into tears like a despairing child.”

II. Children and Olives

Olives are not only a precious commodity to their famers, they encode a history of their caretakers, their groves, their cultures. The fruit yields an oil that, for some, is not only used at every meal, but is the source of light as the fuel for traditional lamps. The Bible and Koran are filled with references to olives and their oil’s worth. Additionally, the regular maintenance of one’s olive trees is a social and family affair. Harvesting olives engages the community, and children can scatter through the groves, sometimes playing, and sometimes picking up fruit that has fallen to the ground which, if sold, can yield a bit of change. An olive grove, with aged trees, and burled ancient roots, is a place of labor, of life, of history, and heritage. The loss of olives, their uprooting, their burning, their displacement, is the loss of that labor, that life, that history, and that heritage.

“If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears.” — Mahmoud Darwish


In Roots and Groves was commissioned by the Salty Cricket Composers Collective and premiered on March 11, 2016 in Salt Lake City, UT.

I. Remembering and Oranges

II. Children and Olives

What is Music Theory Pedagogy?

This past fall, I was invited to the Society for Music Theory’s conference to present as a member of a panel to the Music Theory Pedagogy Interest Group. Other members of the panel included Mary Arlin, John Covach, Michael Callahan, and Anna Gawboy. Each of us were asked to explore the question “What is Music Theory Pedagogy?”—a question which had not been addressed directly by the Music Theory Pedagogy interest group for many years.

Increasing the diversity and relevance of core courses within contemporary music curricula has been a primary research area of mine for the past decade. My remarks delivered on this panel provide some insight into my developing approach to these issues, as well as a glimpse into my own justifications for, at the very least, seriously considering change.  A video recording of my remarks can be found below.



“End Light” at ArtPrize

End Light,” a hybrid video and sculptural work by Collin Bradford that I have scored, is premiering at ArtPrize 2016 and will be featured in the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI from now until Oct. 17th.

End Light, premiering at ArtPrize in 2016 at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, is a hybrid video and sculptural work. The video was shot in a massive automated library storage system, in which books are retrieved by a robot crane. A man who is captive in a room above this vault receives communication only via books that his son requests that the crane deliver to him. He finally escapes by riding the crane into the heart of the vault. Outside the video gallery is a sculpture structured by large stainless steel bins used in the storage vault. These bins are pierced by fluorescent tubes that serve as grow lights for ferns, a rhizomatic plant. These works explore a cultural shift, accelerated by globalization, technology, and the internet, from the Enlightenment project’s collection and hierarchical categorization, organization, and storage of knowledge via science, math, and reason to the rhizomatic dispersal of knowledge and the breaking down and escape from rigid hierarchies and organization.

End Light from Collin Bradford on Vimeo.

An Art Artistry Prize

I am honored to have recently been awarded a prize in An Art Artistry’s “The Contemporary Piano 2016” competition for my work 3 Blossoms, for solo piano. The prize comes with a performance, and audio/video recording by famed pianists Theoni Papadimitrakopoulou & Dimitris Anousis during their 2016 season in Athens, Greece.

Recordings will be shared here once they are complete. In the meantime, explore An Art Artistry’s website for more details.