home portraits (2024)

for two percussionists, two pianos, and electronics


Commissioned by/Premiere

Commissioned and premiered by icarus Quartet on March 3rd, 2024 at St. John’s Church, Western Run in Reisterstown, Maryland


13-15 minutes

Program note

In conceiving ‘Home Portraits,’ I embarked on a reflective exploration of my year-long experience living in Crown Heights post-graduation and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown. This introspective journey led me to contemplate the memories of my upbringing, the routines I cultivated, and the transformations my neighborhood underwent over the past decade. As a native New Yorker, the inevitable reckoning with gentrification brings forth feelings of loss, displacement, and the impact of violence and destruction. Notably, many of the individuals I now interact with, including my friends, are transplants, bringing with them a certain naivety about the complex realities associated with gentrification.

For ‘Home Portraits,’ I deliberately avoided the approach of creating an “angry” gentrification piece with the intent to persuade a specific viewpoint. Instead, my focus was on crafting a narrative that intimately references key locations within the radius of my upbringing. I sought to illuminate the essence of memories and the emotions tethered to these places. The piece begins by referencing my building, ‘Tivoli Towers,’ symbolizing gradual change and loss. The vibrant Brooklyn Botanical Garden, situated just a block away, invokes various childhood memories and the glowing magical nature of the garden. Strolls along Franklin Avenue and Montgomery Street trigger recollections of the lingering scents of cinnamon and spices from a now-vanished spice factory. And finally, the Franklin Avenue Shuttle line, passing an overpass around the corner from my childhood home, where my brother and I would excitedly wave at the passing conductor.

Integral to my creative process is the imaginative exploration of sound and its purpose within a composition. The instrumentation of Icarus quartet seamlessly complemented the conceptual underpinnings of ‘Home Portraits.’ I used the capabilities of this instrument to create resonances that decay, serving as a metaphor for the nuanced nature of memory—reliable, unreliable, and fleeting. The diverse percussion sounds, including the off-kilter toy piano and evocative bowed cymbals, were intentionally selected to articulate various dimensions of atmosphere.

This piece was made possible by the Icarus Quartet as part of their IQ test fellowship, a collaboration that enriched the creative journey of ‘Home Portraits.’