Nocturne and Toccata

Year Composed: 2012
Instrumentation: fl, ob, cl, bsn, hp, 2 vln, vla, vcl, db
Duration 10 minutes

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

Program Notes

The title, Nocturne and Toccata, is meant to pay tribute to the two-part narratives of certain historical forms — such as “Prelude and Fugue,” or “Introduction and Allegro” — while also evoking, and at times contradicting, the historical associations of each. Of course, the nocturne and the toccata not only hail from different periods of the past, but have also evolved in entirely distinct ways. By placing both in a contemporary context, disembodied from their roots and containing material that pushes beyond the scope of their original associations, I am hoping to call attention to a kind of ‘tyranny of form’ — whereupon certain ideas are forced into the confines of limited, and eventually insufficient, categories — and the resulting tension between form and content.

At a more basic level, the nocturne refers to ‘music of the night’—which is to say music which emerges from the darkness of the unknown, the hidden place beneath the everyday surface of things. Aggressive and despairing ideas eventually converge into a rhythmically propulsive, machine-like discourse: this is the toccata portion of the work. Towards the end of the piece, there is a moment of luminous tranquillity which is perhaps suggestive of the breaking of dawn; but this finale carries with it a dual sense of ecstasy and existential dread.


  • July 14, 2012 - Rolston Hall, Banff Centre.
  • April 14, 2018 - Orpheum Annex, Vancouver.

Commisions and Awards

  • Commissioned for the Banff Centre Sumer Music Program, 2012.

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