Composer's Toolbox

Composer's Toolbox is a forum for enriching composers technically, artistically, and professionally. In doing so, it engages audiences and musicians in constructive, fresh, and challenging manners.

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Click here to purchase sheet music by composer Dan Lis

Click here to purchase Soul Refuge – 2013

This album focuses on the idea of a place called a “soul refuge”, a location I’ve envisioned where one can store one’s soul—one’s deepest memories, innermost thoughts, and most profound elements of one’s existence.

The music in Soul Refuge features field recordings from one of my “soul refuges”, the McLean Game Refuge in the Simsbury and Granby, CT area. I frequented that area as a child because my grandparents live adjacent to it, and I still visit it throughout the year in my adult life. I have many fond memories of hiking, bushwhacking, and cross-country skiing there, and it holds for me a certain nostalgia that I cherish.

The music itself is comprised of field recordings from the McLean Game Refuge, including bird, water, ambient, and hiking sounds, as well as other various recordings (eg. running water) to enhance the field recordings. It also utilizes both modified and completely original virtual instruments I created in Logic. The result is a soundscape of musical, microtonal, unexpected, and natural sounds blending and clashing.

The album follows a chronological tale of discovering the soul refuge, living in it, and leaving it. The track names are as follows: 1. The Soul Pines for Refuge (1:07) 2. Refuge Found (6:09) 3. Frolic (6:32) 4. Journey (5:06) 5. Wet Ignition (6:33) 6. Exodus – Leaving the Soul Behind (3:24) While each track builds this journey, they can stand alone as well.

This was composed and produced entirely by myself, although I did have the assistance of my grandfather in picking out appropriate sites for field recordings in the McLean Game Refuge.

The photos on this album were taken atop Piper Mountain in New Hampshire; this mountain is another “soul refuge” of mine.

Click here to purchase Exercise Music – 2014

This album stems from a desire to listen to music while exercising. The result is a highly rhythmic, complex, trance-inducing wash of dark, open, and energetic colors and shapes that throw you into and out of grooves while keeping your ears interested.

Tracks range from obsessive polyrhythms, to dark metal/dance fusion, to minimalist solo piano, and pieces focusing entirely on tone color. This is reminiscent of tape music, minimalism, vernacular music, and cognitive dissonance. Its cerebral qualities are balanced by a heavy emphasis on groove, feel, repetition, energy, and spunk.

This album is a pluralist’s take on the music that surrounds us–from radios fading in and out, to progressive rock, to incessant pulses of electronic dance music. Overall, this pushes the goal of inducing a trance, a meditative state, and an intense focus on detail–of of which are characteristics of a mind during exercising.

In short: listen to this while exercising, but listen to it with interest at other times when you need rhythm, reflection, and groove.

Click here to purchase Fraternity with All Those Good and Beautiful Things – 2016

From the Score (the live version features visual and theatrical elements):

It is the nature of the world for life to consume life. Animals ravage plants, animals dissect other animals, humans murder, consume, and poison everything they can. However, amidst all this destruction that, at its core is necessary to the sustaining of life—no matter how perverted it has become with the dawn of humanity—humans have managed to set aside a special bond for those animals whom we deem companions. It is this special bond that I wish to explore, and those who are deemed worthy of our compassion that I wish to honor and remember.

I wish to honor those animals with whom we share this special bond. By writing a requiem honoring those loved and unloved animals whom we have invited into our circle of humanity on some level, I hoped to help breed compassion and empathy for our domestic animals, whether we care passionately about them or merely put up with their presence, innocent or vindictive as they may be in their individual personalities.

The title is taken from Pope John Paul II speaking of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, in which the pope stated: “It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of ‘fraternity’ with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created.”

The images triggered by the singers were acquired by a social media search, whereby individuals submitted images to me of animals that have deeply impacted their lives. These images are incredibly personal, and display a wide variety of emotions and bonds between animals and humans. This piece is very much for those who submitted these images as well as those who invite animals into their circle of humanity. And, of course, this piece is for the animals themselves. (More specific program notes are found in the text. There are no specific program notes for the acoustic/textual movements because I wish the text to speak to the movements and for the audience to use the text in shaping their interpretation of the music, much as the program notes shape the interpretation of the electroacoustic movements.)

Please note that there is a period for silent prayer, meditation, reflection, and/or contemplation towards the end of movement eight (Communion), for all involved in the production (including audience).

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