Commissioned by the Johnstone Fund for Contemporary Music, happy/angry music was composed between May and August of 2017 for Bearthoven, who premiered the work at the Short North Stage in Columbus, Ohio.
Happy/Angry Music’s first three minutes are like a rock song that implodes in on itself: the rhythmic, hiccuping repetitions of the opening are eventually pulled apart by cascading, descending figures into ever-elongating resonances and moments of rest. A contrasting middle section reveals a core of inward simplicity, as the the gregarious, rebellious music of the opening has evaporated to reveal music of childlike innocence, articulated by the piano, mbira and bass playing a diatonic, geometric heterophony. Quiet, resonant piano lays the ground over which the bass sings, moving through a kaleidoscope of harmonic colors. The music gradually works towards a roaring apotheosis, with the piano spiraling upwards as the bass moves through increasingly large, jagged leaps, and the tam-tam blooms into fortissimo white noise. A descent, and then rest. The music reawakens and briefly dances into an exuberant ending.