Brien Henderson is a composer in Buffalo, NY. A saxophonist since the age of ten, he spent his youth playing in concert bands and jazz bands. He gave up music entirely for a number of years after high school, instead pursuing a literary path, but returned to music performance and formal education at community college, ultimately leading to earning advanced degrees in music. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at San Francisco State University, where he studied with Richard Festinger, Christopher Wendell Jones, and Benjamin Sabey. He earned a PhD in music composition at the University at Buffalo in 2019, studying principally with David Felder. His music has been performed by Court-Circuit, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Hausmann String Quartet, Ensemble Linea, Ensemble Signal, and Sotto Voce Vocal Collective.
for SATB choir and ensemble
(ob, cl/bcl, perc, vn, vla, vc, db)
A ferial mass ordinary setting. Premiered at June in Buffalo, 4 June 2019 at the University at Buffalo by the Slee Sinfonietta and members of Sotto Voce Vocal Collective.
- Trencadís I (3:33)
- Sanctus (5:40)
- Trencadís II (10:26)
- Agnus Dei (12:35)
(for double bass)
Saint Augustine's Confessions has provided me with a wealth of inspiration. It is a text that is intimate and personal, but also mystical and theological in equal measure. I don't pretend to be a theologian, or religious for that matter, but Augustine's text compelled me to imagine a series of works for unaccompanied musicians, to study the intimacy and vulnerability of a lone performer in the act of dealing with a deceptively difficult piece.
Noli esse vana
I’ve never revised a piece more than I have this brief setting of a minuscule excerpt from St. Augustine’s Confessions. The first version was written in 2013, and I wrote an entirely new version in 2015. Since the 2015 revision, I’ve lifted certain constraints I had once considered essential. The result is much more representative of what I’ve been after since the first version. The admonition of the text, “Be not vain, O my soul, and do not let the tumult of your vanity deafen the ear of your heart” was advice well-learned in all these revisions, and best-learned in this current one, I believe. The piece previously operated according to rules I had set, and set in vain as it turned out. But, now it operates according to values: simplicity and elegance in each melodic line, a subtle manner in the lines’ interaction, and a trajectory of harmonic depth to shape the piece. And now, you can hear these values clearly.
Studies in Polyphony
This short piece is very much a study, as the title would indicate. It is a study in canon and other contrapuntal devices, as well as in orchestration. Its stylistic influences are firmly rooted in the Renaissance, while the material of the piece is derived from more recent music.
Obscured In The Light of Time
fl., cl., tbn., pno., vln., vla., vcl., perc.
This is a piece conceived of as a companion, or sequel, or perhaps only a stylistic and formal development to Fragments of Lost Words. There is a clear classification of materials: (1) smooth, continuous polyphony; (2) melodic fragments taken from the latter, organized as either unordered series following curves of density or a highly ordered continuity rendering a shattered facsimile of the first material; and (3) "noise" material ordered into melodic and contrapuntal form.
Fragments of Lost Words
fl., ob., bsn., vln., vla., vcl.
This was a first attempt at combining three disparate forms, or formal types, into a single piece. These are summarized in the description of Obscured In The Light of Time, where they are called "materials." While they are materials, they are also manners of form. Fragments of Lost Words contains more stile antico polyphony, and canon specifically, but both pieces are cut from the same cloth.