jason charney


concert works in chronological order. click a title for more information.


Scrap Metals | soprano sax, live electronics
7' | 2015

For Justin Massey
The soprano saxophonist becomes a percussionist in Scrap Metals, exploiting the many metallic timbres of the instrument – as a rich and noisy gong, sharp and jangling like a cascade of coins, rumbling with the flex of a large sheet, or ringing pure as if bowing a bell. The computer convolves the live instrument’s signal with recorded samples of metal to create a hybrid timbre with the saxophone’s extended techniques. Scrap Metals was written for and is dedicated to Justin Massey.
Interstitch | tenor saxophone and drumset
7' | 2014

For Patchwork (Noa Even and Stephen Klunk)
When I was a teenager, I had a fascination with progressive rock, a genre that emphasizes technical precision and rhythmic complexity. Often the eclectic and wildly contrasting sections that comprise its long form songs are stitched together with short interludes. These are frequently not related to the sections they bridge, but nevertheless have recurring tactics: rhythmic unisons, repeating and gradually lengthening melodies, and sudden, incongruent silences. "Interstitch" expands on these tropes, creating a whole piece out of transition material inspired by "prog rock" classics.
Foreign Masonry | bari sax, live electronics
8' | 2014

The narrator in Jorge Luis Borges' 1945 story "The Aleph" describes a remarkable singularity under an acquaintance's cellar stairs: a point where the universe in its entirety can be experienced at once. At the end of the story, he describes other Alephs that might exist in the world:

“The Faithful who gather at the mosque of Amr, in Cairo, are acquainted with the fact that the entire universe lies inside one of the stone pillars that ring its central court...No one, of course, can actually see it, but those who lay an ear against the surface tell that after some short while they perceive its busy hum...The mosque dates from the seventh century; the pillars come from other temples of pre-Islamic religions, since, as ibn-Khaldun has written: ‘In nations founded by nomads, the aid of foreigners is essential in all concerning masonry.’"

"Foreign Masonry" uses a single multiphonic built from the baritone saxophone's lowest note as the mysterious column, its multitudinous harmonic series representative of the entire universe.
Lenticule | string quartet
8' | 2014

A lenticular surface is an array of tiny lenses arranged such that different images appear depending on one’s viewing angle. This phenomenon can occur with sound as well, particularly when pure tones of close frequency are played simultaneously. The listener’s perception of the harmonic partials on the quartet’s slightly detuned strings may change with listening angle, highlighting the variety of rhythmic and timbral relationships that arise among subtly different pitches.
Bronchus | cello, voice, and live electronics
6' | 2013
Collaboration with Daniel Bayot, who premiered it.
Phase Change | oboe and stereo fixed media
9' | 2013
This piece, commissioned and premiered by Katherine Woolsey, is inspired by the three phases of water: vapor, liquid, and solid. The oboist begins the piece without the reed in place and only the sound of pure air. An atmospheric exploration with timbral trills leads to "condensation," in which droplets begin to form and eventually give way to a flowing stream. The final section "freezes" the music into a stark, frozen texture which contains static harmonies, glacial multiphonics, and fractured melodic lines like shards of ice. Many melodic motives in the piece come from a three-note pitch set which is inspired by the shape of the water molecule itself.
to break | fl., cl., vln., vc., pno
11' | 2012
Written for clarinetist Eric Umble. The title comes from a poem by Joseph Massey.
Tumuli | cello
14' | 2012
Tumuli (plural for "tumulus") are mounds of earth or stone raised over graves. Found in disparate ancient cultures across Europe and Asia, the memorial mounds have become weathered by the elements and natural vegetation into their surrounding area. This set of variations sometimes presents the pastoral theme clearly, and sometimes obscures it, taking only its trifold form.
Ocean Body | vln., vla., vc., cb.
7' | 2012
for Fifth House Ensemble
The ocean as mortal:
mammoth immobile,
about to lift from earth
and swell into sky
as ancient vapor,
spread westward
Lokt | piano 4-hands and stereo fixed media
6'30" | 2011
The ostinato that appears throughout Lokt came from an early-morning improvisation session in Vermont. The two pianists must not only interlock their highly segmented, syncopated parts with each other but also with the pulsing, hip-hop and techno-influenced playback.
Incantation | clarinet and live electronics
9' | 2011
Incantation imagines the clarinetist as a shaman, ritually summoning the power of another world. In the first section, the shaman casts a ritual circle, opening himself to the ancient magic of his ancestors. He enters a trance as he casts his spells, and the invoked phantoms swirl around him, gaining strength and pushing towards the surface. They finally enter the physical plane as he channels their malevolent power in the recapitulation.
Miniatures | solo piano
9' | 2009
i. arcs
ii. whims
iii. spacious
iv. mirror toccata

Electroacoustic Solo

Cisterna | 2014
15' | 14-channel live electronics

Created with field recordings and interviews with local residents in southwest Honduras about their relationship to water.
Pratītya | 2013
7' | singing bowl, live electronics, and video
The Buddhist concept of "pratītyasamutpāda," translated as "dependent arising," refers to the interdependence of everything in the universe. The first part of the word, from which this piece takes its name, means "dependence," and the live video and audio processing is dependent on input from the bowl itself, and it grows organically from the bowl's single tone before collapsing back into it.
Mira Bella | 2013
8' | kalimba and live electronics
“Mira Bella” refers to the brand of Dominican cigars once housed in the body of the instrument for which it was written, and all sounds in the piece come from the instrument itself. The instrument’s creator, an artist based in Baltimore, began making kalimbas as gifts for his wife.

  • SEAMUS 2014 National Conference, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT, 27 March 2014
  • Student Composition Forum, Bowling Green State University, 26 September 2013
[untitled] | 2013
23' | live electronics and video
A set of drone/ambient episodes, first performed in Baltimore, MD on 08/08/2013 and then in Bowling Green, OH on 09/12/2013 with responsive digital projections. Apologies to Chris Theofanidis for the shameless use of his beautiful "Rainbow Body" melody. Audio: This recording is from the second performance - done with a set of stereo mics in the center of the recital hall, so quality is not the best and there's hardly any stereo imaging. Hope to replace it with a studio recording at some point.
Compass | 2011
6' | iPhone and 4-channel live electronics
Compass began as an experiment in harnessing the iPhone’s powerful sensors to control musical elements over a wireless network. The performer can control several elements in a custom interface on the iPhone’s multi-touch screen. The built-in compass sends a loop around the performance space as the device turns, and different gestures such as shaking the device trigger the appearance of other elements.



Radiant Nameless | 2013
13' | sop., fl., cl., vln., vc., pno.
Mallory Turlington asked me to write a setting of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. I love the poem, but it was so long and formally heavy that I didn't know where to begin. I asked poet Joseph Massey, with whom I had collaborated previously, to create an "erasure" of the original poem. What was left was airy, ghostly, and still full of resonance from the original poem.

Near | 2013
4' | SATB choir
This is a setting of Joseph Massey's beautiful poem "Near" from "Property Line," in his collection Areas of Fog.
Glow | 2012
4' | SSAATTBB choir
"Glow" began as a setting of the poem “Good Night” by W. S. Merwin. I was unable to secure the rights to that text, however, so I substituted my own words into the completed composition. Using Merwin’s poem as both a model and as inspiration, I tried to capture the intimacy of the original in my own version. The melody first heard in the alto and tenor near the beginning of the piece came to me quite early in the writing process, and I knew I wanted to harmonize it as a chorale. What resulted were two contrasting chorale settings of that melody: first, as a whisper between lovers (“glow softly”); and at the piece’s climax, as a bold affirmation (“shine brightly”). The imitative entrances throughout the piece let the same text unfold in different directions, like light emanating from one source.
How the Ginkgo Got Its Smell | 2011
4' | soprano and piano
A song setting of Jeffrey Harrison's poem of the same name.
Deep Blue | 2011
12' | chamber opera for sop., bass, fl., cl./b. cl., pno., sampler
Garry Kasparov was the top chess player in the world when he agreed to face Deep Blue, a supercomputer programmed to play chess by a research team at IBM. He had previously defeated an earlier version of the program in 1996, and was confident about his chances of winning when he agreed to a rematch in May 1997. The match was held in Philadelphia and was watched around the world. By the sixth and final game of the match, during which Deep Blue takes place, Kasparov and Deep Blue had each won a game and drawn three. Kasparov’s mistake in the opening of the game led to Deep Blue’s victory. Soon after the match, he accused IBM of fixing the game as IBM itself had organized the series.
Three Poems of Vladimir Nabokov | 2011
8' | countertenor, fl., cl.
Vladimir Nabokov is less known for his poetry than his synesthetic prose; in fact, he published only one book of poetry, containing both English and Russian poems. But his poems are full of the same precise description and sharp wit one finds in his novels and essays. These three were chosen from his fourteen English poems in "Poems and Problems."
i. Rain
ii. A Literary Dinner
iii. Restoration