Copyright © 2017-19 by Jordan Kuspa

My ballet Masque of the Red Death is based on Edgar Allan Poe's evocative gothic tale, and was commissioned and produced by the Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, with music performed by SYZYGY, New Music at SMU. In the story, Prince Prospero seeks to shut out the problems of the world and distract himself and his guests from the real and pervasive suffering of his own people. In the end, no matter how isolated we may think we are, no matter how sheltered from suffering, ultimately we are all connected. We share the same fate.

Lemonade battery

Lemonade Battery begins with a groove in the solo marimba, accentuated by string pizzicati, before expanding into a wild romp for the full orchestra. First performed by members of the Yale Philharmonia, Lemonade Battery won the Pittsburgh Symphony's Audience of the Future Competition, and was performed by that orchestra in Heinz Hall on April 29, 2011. The title is a play on the classic science experiment for kids that shows how electrical current can be conducted through a lemon. Lemonade is simply sweeter.

Violin Concerto

I composed my Violin Concerto for violinist Chloé Trevor and SYZYGY, New Music at SMU, at the request of conductor Nicholas Leh Baker. This is a very personal piece for me. Though I wrote this concerto during a period of my life filled with difficult upheaval and uncertainty, the music is tuneful, harmonically open, and often overtly joyful. To me, the concerto represents the idea that we can draw strength from spiritual sources no matter when or where we are in our personal journey, and no matter how difficult situations may seem, we are never alone.

FEATURED COMPOSITIONS

Large Ensemble

Masque of the red death

Chamber music

STRING QUARTET NO.3

As a cellist myself, I have often remarked that I would be happy to write string quartets all the time, or at least most of it. My Third String Quartet is in many ways my most ambitious work – one in which I feel I achieved an emotional openness to match my consistent desire to create music built upon rigorous logic and structural integrity. The second movement of the quartet, "Star Sapphire," took first prize in the 2016 National Association of Composers/USA Young Composers' Competition.

When I began Cats Out of the Bag, I realized that much of the drama in many percussion works stems from the percussion setup. The audience sees the array of instruments, then watches and waits for all of the instruments to be used at some point in the piece. I thought it could be interesting to remove that expectation by hiding the instruments in bags, infusing the proceedings with surreal whimsy and opportunities for comedy. 

Hit the Spot

Written for composer and steel pan virtuoso Andy Akiho, Hit the Spot explores the combination of one of the oldest and most esteemed chamber ensembles, the string quartet, with an instrument invented by folk musicians in Trinidad and Tobago in the mid-20th century, the steel pan. The novel combination of timbres excited me and resulted in a short work that drives to a frenzied conclusion.

Cats out of the bag

VocaL

MY last duchess

I've been fascinated by Browning's "My Last Duchess" for years, and had long ago attempted to set the poem to music. Something never seemed quite right about those earlier attempts, but I revisited the poem when I was presented with the opportunity to compose for loadbang, whose unique sound, flair for the dramatic, and intensity of approach all suggested they would be the perfect ensemble to bring off a musical setting of this poetic classic.

A Dream within A Dream

I have had a fascination with the work of Edgar Allan Poe for many years. When I wrote my first choral work I chose to set his poem, “A Dream Within A Dream.” This beautiful meditation on the transience of physical life questions the nature of reality, and asks, “Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?” Originally scored for unaccompanied SATB choir, I have also arranged this piece for soprano and string quartet.

What beckons

In 2010, Soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett asked several composers to contribute pieces for a recital to benefit the conservation of the Nebraskan prairie. I set "What Beckons," a languid poem by Nebraskan poet Grace Bauer, and scored it for soprano and solo clarinet. I wanted to explore the intertwining of two singing instruments, and the coloristic possibilities that they offered. Since writing this piece, I have gone on to explore many more vocal/ instrumental combinations in my work.

SOLO

Fantastic stuff

Fantastic Stuff is a wild ride of mystery, danger, excitement, and darkness – basically, all the things violists crave.  It's a jumble of virtuosic techniques–some flashy, some subtle. After violist Brett Deubner performed the work several times, his friend Donna Scro, director of Freespace Dance, choreographed a work, Brethren, to be performed to my music. It was a great thrill to watch Brett and Freespace Dance bring this new work to life at DanSpace at St.-Marks in-the-Bowery, New York.

TYRANT LIZARD KING

When I was eight years old, I wanted to study at Yale University.  I did not, however, want to study music. No, I wanted to study dinosaurs. Alongside the great tradition of paleontology at Yale is the history of the awe-inspiring organs on Yale's campus, of which the Newberry Memorial Organ in Woolsey Hall is undoubtedly the grandest. When Chelsea Chen asked me for a new work for organ, I wanted to write something equal to the power of the instrument. In other words, I wanted to create a monster.

Lemonade toccata

Leonardo Gorosito asked me for a virtuosic showpiece for his master's recital at Yale, but little did he foresee the challenge I would set him in writing Lemonade Toccata! The opening idea takes off from the solo marimba groove that begins my orchestral work Lemonade Battery. Soon the music takes a turn into unfamiliar harmonic territory, as the performer must negotiate difficult leaps, runs, and syncopations, all of which Leo handled brilliantly.