Works > Koan


Written in:
ca. 18 minutes
Horn, violin and piano
Commisioned by

Co-commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation and Takt Trio and completed in 2022.

For the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, and dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky.


4th April, 2023 at Glick Indiana History Center.

Premiered by Takt trio:

Austin Wulliman violin David Byrd-Marrow horn Conor Hanick piano.

Look inside the score:



Programme Note

Koan was written to celebrate the centenary of Gyorgy Ligeti a composer whose music was an inspiration since my student days and whom I was to meet many years later.

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I welcomed the invitation from Takt trio to contribute to his centenary’s and decided to render a tribute by encoding the letters of his name into a melodic/harmonic cell which opens (and closes) the work, firstly in the horn and later held as a harmony by the e-bows on the piano: A, G,E, Bb, (which would correspond to: LiGETi).


The notes of the harmonic spectrum in the horn part also makes a reference to Ligeti’s own trio, but in Koan is explored in a dialogue with the violin from the beginning of the piece.


Koan also makes reference to Brahms horn trio in the middle section of the piece, where fragments of quotes from this great work disintegrate into the fabric of Koan’s musical context, like windows opening to other times.


As the experience in writing this work was full of unexpected surprises it just seemed fit to give the work such a title which means: a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment.