THE BOOK OF NEVER (2017-2020)
A choral cycle based on the Novgorod Codex — a book of Ukranian psalms from 999 A.D. overwritten hundreds of times with heretical sermons by an excommunicated Pagan missionary — built on echos of ancient hymn fragments, the first words of a now-forgotten language, a banished monk’s apocalyptic visions of a distant future, and scraps of text by contemporary writers in exile.
AN ISLAND WE NEVER LEAVE (2019)
An unrelenting barrage of virtuosity for solo live flute and three pre-recorded flutes, assembled using simple rudiments from folk traditions transcribed and fragmented from various well-known performances and recorded oral histories in Ireland, Japan, Norway, and Slovakia.
ECHOES OF ALWAYS (2018)
Fl, Hpd, Hrp, 2 Vln, 2 Vla, Vcl, Cb
An orchestral entr’acte collaged from tiny moments of JS Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, various French Baroque opera overtures, and unmeasured harpsichord preludes by François Couperin, stitched together with scraps of Helgeson’s own previous music.
CALLS OF CLOSE AND AWAY (2017)
Fl, Ob, Cl, Bsn, Hrn
The first in a set of pieces for woodwind quintet that collage fragments of 18th-century French hunting calls used by Louis XIII (a patron of the arts who enjoyed killing for sport), and bugle calls used for communication in American wars throughout the 20th-century.
A WAY FAR HOME (2016)
Chorus (SSAATTBB), Org
A tapestry of choral images that freely arrange the 1,451 words from poet Kazim Ali's English translation of Marguerite Duras’ proto-screenplay L’amour, loosely based on her youth as a colonial settler in Saigon and the France she “returned” to for the first time just as the Nazis came to power across Europe, each ravaged by occupation.
SNOW REQUIEM (2015)
Sop, Vln, Str Orch, Hrp, 4 Perc, Chor
An anti-cantata based on author David Laskin’s account of the Children’s Blizzard of 1888. Combines fragments of Norwegian folk song transcriptions from the tralling and Hardanger fiddle traditions, as well as sonifications of weather data fashioned into clouds of orchestral noise and wordless vocal chorales.
A LONG WHILE (2014)
A schwanengesang for a centuries-old woman that never lived using vocal, verbal, and harmonic fragments with text freely assembled from the 583 words spoken by Hermione in William Shakespeare's final stage work, The Winter's Tale.
POEMS OF SHEER NOTHINGNESS (2013)
Sop, Fl, Cl, Vln, Vcl, Pno
Five troubadour verses on the subject of songwriting in their original Occitan, carefully scattered among transcribed and fragmented audio recordings of Helgeson's work sessions while setting them, creating music that's a poetic record of its own making.
A PLACE TOWARD OTHER PLACES (2012)
A spontaneous dictation — through handwritten musical transcription — of aural experiences in the San Francisco Bay area, using a palette of clarinet ornaments to inscribe the private impressions of sounds like foghorns, bird calls, and train sirens.
TRANSCRIPTIONS ON LISTENING TO TIME (2010)
Fl, Ob, 2 Cl, Hrn, Tbn, Perc, Kbd, 2 Vln, 2 Vla, 2 Vcl, Cb
3 - 30 min.
A collage of field recordings from early 20th-century clock chimes, mechanical orchestras, and other musical machines, transcribed for chamber orchestra and repeated ad libitum in constantly changing combinations.
NOTES ON A PAGE (OF SAPPHO) (2009)
Sop, Fl, Ob, B Cl, 2-3 Perc, Hrp, Gtr, Vln, Vla, Vcl
A setting of Greek poet Sappho's lyric fragments, in an English translation by Anne Carson, using imaginary transcriptions of sonic images found within the text.
BRIEF REGARDS FOR SOMETIMES (2006)
2 Vln, Vla, Vcl
Five pieces using fragmented transcriptions of early wax cylinders — a distorted recording of an unknown fiddle tune, marches played simultaneously in the distance, a quiet chorale sung outdoors by residents of an old folks home, an anonymous rendition of Ravel's String Quartet in F Minor, and a brief clock chime surrounded by noisy silence.
SELF PORTRAIT (WITHOUT ME) (2005)
Vocal utterances from a now-destroyed autobiographical stage work about the memory loss that accompanies clinical depression, recorded on cassette tape and then transcribed, fragmented, and arranged for amplified flute headjoint.
WRITING ON A MANUSCRIPT (OF JS BACH) (2003)
Vln, Vla, Vcl
Imaginary realizations of JS Bach's manuscript facsimiles for his three-part keyboard invention in F minor, interpreted as a sequence of graphic scores, cut up into scraps, and then strung together as music for string trio.