This page is designed to introduce you to some of Sean’s works and his method of composition.
Sean composes—both his classical and pop works—using the compositional tool he’s termed motivic development (Md). This tool calls for the creation of a work to be based on a few short (2 to 6 note) musical kernels. These kernels are the building blocks for the work where all other musical material is derived from them.
Development, especially that of the motivic kind, is a staple of the classical world of music. The best example of motivic usage that would be known by most anyone is the opening four notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Motivic development allows a composer to create memorable riffs removed from any key association. The tonality for a motive is not related to a given key, but to its starting and ending note. This freedom allows the simultaneous use of motive-based melodies and a tonal ambiguity reminiscent of atonality.
This compositional tool is in no way new. Sean uses Md as a way to keep elements of canonized classical music present in modern music.
Motivic development lends itself nicely to pop music. At its essence, pop music creates a hook, a memorable melody, and an instant feeling of “I recognize this!” All of these elements are not only possible with the use of Md, but are a direct byproduct of the tool.
Sean contends that by creating pop music using Md, one might be able to take all of the elements of pop music and fit them over a classical structure draped with tonal ambiguity.
Berceuse for Violin & Piano
This work is an example of how motivic development can be applied to a musically romantic language. The main motive is stated first when the violin enters. From then forward, the listen hears a series of episodes developing the stated motive.
This is an example of a song being approached by way of motivic development. The short three note motive enters with the guitar.
Sonata for Solo Violin No. 3 sample 3A and 3B
This sonata was written for John Lardinois, classical violinist and accomplished fiddler. In the first movement, you’ll hear elements of J.S. Bach-like complex melody writing fused with the Old Texas fiddling style, the breakdown. The second movement is a 7-note chacone.
At 7.0 was commissioned by Freya Quartet in 2009. The work is presented in a single movement and is composed through motivic development. Below is a series of clips, taken from a live performance by Freya, showing the motives used and some of their applications. For a complete version look for our upcoming At 7.0 Art Installation.
As a melody:
As a double fugue:
The slow stuff: