Francis Kayali

Francis Kayali was born in Poitiers, France in 1979. In the Fall of 1997, he moved to the US and enrolled at Bowdoin College, where he studied composition with professors Elliott Schwartz and Robert Greenlee.
From 2001 to 2003, he studied composition at SUNY Stony Brook, under Perry Goldstein and Peter Winkler. He received an MA in composition in May of 2003.

Kayali is now attending the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in the DMA in composition program. His composition teachers at USC include Frank Ticheli and Tamar Diesendruck. Kayali has received commissions from the Chamber Opera of USC and Bowdoin College. His music has been performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the Chamber Opera of USC, the Bowdoin Concert Band, and the Bowdoin Chamber Choir.

Please visit franciskayali.com to hear sound clips and obtain information about upcoming performances.

Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (2001-2)

Program note:

I wrote the Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano while studying with Perry Goldstein at Stony Brook (2001-2002). It is the first piece in which I attempted to consistently adhere to an atonal idiom. At various points throughout the piece, tonality does make short appearances, bringing with it an added range of expressiveness. The transition between the two “languages” is never very abrupt; the music simply slips in and out of tonality.

The first movement is based on a short melodic and rhythmic motif present in Debussy’s piano prelude “…des pas sur la neige” (“Footsteps in the Snow,” Book I, VI). Here, it has been recast as something closer to “…du sang dans la neige” (“Blood in the Snow”). In the days leading up to my composing this movement, I had sat helplessly by in an analysis class while Debussy’s prelude was being mercilessly dissected. Relentlessly, hour upon hour, we feasted on the defenseless prey. Until we eventually became numb to the music, and we were able to go about our forensic measurements undistracted. But then, for days, for weeks, fragments of the music we had contributed to kill vengefully haunted our minds. I wrote this first movement as a means of inviting the torn spirits to rest.

The second movement oscillates between contemplative and playful moods. This ambivalence is present from the start, when the searching violin solo of the opening is punctuated by playful bird-like comments from the piano. Once the clarinet is reintroduced, a faster middle section takes place, giving the sense that there is a dialogue between the three instruments, during which the “bird” idea and the violin’s rising gesture are developed.

Low chords from the piano introduce the movement’s final section: a sparse and somewhat thorny landscape, with the clarinet playing a mournful melody with bluesy tendencies. There is at that point a certain sense of physical distance between the three instruments, as they appear to be listening to each other, trying to imitate one another, to find each other, and to start a dialogue.

While the music in the second movement tends to be polyphonic, with the three instruments off on their own, simultaneously exhibiting different intentions, the last movement of the Trio finds them united. In this movement, I wove in sections of music from the preceding two movements, and introduced a few stretches of not-so-atonal music, for contrast and, perhaps also, for the sake of resolution.

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