Richard Davis, Composer

Home About Events Listening Blog FR


Till This Moment (2023)

"Till This Moment" is a piece for voice and live electronics that adapts the pivotal chapters of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice—Mr. Darcy's letter and Elizabeth Bennet's reaction to it. In reading this letter, Elizabeth is confronted with information incompatible with her current worldview, first denying its contents, then considering it more carefully, and finally understanding its truth, ultimately leaving her a transformed and improved person. The mixed format enables the construction of a dramatic dichotomy between representations of Elizabeth's conscious will, as presented by the performer, and those of the forces exerted upon her by her character, her peers, and the narrative—in a word, her soul—which are reflected within the electronics.

Vocalist: Dani Claxton

Performed Friday, April 14, 2023 at the class concert for MUCO 542.

Buy the score, patch, and recordings here:

Buy Now

fātō profugī (2021)

fātō profugī (refugees from fate) is an opera scene that sets excerpts of the original Dido and Aeneas story from Vergil’s Aeneid in their original classical Latin. fātō profugī makes reference to various other musical works that are either related to, resonant with, or descended from this text, including Carmen by Georges Bizet, “Lamento della Ninfa” by Claudio Monteverdi, my own "Lament" for string quartet, and Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell. References to these works and to the networks of meaning associated with them create a musical discourse which enables a contemporary reevaluation of this ancient text (and, by extension, other related texts).

Recorded April 22, 2022:

  • Dīdō: Gabrielle Coté-Picard
  • Aenēās: Wesley Harrison
  • Piano: Yan-Ru Chen
  • Mix: Joshua Stanberry

Purchase the score and a text companion here:

Buy Now


ōdī et amō (2024)

This work takes its name from the poem which is the subject of the seventh and final movement: "ōdī et amō," the eighty-fifth of the Carmina by Classical Latin poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. The title of this poem translates to "I hate and I love," two emotions which inform the titles and characters of the fourth and fifth movements of the cycle. These three movements form the center of a cycle of character pieces, which each include topics such as running, dancing, trying, and singing.

Structurally, the piece is inspired by a data structure commonly used in computer science, called a linked list, which functions to store lists of objects in a computer's memory. A linked list is composed of a sequence of nodes that each contain two elements: the item at this position in the list, and a pointer to the next node in the list. The movements of this piece are like these nodes; each has two parts that correspond to the components of a node of a linked list. The first, comprising the majority of the duration of the movement, is the "item" at this point in the list, or a passage of music based on a single idea. The second comes at the end of each piece and represents the "pointer" to the next node in the list; this is a brief, often surprising reference to the content of the following movement.

The movements of this piece (or the nodes in this linked list) are roughly sorted in ascending order in terms of lyricality. Beginning at an instrumental extreme, each successive movement is more lyrical than the last, reaching the limit of how lyrical the viola can be, and finally going beyond it in the last movement.

Performed Sunday, March 31, 2024 by me.

Variations on an Excerpt (2022)

The work "Variations on an Excerpt" presents an unconventional take on the theme and variations genre, reversing its traditional form factor. Rather than a theme followed by discrete, increasingly remote variations, "Variations on an Excerpt" presents a continuous set of variations that zoom in on the theme. The theme itself is the first section of the famous orchestral excerpt for viola from the second movement of Beethoven's Symphony no. 5 (also a theme and variations). The music preceding this theme explores alternative techniques of variation to those used by Beethoven, favoring those derived from an electronic idiom of composing rather than Beethoven's symbolic and instrumental processes.

Recorded May 3, 2022 by violist Marilou Lepage.

Divide (2021)

Divide is a three-movement work for flute/clarinet duo that, as its name suggests, explores musical contrasts and various ways of navigating them, both within movements and between them.

Movements 1 and 2 were played by Jayden Lee on flute and Alexander Ortins on clarinet, and were recorded by Monika Azmanska on December 5, 2021. Movement 3 was performed by Nicole Carbotte on flute and Elia Foster on clarinet, and was recorded by Priam David on April 29, 2022.

Richard Davis · Divide

Perpetuum (2021)

"Perpetuum" is a work for small ensemble and voice which sets the poem of the same name by Celine Wang.

Here comes the bride
For all eternity to come
With her unbroken vow as scripture
And so on it goes, as long as we shall live:

And I will give you constance and I will give you motion
And I will give you major and I will give you minor
And I will give you cosmos and I will give you crumbles

And I will give you freedom and I will give you burden
And I will give you glory and I will give you solace
And I will give you maidens and I will give you martyrs

And I will give you presence and I will give you vastness
And I will give you rhythm and I will give you stasis
And I will give you reason and I will give you ardor

Performed November 21, 2021:

  • Vocals: Natalia McKenna
  • Violin: Celia Morin
  • Bass Clarinet: Gabriella Janssen
  • Marimba: Rahul Vanamali

Keystone (2020)

A keystone is the uppermost stone in an arch which holds the whole structure together. This piece explores, in an acousmatic fashion, this concept of a keystone, and what happens when the keystone crumbles.

Two Pieces for Piano (2020)

Two Pieces for Piano is a two-movement work for solo piano that presents grotesque interpretations of two overarching genres: a lullaby that one cannot fall asleep to, and a dance that one cannot dance to. The lullaby, rather, seeks to tell the story of a lullaby: the melody, no matter how hard it may try to resist, cannot help but eventually be enveloped by the reliable embrace of the harmony. And the second movement presents a dance between two groups: one energetic and brazen, the other more reserved and lyrical. The two present their respective portions and work to resolve the disconnect.

Recorded December 5, 2020:

  • Piano: Nicholas Ma
  • Mix: Andy Le
Richard Davis · Two Pieces for Piano

One need not be a Chamber (2019)

"One need not be a Chamber" is a work for solo clarinet and optional narrator, based on the Emily Dickinson poem "One need not be a Chamber—to be Haunted—". The music maintains an intimate, line-by-line relationship with the poem, translating various motifs and features of the text into leitmotifs—in the loosest sense—that accompany the emotional arc of Dickinson's poem.

Performed Sunday, March 19, 2023 at the Winter Concert for the McGill Association of Student Composers.

  • Clarinet: Alexander Ortins
  • Narrator: Dani Claxton


Vocalise and Fantasia for Viola – Dani Claxton

Performed November 20, 2022 at the Fall Concert for the McGill Association of Student Composers.