travis weller
composer / performer
list of works
current releases
selected scores
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The following is a list of selected compositions by Travis Weller, mostly chamber music, from 2001 onward. All pieces in this list have been performed unless otherwise noted. Some are available as recordings or scores (see icons next to each piece). Travis is excited to work with adventurous performers and ensembles through commissions. Please contact Travis if you have any interest in collaboration.

Dry Lines - May'14

violin, contrabass, electric guitar, and ten steel bells

When I left the house it was still dark - Sep'13

for violin, viola, cello, the owl, two skiffs, and sixteen steel bells

A pair of turns, a pause, in tandem - Mar'13

For violin and trombone

Concerto Laguna - Mar'13

For solo cello and steel bell ensemble

Turn on the Light - Oct'12

For three percussionsts playing steel bells

Hear Rightly - July'12

For Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass and three Organ pipe skiffs

Sound bath - July'12

Fixed media tape piece

Seven in the Third - May'12

For three vibraphones and four contrabasses

Willow-Spence - April'12

For violin, viola, cello, bass, percussion, and piano

Untitled - Oct'11

For owl, bass, and percussion

The end of cities - Mar'11

For amplified building

Toward and away from the point of balance - Feb'10

For owl, violin, viola, and cello

Anchialine - Oct'08

For marimba and eight channel cubic electronics

i. Cenotes
ii. Halocline
iii. Shoal
Anchialine takes its name from the scientific name for a rare natural formation: a land-locked body of water with an underground connection to the ocean. I was inspired to write the piece after visiting Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Each of the three movements stem from an experience I had with an aspect of the anchialine systems there. Cenotes are flooded underground caverns with beautiful, dimly lit structures of limestone. The halocline is an interface between the heavier salt water and the lighter fresh water which, when disrupted, causes light refractions. A shoal, is a swarm of fish or other aquatic creatures which move in a highly synchronized and polarized manner. This piece was commissioned by Nathaniel Bartlett in mid-2008.


Dirt, dust, and pollen, paralleled by signal bells - Apr'08

For owl and electronics

This piece for justly tuned music wire and live sampling is the latest in a series of solos for "The Owl." The piece was premiered at the "Bent Festival" for custom built and circuit bent instruments in Los Angeles on April 19th '08.

Seen Through - Mar'08

For soprano, viola, natural horn, and two percussionists
Commissioned by New Music Co-op.
text by Dorothy Meiburg

Seen Through is a cycle of 5 art songs. The unifying theme is the experience of looking at something, or someone, through a mediating presence. This abstract starting point took root and manifested itself through the refinement of the text and the music as the emotional quality and first-hand experience of seeing without touching. The form of the piece, on both a small and large scale, owes a great deal to the text. Total duration is about 24 minutes.


Maritime Suite - Jan'08

For violin, viola, flute, and percussion
Commissioned by the Cadillac Moon Ensemble in New York City

Maritime suite is a chamber piece in three movements: The Northest Passage, The Battle of Lepanto, and The Boat that Set Fire to the Ocean. It's narrative deals with a dialogue between events in the distant and recent past. Total duration is about 20 minutes.


Old River / Lost River - Jan'08

For percussion, owl, and amplified strings (violin, viola, contrabass)
Commissioned by the Houston Foundation for Modern Music

Old River / Lost River employs custom built instruments and the unique sounds of strings with amplified bridges. Some of the sounds were inspired by a landscape east of Houston that I travelled through in Late 2007. The title comes from two rivers: The 'Old River' and the 'Lost River' which join around that general area. Total duration is about 15 minutes.


Upper level low - Nov'07

For steel chimes, steel bells, and four hand owl, and electronics

This piece for four performers and electronic processing employs custom built instruments that have been a work in progress over the past two years: a high tension music wire instrument named "The Owl" as well as scrap-steel "bells" and "chimes" that I started working with for a commission by the percussion quartet "Paella" in Scotland in '07. All electronic sounds are derived from the instruments during the performance using custom software built using the SuperCollider framework. Total duration is about 10 minutes.


Of stresses and restraint, Great arteries arising - Sep'07

For violin and contrabass
Commissioned by the MaryRozeMarie duo in Amsterdam, Netherlands

This duo was written in part to facilitate improvisation within a deliberate form. The score uses a combination of fully metered and notated material, graphical notation, and freely improvised sections. As in many of my pieces, the material is largely sound oriented fluctuates between stability and instability, dense and sparse.


In contrast, Relative, Saturated with vapor - Aug'07

For four percussionists playing instruments and found objects
Commissioned by Paella in Aberdeen, Scotland

The sonic material in this piece ranges from complex, metered structures to longer passages containing only subtle timbral shifts and beatings between pitched instruments tuned less than a quarter tone apart. Formally, ideas take shape, explode, then re-form, fluctuating between stability and chaos. Each player has a similar set of instruments available, and in some ways the piece seeks a richness from subtle differences and blending between the instruments as a "choir." Although most instruments were strictly specified in the score, some sections call for the players to take an active role in finding resonant objects within some loose parameters. Custom scrap steel bells were created for this project, with help from metal artist Brian Frisbie. Custom bass marimba keys were built with help from carpenter/musician Kirk Laktas.


For prepared piano, violin, and electronics - Jul'07

I put together this simple, open piece for a house concert. Pianist Brent Baldwin played the prepared piano part which was partially derived from some of the prepared piano material in 'Mantle.'

For viola, owl, and electronics - Jun'07

Violist James Alexander asked me to write a piece for viola and owl after my performance with the instrument in Nov '06. As he is one of my favorite people to collaborate with, I got started on it right away. It was performed as part of the "ToneBurst" series curated by Rick Reed.


For owl and electronics no. 2 - Feb'07

For owl and electronics

After the brief first performance with The Owl in November of '06, I spent some time refining and expanding some of the ideas from the first piece into a longer solo piece which was performed in Feb.


How to Build an Owl - Oct'06

For owl and electronics

How to Build an Owl
1. Decide you must.
2. Develop deep respect for feather, bone, claw.
3. Place your trembling thumb where the heart will be: for one hundred hours watch so you will know where to put the first feather.
4. Stay awake forever. When the bird takes shape, gently pry open its beak and whisper into it: mouse.
5. Let it go.
(Poem by Kathleen Lynch)

Mantle - Apr'06

For violin, viola, cello, contrabass, flute, soprano sax, horn, bassoon, piano and two percussionists

Composed around ideas of stillness, movement, stability, and instability 'Mantle' emerges from a tension between the expressive energy of improvisation and compositional form and structure. Wholly committed to sound as an art form, the piece exists largely outside traditional ideas of harmony and rhythm. Instead, it strives to create delicate fabrics and dense textures of sound... sometimes explosive, sometimes sparkling, almost crystalline formations. From bowing the piano to exciting the strings of the violin in new ways, four strings, four winds, piano, and two percussionists employ extended playing techniques to draw new timbres from traditional instruments. The notation used in the score was devised over the years to afford a certain degree of freedom to the performers and further enrich the sound. The piece was created in parallel with a short poem by Dorothy Meiburg which describes the earth's mantle as a frontier between solid and molten states. It was performed as part of the Austin New Music Co-op's New Works for Undectet program.

A breath curls in on itself,
Revs in a circuit,
Mutters, maintains, entreats,
Snares the eye like a fall of lace. - Oct'05

For violin, viola, contrabass, 2 flutes, soprano sax, and percussion

A.R.M.S. deals with stability and instability; form and sound; technology and its drawbacks. Percussionists use Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori built by the Austin New Music Co-op. The use of "arrow bows," or bow-like devices with ridges instead of horse hair, is also appropriate considering they are very similar to Russolo's "enharmonic bow" (arco enarmonico), which he invented in 1923. I picked this idea up from Jane Henry & Jerry Hunt (who may have, in fact, developed it independently). Russolo, however, originally developed the idea of of a wooden rod wound tightly with a thin steel wire to excite the strings of traditional instruments like the violin and cello. Thanks to Galina Ustvolskaya and Stuart Saunders Smith for some the percussive ideas. Thanks also to Dorothy Meiburg for the title poem.

Nine short pieces - Jun'05

For extended, amplified violins

This is a set of 9 short pieces meant to stand alone or be incorporated into a larger work. Each piece is in two parts and incorporates two different techniques which either remain static or shift between stable and unstable sonorities. It was written for and dedicated to Josh Ronsen.


The presence of any room, For the final fitting - Apr'05

For violin, soprano sax, kalimba, percussion

This is a short piece inspired by sounds heard at a Zen Buddhist wedding. The piece also explores flexible melody systems in the sax part.

Applied with simplicity, Dynamic in effect,
Hit-and-run by nature, Dec'04

For string quartet and electronics

This piece was a collaboration with electroacoustic artist Bill Meadows. This 30 minute string quartet is composed using semi-open notation in absolute time. The sound produced by the quartet is processed live during the performance and diffused using a variety of techniques. The string quartet and the performer of the live electronics use stopwatches to remain in sync.


Stable/Unstable #2 - Nov'04

For string quartet

This quartet is uses a more advanced form of notation to explore the relationship between stability and instability. It is dedicated to my good friends Karl and Elizabeth and was performed on their wedding day.

Channelled to reflect changes, Before signal collapse - Jul'04

For violin, piano

The violin part for duo was written using pitch sets and specified durations radiating from a central theme. The piano part is largely improvised using stability notation.

Quintet for winds - Apr'04

For wind quintet

Entirely notated with traditional methods, this wind quintet explores timbre and stable/unstable textural ideas. It also utilizes microtones and extended techniques.

Bagatelle for solo cello - Nov'03

For solo cello

This is a one minute piece based on violin and cello improvisations. The piece is completely notated but often uses extended techniques and some specifications of unstable sound.


Reinforce one another, Conditions for contraction - Nov'03

For six improvisers with six sound producing devices

This piece was written for and premiered by the Gates Ensemble. The only notation used specifies density and stability of sound. Each performer determines his/her own instrument. The piece is written in absolute time. A recording of this piece is available from Spectral House.


Moments thread through, In the long run - Sep'03

For violin, viola, piano, contrabass

This piece explores the relationship between a quartet of players using interaction at the borders of a four quadrant score. A cueing system guides players through interactions and moves the piece from beginning to ending.


Open Music Study #4 - Aug'03

For piano, 2 violins, viola, and cello

This piece, almost entirely improvised, explores the relative niche of each player in the ensemble. Different players are appointed to lead the ensemble over a length of time with specific dynamics. The piece written in absolute time.

To move gracefully, Forward to break through - May'03

For 12 piece chamber orchestra

This piece is an experiment in open form and aggregate chamber music. The players work together in structured group improvisations using aural cues. At various times, the ensemble is organized such that the twelve performers act as three quartets, four trios, and various other configurations.


Split in two, Pointing the way - Feb'03

For String Quartet with Improvised Trombone

A concerto of sorts, this piece is designed for an trombone improviser acting as a soloist to work within an improvisational framework as a string quartet provides accompaniment.

Stable/Unstable #1 - Jan'03

For String Quartet

This early experiment in stability as a compositional tool was driven primarily by text instructions. All quartet members read from the two page score.


Formed by three, curved around to meet - Dec'02

For Violin, Viola, Piano

This piece is an experiment in laying out a related field of pitch sets overlapping between three parts. The piano part cues the two string parts through section changes. This piece has not yet been performed.

On each side, already balanced - Nov'02

For Solo piano with optional improvisers

This piece can be performed by a piano soloist or with 1 or two optional improvisers. It is a series of sections which can be repeated a number of times before moving to the next section.

Resources for self direction - Sep'02

For Solo violin and electronics

This solo piece for violin and electronics is a structured improvisation in which the performer responds to semi-random sound events derived from samples gathered during the performance. The score is open notation, and at times only instructs the violinist to respond to the generated sounds as if they were made by a fellow performer in a free improvisation. LiSA, the software which manipulates violin sounds in real-time, uses microtonal pitch tuning, subtractive synthesis, and shifts of sample locations and the stereo image. Props to Kaffe Matthews for pioneering some of these techniques.

Slow us down, Both ways across - Sep'02

For Piano, violin, viola

This piece can be performed by a piano soloist or with violin and viola. It is a series of sections which can be repeated a number of times before moving to the next section.


Trio for strings - Sep'02

For Violin, Viola, Contrbass

Paired with "Trio for Winds", this piece combines specific techniques, a cueing system, and discrete sound units separated by specific periods of silence. There are six prescribed duets within the piece that can happen at any time depending on the performance.


Trio for winds - Sep'02

For Bassoon, Oboe, Bass Clarinet

Paired with "Trio for Strings", this piece combines specific techniques, a cueing system, and discreet sound units separated by specific periods of silence. There are six prescribed duets within the piece that can happen at any time depending on the performance.


For Andre Silva - Jun'02

For String Quartet

This minimalist improvisation piece was written for a film about the sensuality of flowers. The piece contains a set of potential textures for each instrument in a given section. The players use a cueing system to move along in the piece. Players also decide upon a "key" at the beginning of the piece. It can be played for any desired length of time.

Open Music Study #3 - Jun'02

For Violin and Percussion

This piece works as a quasi improvised duet sewn together with a cueing system. This piece has not yet been performed.

Conversation piece #1 - Mar'02

For String Quartet

Based on an actual conversation from Shakespeare (Hamlet, III ii 49-57), this piece mimics a verbal conversation using improvisational "conversations" prescribed by the score. The content of the conversation also influenced aspects of the dynamics and techniques used.

Open Music Study #2 - Feb'02

For Piano, violin, viola

This piece explores a number of open compositional elements arranged into a distinct form. While improvisation plays a large part in its realization, the piece has a very recognizable character.

B-15 - Jan'02

For String Quartet

One cold day in March of 2000, the cracks widened and a large shelf of ice separated from the coast of Antarctica. B-15, as the scientists call it, has 4,500 square miles of upper surface area and could supply the entire United States with fresh water for about 5 years. After remaining frozen since long before humans set foot in the Antarctic, this slab of ice the size of Texas, began its long journey towards the equator while slowly melting away. This piece was written for a film/dance/music collaboration.

Open Music Study #1 - Jan'02

For Piano, violin, viola

In this piece, the pianist guides the movements along while violin and viola work in a series of duets cued by the piano part. There is a constant pulse throughout.

Logistics #2 for string quartet - Nov'01

For String Quartet

Similar in structure to Logistics #1, the players were given instructions far in advance and carried out a series of communication-related tasks to derive their part in the piece. With each section, a different player takes the improvisational initiative to lead the rest of the ensemble, and then moves to the next section. The piece uses a pitch set field.

Logistics #1 for string quartet - Oct'01

For String Quartet

Similar in structure to Logistics #1, chance operations were used to derive the pitch sets for each section. With each section, a different player takes the improvisational initiative to lead the rest of the ensemble, and then moves to the next section. The piece uses a pitch set field.

Stink Bug - Jul'01

For 2 Guitars, Bass Clarinet, Claves

Although this piece has not yet been performed yet, it was the first piece written for the New Music Co-op. The pitches were derived from the movement of an insect within a pre-constructed three dimensional structure corresponding to a matrix of tri-chord pitch sets.

String quartet for a windblown drapery - Jun'01

For String Quartet

An early experiment in naturally derived musical shapes, this piece was created using a film of drapes blowing in the wind. Shapes created by the drapes dictated specified motions in the score.

Obfuscated String Quartet - Mar'01

For String Quartet

This piece started out as a classical quartet. The parts were visually treated individually to elide almost all of the musical content. The players read from the parts, but improvise based on what they can see instead of the original piece.

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