Septet was composed in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Joseph L. and Vivian E. Steele Fund Scholarship, which I was fortunate to receive during my student years at the Eastman School of Music. A number of former winners of the scholarship participated in the premiere of the work, which I conducted at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center in Harrisburg, PA.
I composed Septet while pursuing my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania; I was working with Yinam Leef, himself a beloved former student of my mentor George Rochberg. Heritage and tradition were much in mind while I was working on the piece: in addition to direct suggestions from Leef and Rochberg, I count the mixed-ensemble chamber works of Hindemith and Stravinsky as strong influences.
Septet is in five “characteristic” movements—Resolute, Fantasia, Poem, Pas de deux, Dance—but is heard as two large sections. The first four movements are performed attacca, and their effect is of a series of sharply contrasting moods. The fifth movement is more extended and features strict double canons, along with reminiscences of the first and third movements.