Molly Turner
Photo by Molly Turner
Fall 2020

fall 2022
set.loose for string quartet

I have always been interested in the relationship between strictly composed music and aleatoric music and the expressive possibilities of both methods of composition. This work is in two sections that are played attacca:

Section 1 - "set" is a through-composed exposition that establishes material

Section 2 - "loose" takes material from the first part and stretches/breaks/condenses/fragments it in an aleatoric fashion. It collapses into a cello solo with a 16th note accompaniment grid that falls in and out of alignment.

It ends with a recall to opening material and a unison on A, a central pitch of the whole piece.

may 2023
Open Doors

for full orchestra

Comissioned by the Tacoma Youth Symphony and dedicated to their inimitable music director, Dr. Paul-Elliott Cobbs

Performed by the Tacoma Youth Symphony and conducted by Molly Turner.

This piece is a celebration of the many possibilities of life open to us all, particularly those graduating high school.

fall 2023
La Valse

An arrangement of Ravel's La Valse (1920) for Woodwind Quintet and Piano
Dedicated to and originally written for Sonarsix

spring 2023
tic toc choc

An arrangement after François Couperin's "Pièces de clavecin, 3e livre. No 18" (1722)

oct 2020
Cante Dulce

for viola quartet

part of the TELEPHONE project based off two works: 1) a visual work and 2) a poem

generously recorded by violas in the park: Devin Moore, Lynn Saq, Lydia Grimes, and Sean Juhl

recorded on canal st

dedicated to Desirée Alvarez

fall 2018
the shapes of stories

for string quartet

This piece was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's failed master's thesis of the same title.

He proposed that all stories can be mapped on to graphs with a horizontal axis of time and a vertical axis of good and ill fortune. It was rejected because Vonnegut claimed it was “so simple and looked like so much fun.” The graphing of certain parameters of a story was influential in my writing of the piece. This piece loosely takes on Vonnegut's "Cinderella/New Testament" shape.

performed here by Angela Bae, Julianne Oh, Lauren Ross, and Ben Lanners and read later by the Arditti quartet

I began using graphic notation much more after this.

a short video of Vonnegut talking about it here

a nice infographic here

a different sort of ending here

jan 2019
sing to us

a setting of sappho's poetry for chamber ensemble and soprano

excerpt from "iv. night", sung by Olivia Lerwick, conducted by Molly Turner:


Virgins will all night long sing
of the love between you and your bride
in her violet robe.

Wake and call out young men
of your age,
and tonight we shall sleep less than
the bright-voiced nightingale.

If we imagine the history of art as some kind of Darwinian survival game, Sappho’s poetry stands out as a genetic miracle. Almost no whole organism has survived. Instead, we have a couple dozen pages worth of fragments. Still, that’s extraordinary for a couple thousand years.

Sappho’s poetry has already gone through a natural process of fragmenting (physically through the ripping of pages) and has been re-interpreted over time by way of numerous translations. What we’re left with is an obscured version of the original.

In studying composition we often talk about developing, fragmenting, and expanding ideas. So, rather than obsess over the original-Protozoan-text, we can take this time-shaped art and welcome the work into the 21st century, home of the ambiguous and the modified.

I believe Sappho reveals to us secrets of the timeless female soul like no one else.

And between these small islands of words one can hear music.

apr 2018

a setting of a poem by Lenna Mendoza for string quintet and narrator

written for "synesthesia: poetry+music" a project between the Rice composers and r2: the rice review

performed and recorded at rice memorial chapel

poetry read by Lenna, ensemble conducted by Molly Turner

feb 2018
Collaboration: Megan Lay, choreographer

original percussion duo by Molly Turner written in fall 2017

performed at mercyhurst university in pennsylvania

fall 2015

a graphic score co-composed with Sarah-Grace Graves for Katie Grinnan's "astrology orchestra"

(click to zoom)

This composition marks the conjunction between Mercury and the Sun. A planet reaches apogee when it is furthest from the Earth. Mercury was reaching apogee on the date of the performance in addition to the conjunction between the Sun and Mercury which peaked on 17 November 2015.

photos from the performance:

1 / 7
james turrell's "twilight epiphany" on rice university's campus
2 / 7
katie grinnan's astrology orchestra
3 / 7
katie setting the metronome for her piece
4 / 7
second floor view
5 / 7
close up of "mercury"
6 / 7
performance of "apogee" with sarah-grace graves (soprano)
7 / 7
fall 2018
quiet places

for alto flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, and piano

My dad owns a tugboat. It’s kinda slow... 8mph slow. Growing up, I absolutely hated it. But more recently, I’ve been more open to at least being a non-disruptive passenger on it. During Summer 2018, I was in the San Juan Islands near Vancouver with my mom and dad. We island hopped for a few days and met fellow tug-boaters. We were just “puttin’ around” as my dad would say.

Instead of being restless and annoyed as I was as a kid, I immersed myself in this slower and quieter lifestyle, even if just for a few days. And now I really miss that.

So this is sort of about my dad's tugboat, but more importantly, it's about the quiet places that accompany it.

I listened to a lot of Feldman, Ravel, and Takemitsu while writing this.

jan 2017
reaction for violin and cello

for violin and cello, scordatura

here i am exploring chemical reactions as well as our reactions to others in music making. one year of pre-med at rice had to go somewhere.

while writing this piece, i listened to the berio sequenzas and boulez’s incredible piece, messagesquisse for seven cellos.

the violin’s second and fourth string are tuned down a 1/2 step and the cello’s first and third string are down 1/2 step.

feb 2016
heel and toe polka

for violin and piano

this was part of Giancarlo Latta's 16x16: The Rice Encores Project

Part of my early training on the violin was a fiddle class that met on tuesday evenings. It encouraged improvisation, quick sight reading, and lots of different styles. "Heel and Toe Polka" was one of my favorite tunes.