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Skies of Smoke (2019)

for orchestra

ca. 5' (*)



2-2-2-2 / 4-2-3-1 / timp. + 2 perc. + piano / strings

an extended version of this piece, Burning, about 10' in length, was commissioned by Pete Nowlen and the Symphony d'Oro, and is also available.



The idea for this piece came to me in late 2017 during the wildfires that devastated the California North Bay town of Santa Rosa. I was driving along I-80 to San Francisco, and the sky was covered in an eerie, thick blanket of smoke, blocking out the sunlight. As a native of California, I’ve grown up with wildfires, but those in the past few years have been different. Far worse. 


When one looks at an ocean, they contemplate its surface-level beauty and the deeper cultural and ecological meanings it contains. In a similar way, I stared at the smoke-filled sky and breathed it in, contemplating its presence and also what it represented; death, loss, destruction, and ecological collapse. It painfully evokes the words of the activist Greta Thunberg: “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”


Skies of Smoke is dedicated to wildfire victims, firefighters, climate scientists, and activists. To honor the victims and help fight climate change, 50% of royalties generated from performances of this piece will be donated to a non-profit protecting forests in California. 

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