Thomas J. Dempster :: Composer

Hot Springs, AR USA


Click on a title for more info

10 Roentgens
10 Roentgens [2011] [8:30] [video+audio]

First performed: May 13, 2011, New York, NY

ahalugisdi unole (to quiet the wind)
ahalugisdi unole (to quiet the wind) [2014] [10:30] [bassoon and pre-recorded sounds]

First performed: Feb. 26, 2014, Fredericksburg, VA

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* If you select PDF or Printed Score without thumb drive, you will receive a link for a full-resolution .wav file and an .mp3 file to download the fixed media accompaniment.
asuurinsiniset teräshiukkaset
asuurinsiniset teräshiukkaset [2006] [9:00] [stereo]
Composed for a collaborative CD release in 2006, this piece takes steel pans -- the leftovers the oil industry brought to the Caribbean -- and gives them Saariaho and Lindberg-like treatments, resutling in an at-times rhythmically driving gloss, at times brutal soundscapes, and at other times subdued, shifting spectral terrains.

First performed: Apr. 2, 2010, Austin, TX
basking in the copper look
basking in the copper look [2004] [1:00] [stereo]
Inspired by a short story by pre-Stalin Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms, this piece is a quick examination of explosions of everyday objects.
First performed: Apr. 14, 2010, Istanbul, Turkey
between the strings
between the strings [2006] [18:00] [stereo and 16-channel]
Based upon a Baroque violin sonata by Tartini, this long, perhaps wandering, work investigates worlds trapped between pitch and gesture. This 18-minute permutation clarifies over time as the original source materials slowly resolve and show themselves.
the bunyip
the bunyip [2014] [8:30] [alto saxophone and pre-recorded sounds]

First performed: Apr. 3, 2014, Stillwater, OK

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* If you select PDF or Printed Score without thumb drive, you will receive a link for a full-resolution .wav file and an .mp3 file to download the fixed media accompaniment.
The Bystander
The Bystander [2001] [8:00] [stereo]
An early electroacoustic work of mine, The Bystander may be the earliest EAM work of mine that I don't outright hate. More of an etude on envelope shapes and novel uses of FM synthesis, it stands up evenly with, at least, anything I wrote in my early 20s.
First performed: January 27, 2002, Greensboro, NC
Unfortunately, I won't be posting audio of this piece for a while.  
Congaree Voices
Congaree Voices [2014] [11:00] [piano (four hands) and pre-recorded sounds]

First performed: Nov. 7, 2014, Anderson, SC
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contact clusters
contact clusters [2007] [11:00] [quad]
Using mathematical knot theory as a starting point, I take some simple violin string gestures about as far as I cared to. Keep an ear out for my sultry tribal rhythms toward the end. This piece has been reviewed a few times, notably in the MIT publication Computer Music Journal.
First performed: Feb. 5, 2008, Greensboro, NC
critical mass
critical mass [2005] [45:00] [stereo or 8-channel]
A magnum opus, if not self-indulgent as hell, Critical Mass is a seven-movement, 45-minute inner dialogue about faith, existence, place in the world, and cynicism. While it is unlikely I will post the entire piece online, please stay tuned for a commercial release in mid-2017.
First performed: November 12, 2005, Birmingham, UK
Movement two: "invocations"  
crossing the threshold
crossing the threshold [2003] [11:30] [stereo]
An outgrowth of a piece for two dancers and interactive video systems, this work is largely the realization and sequencing of the sounds and gestures meant to be generated somewhat at random in the original work threshold, which is now withdrawn.
First performed: Nov. 8, 2003, Denton, TX
crowdsurfing in a bathysphere
crowdsurfing in a bathysphere [2013] [3:00] [stereo]
This three-minute piece deals with my own persisting issues with extreme anxiety and agoraphobic tendencies. Hopefully you can hear that a little bit.
First performed: Nov. 12, 2013, Orangeburg, SC
deep cover
deep cover [2010] [14:00] [stereo or quad]
Ostensibly about a spy or secret agent who is having his or her own epistemological crisis and existential dread, the piece, loosely inspired by Alain Robbe-Grillet's brilliant novel Repetition, largely deals with impostor syndrome and having to live in the shadows -- for any reason.
First performed: Feb. 26, 2014, Fredericksburg, VA
Disconnected [2017] [7:30] [stereo]
Using a rather unpleasant customer service call between an unhappy customer and a call-center employee, this is my Bronx cheer to the corporatization of all things as well as a meditation of sorts over the humanity of people caught amidst that runaway corporatism.
earthenware [2005] [13:00] [stereo or quad]
Well, there's trees, there's dirt, there's tiles, there's rocks, so let's bang and thud them all and record them and get editing and get verschnicken. In sincerity, the title is more literal than suggestive: anything that was brought up from the earth and made (from the surface or below) is used in this recording. A truly Montrealish acousmatic experience complete with too much GRM plug-in usage!
from distant valleys
from distant valleys [2006] [9:00] [stereo or quad]
The second in an undefined series of pieces based on folk idioms or ideas. This one borrows from and/or remixes Kabuki, Gagaku, Beijing Opera, and more from East Asia.
glass ghosts
glass ghosts [2002] [13:00] [bassoon and pre-recorded sounds]

First performed: April 3, 2002, Greensboro, NC

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*PDF only at this time. Printed option December 2016. Digital media link will be emailed with .wav and .mp3 options.
low tide
low tide [2003] [9:00] [stereo]
An earlier work, this piece deals with ecological ruin, as much of the source material comes from birds roosting in areas of suburban Austin TX that are now covered with sprawl. Other sources include recordings from swampy areas in southeastern NC, and a gavel.
First performed: Nov. 21, 2003, Austin, TX
melt [2014] [10:00] [quad]
Using the sounds of water flowing, freezing, thawing, and falling, melt examines the possible torrential and unstoppable soundscape caught up with rising sea levels.
First performed: Aug. 13, 2015, Limerick, Ireland
national anthem
national anthem [2006] [8:00] [stereo]
Gathered from interviews, old recordings of anthems, and radio broadcasts, this piece examines, rather cynically and critically, if not satirically, exactly who and what we are and were and thought we could be during the height of Bush 43. There is some strong language in the piece and it may not be suitable for all audiences. As is said, "get your mind right."
First performed: May 5, 2006, Austin, TX
on distant hills
on distant hills [2005] [8:00] [stereo]
The first of an unknown number of pieces drawing on folk influences, on distant hills engages with West African and Central African folk materials.
Audio is unavailable at this time.  
onethousandwords [2009] [6:00] [stereo]
Another work that indirectly poses questions about how we operate within and treat our environment on Earth, this piece wanders around the world in order to figure out what sort of picture we want to see when we conjure our place on the planet. I promise you it's not nearly as preachy as that sounds..
First performed: July 5, 2009, Raleigh, NC
rainchime [2005] [9:00] [stereo]
An antidote to the headiness of critical mass, this piece was composed in about two weeks' time using nothing but the sounds my mouth made drinking water. I was almost a full decade ahead of Marco Rubio.
First performed: Nov. 19, 2005, Austin, TX
the red hills of Georgia
the red hills of Georgia [2012] [7:30] [video+audio]
Created out of audio and video of three separate famous speeches in 1963, this work was cretaed in response to the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream speech" and Terry Sanford's "Second Emancipation Proclamation." The work juxtaposes those messages with those of the hate spewed by the late and miserable George Wallace.
First performed: July 9, 2012, Raleigh, NC

residues (don't)
residues (don't) [2012] [1:00] [stereo]
Made from leftovers of other pieces, this is more of a 45-second echo or waning reverberation of an idea than a piece. Still, there are worse ways to waste 45 seconds, right?
First performed: Mar. 1, 2013, Cambridge, MA
spectres [2004] [14:00] [stereo]
Based loosely on the spectral information and attack structure of an open C string on a cello, spectres is a strange auditory trip strongly influeced by my then-obsessive interest in the Montreal acousmatic school and early spectralist composers.
First performed: Nov. 8, 2005, Austin, TX
talking in circles before the radio explodes
talking in circles before the radio explodes [2009] [1:00] [stereo]
This work was made primarily by using a few programs that translated photographs into wide-spectrum, filtered noise bands of some complexity. The pictures used were of people who had left my life too soon -- accidentally, or by choice. It's a lot to squeeze into a minute.
First performed: Nov. 12, 2013, Orangeburg, SC