MELT (2020)

for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, cello, & piano - 16'


MELT is a dance that spins and dips in perpetual motion without really going any- where. Occasionally, moments of rest materialize only to get swept back up in the cyclone. It is a dance of change without change—of a mobile spinning in the wind. It sounds a bit like the open- ing bars of Copland’s Appalachian Spring caught in a John Adams loop.

CROW (2020)

for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, cello, & piano - 13'


CROW is dance that leans forward and grooves. It accumulates and transforms. New ideas emerge organically through repetition then transform again. But also sometimes the dance doubles back on old ideas. Eventually time is compressed and, just before the end, the listener finds themselves back home again. CROW was commissioned by the Atlanta Chamber Players.

DwnByThRckyMtns (2016)

for flute, bass clarinet, trombone, piano, violin, double bass, & playback - 8'


"David Kirkland Garner’s DwnByThRckyMtns is built around a recording from the John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern State Recording Trip collection, housed in the Library of Congress. Dated June 3, 1939, the recording was made at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida, the current Union Correctional Institution. The facility housed Florida’s death row and among the executed on ‘Old Sparky,’ as it was known, were Giuseppe Zangara, the attempted assassin of President Franklin Roosevelt. Among the 63 songs recorded from the prisoners were several sung by James Richardson, including Home on the Range, Down By The Rocky Mountains and, as leader of an African-American quartet, two spirituals: I want to Main Right on Dat Shore and You Must Be Born Again.


In her field notes, Ruby Lomax wrote: “Having escaped from Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi penitentiaries, we are caught again in Florida. From where I am sitting we see only beautiful lawns and tress, and would never guess that a few yards away there are many hundreds of prisoners confined. Florida has a very fine superintendent, Mr. Chapman, who believes that every man should be at work, and here even the cripple have their jobs, every man who is not in the hospital…… With help of the recreational director and band leader, Mr. Lomax found some singers. We set up the machine in a room that had been used for an exhibit of arts and crafts of convicts. We set up our machine and worked several hours with a quartet who sang, with guitar accompaniment for some of the songs. James Richardson who sang Home on the Range said he had sung it for radio on some state official occasion.”


Garner’s composition acts almost like a chorale prelude, treating the recorded work as a ‘chorale.’ Garner writes: “it was important for me to present a non-destructed version of the actual song.” As Bach does, the phrases of the music are segmented and incorporated in the texture of the whole, filling in the space between each phrase with original material. The title of the work does the opposite, truncating the recording’s title, while retaining its primary features."

Notes by Todd Tarantino

Forward/Still (2012)

for Flute/ alto flute, tenor sax, piano, percussion, soprano, and violin - 10'


Forward : toward or at a place, point, or time in advance; onward; ahead; toward the front; into view or consideration; transmit; onward; out; forth; ahead; to advance or help onward; directed toward a point in advance; moving ahead; onward; being in a condition of advancement; onward; ahead; to advance or help onward; well-advanced; ready, prompt, or eager; presumptuous, impertinent, or bold; ahead; situated in the front or forepart; to send forward; transmit; directed toward a point in advance; ready, prompt, or eager; well-advanced; ahead; presumptuous, impertinent, or bold; to advance or help onward; to send forward; transmit; promote


Still : peaceful; nevertheless; remaining in place or at rest; and yet; but yet; motionless; stationary; subdued or low in sound; hushed; free from turbulence or commotion; peaceful; yet; tranquil; calm; without waves or perceptible current; even then; nonetheless; nevertheless; not flowing, as water; stationary; stillness or silence; hushed; up to this or that time; as yet; stationary; subdued or low in sound; even; in the future as in the past; even; in addition; yet; even then; yet; nevertheless; and yet; tranquil; but yet; even; nevertheless; to silence or hush; calm; to calm, appease; yet; to quiet; subdue, or cause to subside; even; to become still or quiet; subdued or low in sound; but yet; nonetheless; even with everything considered; and yet


i ain't broke (but i'm badly bent) (2009)

for string quartet - 17'


In 2005, I inhereted a banjo. Since then I have been absorbed in learning about music associated with the banjo --New Orlenas jazz, old-time, bluegrass, and Celtic to name a few. Most of the tunes I encountered while learning to play bluegrass banjo were fiddle tunes either American or Celtic in origin. More recently I have been studying fiddle tunes and techniques and travelled to Cape Breton to learn about the fiddle tradition of the island. This piece is a result of my initial interests in the fiddle. The piece is broken up into thirteen separate fiddle tunes taken from many fiddling traditions. I try to honor the traditions while experimenting with contrasting textures and techniques. For example, in the opening measures the quartet plays dissonant, atonal chords in traditional tune-opening fiddling bow patterns. In The Day Dawn and Chinquapin Hunting the fiddle tune becomes textural instead of melodic. In Red Haired Boy the tune is broken up between each of the four instruments. In addition, a few of the tunes borrow elements from related traditional instruments. In the Isle of Mull the cello plays a bagpipe tune and in Shady Grove the quartet imitates a clawhammer banjo. In my work, I seek to borrow and comment on elements of folk music while preserving its heart and soul.

The Vega Quartet Plays Beethoven and Garner (CD)

Twice Handeled (2018)

Five movements from the Handel Harpsichord suites arranged for wind ensemble based on the Glenn Gould recordings  - 17'

By G. F. Handel

Arranged by David Kirkland Garner

This arrangement began with an infatuation with Glenn Gould’s recording of the Handel harpsichord suites. While listening to the D-minor prelude one evening at maximum volume, I suddenly envisioned the music being performed by a cascading and intricate web of winds. To me, this grand, exciting, and emotional music seemed to demand larger forces. Twice Handeled presents an arrangement of five movements extracted from the A-major and D-minor Handel harpsichord suites modeled after Gould’s fascinating and sometimes eccentric interpretation of the pieces. I carefully transcribed Gould’s ornamentation and tempi for wind ensemble (though I should note the tempos are generally not as fast as Gould, but the proportions remain intact). This music was composed by Handel, interpreted by Gould, and finally handled once again by myself, where I attempted to insert my own voice through curious and ever-shifting colorful orchestration and instrumentation choices in order to highlight Gould’s character choices in this musical conversation about harmony, color, memory, and mediation.

Deepest Shade (2017)

for flute, bassoon, and piano - 12'

Deepest Shade is about the combination of two ideas that are woven together and developed throughout the piece: (1) the voice-leading from the shape-note Sacred Harp tune “Idumea” and (2) an asynchronous, flock-like gesture that speeds up then slows down. The title comes from one of the lines of the Sacred Harp tune: “A land of deepest shade, Unpierced by human though; The dreary regions of the dead, Where all thing are forgot!” This piece was written for my friends and colleagues Michael Harley, Jennifer Parker-Harley, and Philip Bush.

Skye & Glass (2017)

for fiddle and string quartet - 20'

Commissioned by the Ciompi Quartet

I have been writing concert music inspired by traditional or ‘folk’ music for many years, but until Skye & Glass I have not had the opportunity to write for a combination of a traditional musician with a classical ensemble. When I began I knew I did not want to ask the fiddler to play in classical music idioms, nor did I want to ask the classical ensemble to play traditional styles. This work is about the tension and space between those two approaches to making music and about combining to ideas, referenced in the title, which served as inspiration: ‘Skye’ and ‘Glass.’


‘Skye’ refers to The Skye Collection, a book of over 400 Scottish fiddle tunes published in 1887. I find the style and practice in Scottish fiddling and diasporic styles in the United States and Canada to be rich and compelling music, so I keep returning to them for inspiration and guidance. The second idea from the title, ‘Glass,’ refers to the glass of a telescope. While I was sketching the piece and looking for another underlying theme to compliment the fiddle tunes I came across a research group called “Space, Science and Spirituality” which “brings together a research team of scientists, philosophers, and scholars in the humanities to investigate, both theoretically and empirically, the effects of outer space travel on the inner space of experience.” The research analyzes astronaut responses in interviews about their emotional reactions to their experience of viewing earth from space. The researchers came up with four categories of experience: (1) awe, or “ones direct and initial feeling when faced with something incomprehensible or sublime”; (2) wonder, or “a reflective feeling one has when unable to put things back into a familiar conceptual framework”; (3) curiosity, or “wanting to know, see, experience, and/or understand more”; and (4) humility, or “a sense one has about one’s relation to one’s surroundings or of one’s significance” (


In Skye & Glass I attempt to reflect these (quite huge and intimidating) themes in the music. The piece is structured like a traditional Scottish fiddle medley beginning slowly before accelerating to energetic reels and back again: Slow March, Strathspey, Jigs, Reels, and an Air. I incorporate the “Space, Science and Spirituality” themes throughout the work, with the Slow March corresponding to “Awe,” the Strathspey, Jigs and Reels as both “wonder” and “curiosity,” and the final Air as “humility.” There are ten tunes from The Skye Collection used throughout the piece in the fiddle part, and also a Beethoven quote in the string quartet during the jigs section (see if you can spot it!). 


The ‘Awe and Wonder’ themes are represented in the shifting relationship between the fiddle and string quartet. There is an energy cross-fade over the entire piece. At the beginning the quartet is energetic, fast, and bubbling while the fiddle is slow and stately. By the end of the work the roles have switched. The fiddle is dancing energetically while the quartet is slow and singing. Skye & Glass ends with a humble presentation of the Air “Bothan Airigh am Braigh Raithneach” (or “The Sheiling on the Braes of Rannoch"). The title evokes an image of an old, single hut on a vast hillside in the Highlands of Scotland. 

Dapplegray (2016)

for double wind quintet & playback - 20'


Dapplegray is the second in a series of pieces drawing on field recordings made by John and Ruby Lomax in across the Southeast region in the "Southern Mosaic" series. The specific recording used in this piece is a version of the lullaby "All the Pretty Little Horses" recorded by Shirley Lomax Duggan (Alan and Ruby's daughter!) on May , near Comanche, Texas. I took this audio, processed it, reservesed it, and then chopped it up in to small pieces which became repetitive grooves that slowly shift throughout the piece. The winds essentially perform a transcriptions of those reversed vocal grooves with the recording, making the electronics and wind parts completely enmeshed. The material of the piece is the lullaby, but the larger issue explored is time. One aspect of time explored is the sort of trans-historical dialogue that occurs between the sounds of one moment in and modern day.
The grain and grit of the fuzzy recording is placed against the sound of sampling and a steady, four-on-the-floor bass kick drum. Time is also explored through the two alternating types of music heard--one "timeless" and free and the other strictly "in time" and pulsing with the electronic kick drum. Another idea of time explored is the flexibility of time represented in the precise tempo modulations that occur throughout the piece. In every
moment of the pulsed sections the tempo is subtely pushing forward or laying back by the kick drum metronome, creating these huge, mostly inaudible poco a poco accel. or rit. gestures. Finally, time is explored through the shifting micro-timings in the relationship between the vocals and instruments and the metronomic, steady pulse.

Nonallemande (2016)

for flute, violin, viola and cello  - 6.5'

Nonallemande is one of many Bach-inspired pieces I have written in the past couple of years. This work takes the first section of the Allemande from the Bach Flute Partita and presents a Post-minimalist rumination on the flute partita gestures. I love Bach's solo instrument partitas for how they weave multiple lines of counterpoint into a single voice. This work unstitches this fabric into four parts.

Nonallemande was commissioned by Electric Earth Concerts. The recording below is from the NC premiere of the work at the Duke Gardens and is performed by Laura Gilbert, Jonathan Bagg, Gabriela Diaz, and Caroline Stinson.

Zenzic (2015)

for soprano sax, clarinet, and two pianos  - 15'

Zenzic is a mathematical term relating to the square of a number. I chose this term for the title because of how the opening musical material, a 15-beat syncopated chord progression, spins out in an exponential manner. This pattern repeats, shifts, repeats, accumulates, repeats, and gradually morphs into new terrain.  

Resewn Études (2015)

for flute, bass clarinet, trumpet/horn, violin, viola, and cello - 13'


The material for each movement is derived from the Presto of Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001. I love Bach’s works for solo instrument for how they condense multiple lines of counterpoint into a single voice. For this piece I wanted to sort of “un-sew” this fabric back into six voices. Short sequences from the Presto are used as the building blocks to create a diverse collection of succinct studies. I. Accumulating is riffing off the first five measures of the Presto, which clearly presents the tonic and dominant triads. II. Skipping along bounces between counterpoint and klangfarbenmelodie. III. Writhing is about texture. IV. Playful; perpetual slowly unfolds a Bach sequence through a dialogue between violin and trumpet. Finally V. Unhurried; resonant ruminates and cycles through an ever-modulating Bach sequence in a blur of polyrhythm. Resewn Etudes was Premiered by the yMusic ensemble at MotorCo Music Hall in Durham, NC on March 3, 2015. 

Soprano Sax Concerto (2014)

with wind ensemble - 22'


Commissioned by the Duke Wind Symphony with Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant; The Ridgewood Concert Band with Dr. Chris Wilhjelm, Director; Joseph Missal, Director of Bands at Oklahoma State University; Kennesaw State University Wind Ensemble; California State University, Los Angeles Wind Ensemble with Emily A. Moss, Conductor; Raul G. Barnes and Elon University; University of Wisconsin-River Falls with Dr. Kristin Tjornehoj; and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Jeffrey Fuchs, Evan Feldman, and Matt McClure. Thank you to the Duke University Wind Symphony with Susan Fancher as soloist for giving the work a fabulous premiere on April 17, 2014 in Baldwin Auditorium at Duke University! Please check out the recording of the Kennesaw State University wind ensemble directed by David Kehler with soloist Sam Skelton below. Please contact me for inquiries about renting the piece.


Notes: As in many of my compositions, the Soprano Sax Concerto draws on traditional music as a starting point for a tapestry of quotation and experimentation. The musical building blocks for this concerto are taken from bagpipe traditions from around the world: Irish Uilleann piping, Scottish Highland piping and a curious form of bagpiping from Rajasthan, India. During the British occupation of India the instrument of the British army, the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipes, was spread across the country and eventually was absorbed into traditional Rajasthani music, essentially performing traditional songs and dances on the Scottish instrument! In addition to these fundamental influences, references to other musical genres, styles, and traditions also pop up throughout the piece.


The first movement revolves around an Irish Uilleann pipe performance of a jig titled Condon’s Frolics. The movement starts and ends with material that obliquely references the tune by passing the melody around the ensemble. After the opening, a clear version of the tune emerges and repeats while the ensemble builds around the soloist, eventually overshadowing the sax. In the second movement the soloist performs a slowly unfolding languid melody that nods to traditional music from Rajasthan. The final movement draws on a Scottish Piobaireachd (pronounced PEE-brock) titled Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament as the musical material. The tune is heard throughout the movement in various forms sometimes clear and often transformed, with the most “bagpipe-like” version heard in the slower middle section of the movement. In the final minutes of the concerto the tune is pushed into new territory and, after a cadenza interruption, ends joyously.




Awake, Awake (2014)

for voice, alto flute, banjo, pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, and cello


This piece is a combination of two musical ideas. The first is the vocalist’s part, which is essentially a transcription of North Carolina ballad singer Dillard Chandler’s rendition of the song “Awake, awake.” This song is no. 57 in Cecil Sharp’s collection English folk songs in Appalachia. There are many versions of this song, but I was struck by both Chandler’s performance and the specific lyrics that his version utilizes. I placed this transcription against a pulsating, repetitive, and spacey accompaniment in the instruments. The two elements (song and accompaniment) are not synchronized exactly. It was my goal to present the ballad very plainly and set it against an accompaniment that is both complimentary and argumentative.


Glasz (2013)

for flute, piano, percussion, and violin - 13'


Like a mirage, this is not a color that can be assigned a specific reference in the living world. The color is more subtle, more fickle and more magical than that. Sometimes, surround by blue, the color appears green. Add a little yellow to the picture, and it goes ever so slightly grey. In the light of the day, the color will appear more blue, but still, not exactly. Not exactly green, or blue, or grey, Glasz changes it’s mood and demeanor in much the same way as the living world.


Abandoned & Forgotten Places (2011)

for flute, viola, and guitar - 11'


Much of the music I write is inspired by the music, people and places of Appalachia. Abandoned & ForgottenPlaces centers around my fascination with the architecture of ramshackle and decrepit barns found throughout the Southeast US. These shacks are simple structures architecturally, but the dirt, rust and age that they acquire through the years yields amazing textures. This piece employs straight forward structures, melodies and harmonies while adding "dirt" that keeps the music slightly off-kilter. 


Lament for the imagined (2011)

for string quartet - 25'

Commissioned by the Kronos Quartet

Lament for the Imagined is a musical reflection on the Scottish Diaspora as I know it—through the traditional music of the American South and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Having only been to these two places of significant Scottish immigration, my understanding of Scotland depends entirely on an assemblage of the “never-never land” and of the Diaspora MacGregor mentions above. Working from this vantage point, I draw on traditional tunes to connect Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora existing in Appalachia and Cape Breton. Music, I believe, can connect these three Scotlands in a fundamental way where words, people, and geography fail.

Miracles...not math (2010)

for double bass and harp - 10'


Miracles… not math is written for my friends Megan Levin and Shawn Conley. The title is taken from Mike Huckabee when he was running in the GOP primaries in 2008. When a reporter told him that it was statistically impossible to win the primaries, Huckabee replied that he did not major in math, he majored inmiracles and believed he could still win. Even though ridiculous at the time, this quote stuck with me. It seems an appropriate title both for the bass and harp sound and for Megan and Shawn, who are miraculous people. The piece is in two parts. The first is a fantasy, with melodic and textural fragments recurring throughout the movement and the second part is aria-esque with the bass singing the melody.