Triple Venti Latté

two versions:
for chamber ensemble | 2008
for orchestra | 2009

Triple Venti Latté is a nine-minute jittery and upbeat concert overture that I wrote with the desire to explore rapidly changing meters and shifting tonalities. It is laid out in a simple ABA form, with hyperactive outer sections sandwiching a lyrical slow section. The original version of the piece (for a chamber ensemble of 12 players) was written for the University of Texas New Music Ensemble, who premiered the work in 2008. This version, for large orchestra, was created at the invitation of Peter Bay, Music Director and Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

Perhaps the best way to introduce Triple Venti Latté is to describe the circumstances going on in my life as I was writing the piece. I began work on Triple Venti Latté in January of 2008, just prior to my second semester as a graduate student, and just prior to the birth of my oldest son, who was born during the first week of that spring semester. Having a newborn obviously requires major adjustments to one’s life, and for me the biggest adjustment was learning to function (in any capacity) while seriously sleep deprived. Any new parent is familiar with the need to develop this essential skill, because at some point we have all gone to work feeling (and perhaps looking) like a zombie. My son, however, was an exceptionally bad sleeper. Unbelievably bad. My wife and I read all the books on how to get babies to sleep and none of them helped in the least. My son had obviously not read any of those books.

The primary reason I was able to survive this season of life was because I held the perfect part-time job for a full-time graduate student/first-time parent—I was a barista at Starbucks Coffee Company. Because I worked at Starbucks several days a week, I had almost unlimited access to caffeine, and coffee/espresso became my fuel that semester. I had always been a big coffee drinker, but only because I loved coffee. Now I not only loved coffee—I needed it. I never thought I would become that person, but parenthood does weird things to you.

While I did not set out to write a piece of music specifically about coffee, espresso or caffeine, the title Triple Venti Latté captures the over-caffeinated and frothy nature of the piece, with its hyperactive meter changes, quirky harmonic language, and even a caffeine crash in the middle.