The Room Will Untidy

string orchestra (at least 2 people per part)
2 spoken word actors

Homecoming CalArts - MFA grad recital - 4/25/17

Performers: Chrysanthe Tan, Noga Yechieli, Nigel Deane, Michael Freed, Grace Kathryn Fellows, Jonathan Tang, Sophia Schuldt, Luigi Polcari, Tal Katz, Miller Wrenn, Kris Rahamad

Description: The Room Will Untidy is a piece about the human avoidance of entropy, the tendency toward disorder. We know deep down that things will deteriorate. The ice will melt. Bodies break down. The dominoes will fall. A meticulously cleaned room will untidy.

I struggle to accept entropy. I do not like things outside of my control. I want things to be right. I want things scheduled. I want there to be an order. I don’t want my brain and body to fail. I don’t like surprises. Therefore, I plan. I plan for everything. And despite my best efforts, things go awry and askew all the time. Or maybe they are simply different, and that is okay. The irony of over-planning is that my lack of universal control is magnified tenfold. In the grand scheme of things, I am powerless, at least in the face of this inevitable thermodynamic principle.

Thus, I simultaneously go through bouts of radical acceptance. The Room Will Untidy is a portrayal of this back and forth, resistance vs. acceptance of entropy. The two spoken voices represent two inner voices within the same person, hence why the text provided below makes no delineation between characters. Accepting my place and powerlessness in the context of the vast universe is part of my homecoming quest on a grander scale.

The first story in the piece is about getting lost on a run in my mother’s homeland of Greece, where I was visiting for the first time for a composer residency. Getting lost is a common theme in my life, as I have virtually no sense of direction (I still get lost at school, despite spending four years here). The second story is a childhood memory of sitting in church after taking communion and painstakingly eating the blessed bread, the antidoron, one crumb at a time. I strived for complete perfection in my consumption of the bread, forever determined not to waste a single morsel. As a side note, the name of the actual bread referenced in this piece is prosphora (Greek for “offering”). This bread made of wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water, is unilaterally used for Eucharist in all Greek Orthodox churches and traditionally served post- service as well. 


View/Download score
View/Download parts and script

Full text:

I. Prelude

This is the part of the story where I make a promise.
This is the part of the story where you decide if you’re here. It doesn’t feel right to begin a story with a promise —
but we all begin life with a name.

II. Lost On a Run

I’m on a run. Slow jog. I’m focused. Taking photos of landmarks as I go down the hill. There’s a house with lilac doors, motorbike repair shop, nook with the sunbathing cats, carob tree, cafe with an English name probably for tourists, a bakery just opening its door...I wonder if they sell my favorite bread.

Follow the white stone arrows.

I’m new on this island. (Follow the white stone arrows.) Not yet fluent in the lexicon of the land. But I know I am running to the water and back.

Follow the arrows.

I’m approaching the water. Pure blue. Salty smell. Heavy wind but no waves. Water is my turning point, so I turn around. I have no internal compass, but I’m following the signs: abandoned sofa, graffiti wall, that crusty carob tree spitting pods on the road. Should I pick one up and taste it?

Stay the path.

I see my destination, right up there, a monastery at the top of the hill. Where is the white stone arrow?

This looks new...I lost the path...Focus. I can do this. I can find this.

But the road ends here. The road ends here. The pedestrian path is on the other side of the hill. I should wander around. I need to go back down. Find the white stone arrow.

Where is the arrow? There’s not a soul in sight. I’ll just go back down.

The arrow. Where am I...? I can fix this. This feels wrong. The arrows. The arrows. The arrows. The arrows.

The only way up is down.

III. Orchestral Interlude

Follow the arrows / I like being lost. I can’t be lost / I like being lost.

IV. How to Eat Bread

I used to go to church every Sunday. It’s where I fell in love with bread. In fact, I went for the bread*. After Communion, we were allowed to pick a single white bread cube from the bowl to cleanse our palate. I’d savor mine ’til the service ended. There were always so many crumbs on the pews after service. Crumbs everywhere...

But there is a proper way to eat a piece of bread:

Step 1: Hold bread lightly, in dominant hand, supple fingers. Step 2: Cup non-dominant hand under your chin. This is your tray. Step 3: Stick tongue slightly out. Step 4: Raise bread to tongue. Go slow. Step 5: Land bread on tongue, full surface area adhering to face of bread cube. Step 6: Suck on the bread until a portion is sufficiently wet. Step 7: Bite off a tiny wet corner. Feel each particle on your lips and in your mouth. Bite will be moist, lightly sticky. Step 8: Chew and swallow the piece as you see fit. Feel free to improvise. At this point, you have a half- eaten bread stub. Step 9: Tap the stub with your tongue to seal the crumbs in, preventing further crumb loss. Then repeat steps 1-9 until bread us gone.

So eating bread is a ten-step process?...

V. Finale

Set an alarm. / I trust the sun.
The room will untidy. / If you allow. A proper way. / It’s a process.

Set an alarm
If you allow
I’m focused
A proper way. Follow the arrow Stay the path

The arrow
Are you here?
No excuse
I can fix this
The road ends here

I trust the sun

The room will untidy.

Improvise. I’m new
It’s a process

A promise
The arrow
The road ends here Savor
I like being lost

I like being lost I like being lost I like being lost I like being lost I like being lost I like being lost I like being lost I like being lost...

On the Other Hand

Instrumentation: solo violin

Length: 5'

Description: On the Other Hand is a piece for solo violin about the process of formulating an argument. Our ideas often start small, continuing to grow in confidence and depth, until they are inevitably interrupted by competing counterarguments. Moreover, ideas and arguments rarely develop linearly; rather, there are natural contours, repetitive seeds, and abrupt sparks that interject the thought process. We constantly work to filter, blend, and refine these thoughts as we subconsciously choose the important matter we wish to communicate. On the Other Hand was funded by my patrons on Patreon and premiered by violinist Adrianna Mateo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in February 2016. It has since been performed by several violinists, including Lorenz Gamma and Madeline Falcone.


If You Lived in Your Body

4-5 violins or violas
spoken word

Description: In 2015, I embarked on the longest tour of my life, one that took me out of school and around the world for almost a year. During that time, I performed in nearly 100 arenas and lived on a bus with 10 other people. I was terrified to go, not because of the shows, but because I feared losing my sense of home.

When I told my therapist I was feeling ungrounded and dissociated, she offered the following mantra: If you lived in your body, you’d be home. I repeated this mantra every day for the next ten months, scribbled it in notebooks, analyzed the hell out of it. While it certainly brought some comfort, it was not a perfect salve; I have never felt at home in my body. Since childhood, I have experienced a great deal of dissociation, evicting my body from my consciousness in order to ignore pain. I typically prefer to operate as a floating brain in space. While this coping mechanism has been a powerful asset in times of need, it has inevitably resulted in great intrapersonal alienation. I do not always feel at home within myself, unless I am performing. Still, finding home in my body remains a solid aspiration.

"If You Lived in Your Body" - MFA Grad Recital - 4/25/17

Full text:

i’m going on the road
could be 6 months, maybe a year.

she asks how i feel.
i say i’m terrified.
that i’ll lose my center

i have no sense of home.

i’m going on the road,
living in bunks with people i barely know

she asks how i feel.
i say i already crave home. not the place, the feeling.

i’m traveling on a bus. could be 6 months, maybe a year. notice your body, she says.
i don’t want to notice my body, i say.
i’d like to pretend it doesn’t exist.

breathe, she says.
feel your body, she says.

why can’t i hide out in my brain? both places are inhospitable
but the brain i’m more used to.

where is home, really, where is it?
this has now become a pressing matter. i’ve moved 3 times in the past 3 months, and i need to figure this out.

she says, if you lived in your body, you’d be home now.”

if i lived in my body... if i lived in my body...

to live in my body
i would first need to move into my body...

breathe, she says.
i don’t want to, i say or maybe it’s hard to.

my body is a terrible host.
would you want to stay there?
why would i would want to live there?

it hurts...
this body
is not my body or worse, it is.

and yet, there it is.
“if you lived in your body, you’d be home.”
“if you lived in your body, you’d be home.”
“if my body is my home, home will always be with me.”

is that what i want? home, always with me?

i search my journal for the word “home.” i count 155 times in 243 pages
an average of 1.6 times per page.

i talk about going home, being at home, laying at home, working at home, loving home, hating home, escaping home, old homes, future homes, hiding at home, moving home, multiple homes, making a home, what is home?

“if i lived in my body, i’d be home” “if i lived in my body, i’d be home” i want
to be home

but then what?


4-5 violins or violas
spoken word

"Underwater" - MFA Grad Recital - 4/25/17

Description: I find that whenever I am at an extreme low point, my urge to blurt out emotionally unbridled writing runs at an all-time high. I also know that this is when I often produce objectively the worst work, or at least the work I am most embarrassed by. Thus, I avoid doing this at all costs. But I went against my rule in November, right before my mid-residency recital. I was at a low point, wrote this piece in a couple hours, locked it away, and opened it back up recently to reassess. I’m sharing it with you today partially as an experiment, a way of coming into myself and my instincts, practicing letting go of control.


This piece does not technically have a master score. Rather, the rough audio reference, script, and discussion constitute the "score." Underwater was originally conceived as a recorded work with all string and spoken parts performed by myself, but it has grown into something I'd like to perform live more with other players. I consider this to be more of an orally/aurally-passed/learned piece, with instincts, improvisation, current emotion, and textual context being of large importance. Below are the working rudimentary score and script that my performers read at my recital on 4/25/17.

View/Download working recital score
View/Download script

Full text:

i have a rule: never write poems underwater when you’re submerged, you can’t see the sun words are all...sentimental

today’s another gray day,
fourth in a row it takes all my strength to put 2 feet on the floor
but it’s sunday, so i drag my work to bed and stay there all morning
sitting on top of my gray comforter
gray blanket covering cold legs
gray cat curled on blanket
we form a gray nucleus of aspiring warmth

the clocks turned back last night. i miss the sun.

i’m disobeying my rule
never write poems when you’re in the thick of it
the words are so...dramatic, overblown
like that teen fiction i always borrowed from school and hid from my parents
that stuff was so unhinged...expressive

i’ve run into a wall.
not a proverbial one
i have a bruise on my forehead the size of a snail shell impeccable timing
i just finished reading the sympathizer, in which a man’s bullet hole is described as his third eye
bloody hole in the middle of his forehead
cavern of secrets

i doubt my purple third eye holds wisdom.

at noon, i force myself through motions. get out of bed
i microwave
i eat

i write
i check my bank account

ponder ordering a thing on amazon
ponder writing about wanting to order a thing on amazon
ponder the inclusion of the word ”amazon" in this piece to begin with,
as i’m effectively sabotaging its longevity
but no matter
my nihilistic side has a way of taking over.

wow i’m going so against my rule
writing this now / reading it raw / letting you listen
never write when you’re underwater
you need time
i need space
i need time to edit my malaise
this is my brain on full malaise, and i’m very sorry about it (deep breath)

what’s going on? why this, why now?

I've been in therapy long enough to know it’s not that simple
but i’ve been in life long enough to know most people demand reasons (for feelings):

why do you feel this way? what is the source? what, specifically, happened?
was it me? or am i exonerated from blame?
was it a big bad thing? i need to make sure it doesn’t happen to me.

i don’t want to be afflicted with what you have please tell me something horrible happened so i can feel some distance.

trust me, i get it, i don’t want this either. and i don’t want you to have it.

but here you are, listening to me speak underwater and i’m glad you have an oxygen mask’re still here, so maybe i haven’t scared you away maybe you don’t mind listening

maybe these things only scare me
you’re dipping beneath the waves to bear witness thank you for being my witness.


field recordings (of a Greek Orthodox funeral and crying)

Length: 3'


Description: The presidential election and my grandfather's funeral coincided on the same day last November 2016. Hence, a lament. This Lament pieces together recordings from various improvisations, funeral chants, prayers, and the sobs of my mother. It is a Balkan tradition (chiefly Romanian) to incorporate "musical crying" in bedside funeral songs, thus it felt appropriate to include in this piece partially honoring my Greek grandfather.  

Sound sources/appearances: Chrysanthe Tan, Terpsichore Kapiniaris Tan, Joy Yi, Elsa Lund, and Rev. Father Andreas Kollas. All participants gave full consent to their inclusion in this piece.

Score: No score exists for this piece.

Between Stations

Instrumentation: piano, violin, viola, field recording
Length: 4'14


Description: Between Stations portrays the feeling of perpetual transition. When you know you're on a path of some sort but remain unclear as to whether your individual decisions are rightly serving your greater purpose at any given time. Not being able to tell if you're moving too fast, too slow, or if you need to switch trains entirely. The field recording was captured on the London tube in June 2015, when I was on tour and feeling lost in my artistic goals.

Score: No official score exists for this piece; only handwritten notes to myself.

Climbing the Caterpillar Tower

Instrumentation: cello and violin

Description: Climbing the Caterpillar Tower is a violin/cello duo inspired by the Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. Hope for the Flowers is a story that depicts two caterpillars, Stripe and Yellow, who are on an impossible quest: They want to scale to the top of a squirming, sky-high tower composed of other caterpillars who are striving to make it to the top. If this sounds confusing, it’s because it really is. Once at the top, Stripe and Yellow realize that nothing is there; all of the caterpillars had been killing themselves in this treacherous climb with no real purpose other than pure ambition. Deflated, the two caterpillars safely returning to solid ground, where they ponder the meaning of life, ruminate about their purpose, eventually chrysallize (which they fear is actually dying), and emerge as butterflies. This duo represents that journey, from ambitious caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, flying away and embracing a simpler kind of happiness and trust in nature.

The main motif (D-A-D-C-A-E) of this piece is based on the musical letters in the original performers' names: DAVID and CHRYSANTHE.

"Climbing the Caterpillar Tower" - MFA Grad Recital - 4/25/17


Instrumentation: piano and field recording
Length: 3'30

Composer: Chrysanthe Tan
Choreographer: Dina Lasso

Description: Choreographer Dina Lasso and I conceived of this piece in collaboration. We wanted to explore breaking of the fourth wall with a mixture of diagetic vs. nondiagetic music and choreographed vs. spontaneous movement across the stage. In this run, we gathered a dozen of random friends and other people to crowd the stage at the end with no prior knowledge of what the piece was about, as if they were passersby on the street. The music incorporates field recordings from a folk festival in Prague.

Kindergarten Scrapbook

Instrumentation: violin and voice
Length: 3'

Description: This piece is an experiment in applying some of my aesthetic preferences and new technological tools. The integration of text and music is one of my primary concerns and avenues of exploration as an artist, as I personally have larger than average needs when it comes to this integration. The alphabet song is used as the text for this piece, because I wanted to choose something instantly recognizable that evoked a specific context -- i.e. elementary school. I used Max/MSP to manipulate and record this.   

Scores: No score exists for this piece.

Family Council Meeting

Large melodica ensemble
- 4 melodica soloists
- melodica chorus
- 1 gavel

Description: Did your family have Family Council Meetings growing up? If not, I'll elucidate: A family council meeting is essentially a formally-structured gathering of members of a household. Roles and procedures typical to community councils and other organized bodies are followed (i.e. presence of elected officers, the symbolic taking of minutes, and official adjournment). In the meeting, orders of business are discussed, each attendee contributes an educational segment, and a patriarch pontificates. A family council meeting is an advent of totalitarianism disguised as a democracy, with the primary aim of encouraging fervent family commitment and domesticating rogue youth citizens of the household. This composition is about that.

This piece is about family dynamics and family governments. It yearns for multiplicity of sound. The inherent lack of layperson melodica rigor and instrumental construction standards also lends itself well to the inevitable family friction that results even when players or people "play the same note."

View/Download full score
View/Download parts

Stories (album)

Track (Instrumentation):
Wood Elves (violins, looping, delay pedal)
Spinning Wheel (piano quartet)
Magic Lady (piano quartet)
Shincha (piano quartet)
Process of Forgetting (piano quartet)
A New Start (piano quartet)
White Lilies (piano quartet)
Lake Huron (piano quartet, electronics)
Paper Flowers (piano, violin, viola)
Unfolding (piano quartet)
Ithaca (piano quartet)
Concrete (piano quartet, electronics)
Impressions (piano quartet)
Rooftops (piano quartet, electronics)
Playground Day (4 hands piano, electronics)
Pulse (piano quartet, electronics)
Retrospect (piano, cello)
Road Tripping (piano quartet)
Dawn (violin, viola, electronics)
Arabesque (4 hands piano)

MFA Mid-Residence Recital- 11/29/16 - Full album performance
Performers: Chrysanthe Tan, Robert Perez, Kiara Ana Perico, April Guthrie

Description: Stories (2015) is my first album of chamber music for piano, strings, and light electronics. The album features twenty short pieces written during a tumultuous two years. From “Shincha” (about a friendship as ephemeral as the rare tea) to “Process of Forgetting” (written in the final week of a relationship) and “A New Start” (the first days of freedom), each piece is personal, naively transparent. Writing this album lifted me from a slump that had me questioning my musical future. Prior to Stories, I never dreamed of calling myself a composer, but by the end of the project, I knew I’d be writing music for the rest of my life.

Stories was recorded in Los Angeles, mastered by Mandy Parnell of Black Saloon Studios, and released on July 11, 2015. It is available on physical CD and on iTunesAmazon, Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and all major online retailers and streaming providers. 

7/10/15 Album Release Concert

7/10/15 Album Release Concert

Violin & Other Stuff

This is a medley to honor my dual Cambodian-Greek heritage. The songs are "Pel Reatrey" (by Norodom Sihanouk) and "Christos Anesti," a traditional Greek Easter chant. Performed 4/25/17.

Theme and Variations (Olivier Messiaen)

Jovka Kumanovka & Postupano Oro by Miroslav Tadic
Sean Hayward, guitar
Chrysanthe Tan, violin 

Rümeli Türküsü by Mesut Özgen
Duo Meranti at MorYork Gallery Los Angeles
Chrysanthe Tan, violin
Sean Hayward, guitar 

Silly video for Cambodian New Year

"It Doesn't Matter" "Lonesome Me" "Bye bye Love" medley (Paul Anka)