MASS (2012)

soprano and percussion
(tuned metals & tam-tam)
duration 13:30

Mass, for soprano and percussionist, combines fragments of the mass ordinary with fragments of poetry by Forugh Farrokhzad, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, and Sonia Sanchez.

Percussionist Jon Hess suggested a small, portable percussion setup: a palette of metal percussion featuring tuned bowls and pot lids. These found metal instruments form the center of the sound, giving this work a resonant and beautiful sound world that suggests timelessness and ritual.

The choice and shape of texts used was a result of a fruitful collaboration between the composer and singer Sonja Tengblad. Sonja imagined a unique work that would fuse poetry and liturgy into an intimate and personal religious statement that could be performed in both concert and worship settings.


commissioned by Jonathan Hess and Sonja Tengblad


JANUARY (2016)

vln vla vc
duration 5:00


For Sara

With thanks to David Vayo for his advocacy of new music.

January was commissioned by Illinois Wesleyan University for premiere March 10 2016, Bloomington, Illinois. 

note from composer

I am enamored by winter. Not least, viewing the clarity and contrasts of its frozen world. As the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote in his Sand County Almanac, "The months of the year, from January up to June, are a geometric progression in the abundance of distractions... January observation can be almost as simple and peaceful as snow and almost as continuous as cold."

Where I live on Lovö, the long January nights see the forest in stark relief, the pines and birches silhouetted black against a white canvas of moonlit snow. Thick ice covers the nearby lake. At dawn and dusk, mist blurs the horizon between the frozen lake and the sky.

January is winter music for string trio. Each instrument plays an independent lyric solo, a clear line suspended over a blurred accompaniment of uncoordinated swells.

-Matthew Peterson, 2/2/2016



commissioned by Illinois Wesleyan University
premiere: Presser Hall, March 10 2016 (Bloomington, IL)



string quartet
duration 13:00

Badlands (2013) is a set of musical landscapes for string quartet, commissioned by Freya String Quartet.

Badlands was inspired by the landscapes of western North Dakota. The badlands are an ancient geological wonder undergoing drastic changes. A heavily eroded and barren region, marked by intricate erosional sculpturing and breathtaking vistas, the badlands are threatened by a rampant 21st century oil and gas boom.

The two movements are landscapes for string quartet. "November (pas de deux)" draws inspiration from the endless horizon and sky of the prairie, a sea of grass dancing in the wind, drifting clouds. "Red roads, white skies" is a winter badlands landscape; white snow and sky against the red of the scoria roads and buttes.


commissioned by Freya String Quartet
premiere: Freya String Quartet (Pittsburgh, PA), February 21 2014
additional performances: Freya String Quartet, March 2014


NÄCKEN (2011)

violin solo
duration 4:30

Näcken, the näck, is a Swedish water spirit who plays an enchanted fiddle. His music lures humans to drown in lakes and streams. He is also known as strömkarlen (the stream man) and in Norway he is called fossegrim.

If found and greeted properly, it is said that the näck will teach a human to play so well that "the trees dance and waterfalls stop at his music." But after learning the näck's music, a man may lose his mind and play himself to death.

The arpeggiated harmonics and driving motion of Näcken were inspired by the clear and shimmering boreal waters that Näcken calls home.


premiere: Ray Shows, St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN), October 20 2011
additional performances: Madalyn Parnas (Bloomington, IN) November 2011; Timothy Kantor (Bloomington, IN) November 2011; Finisterra Trio (Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco), April 2012; Third Angle Ensemble (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver), April 2012;  Panic Duo (Los Angeles), March 2013; Madalyn Parnas (London), May-June 2013; Alejandro Drago (Grand Forks), October 2013, January 2014; InnoVox, (New York City) December 2013; North/South Consonance (New York City), April 2014; Claudia Schaer (New York City), November 2014.

2012 Third Angle Ensemble composition competition winner, national category
2012 NewLens concert series Call for Scores
2013 North/South Consonance Call for Scores
2013 New Music Conflagration Call for Scores
2013 InnoVox Call for Scores

Miserere Mei

MISERERE MEI (2006, REV. 2008)

SSAATTBB a cappella chorus
duration 8:00

"Miserere mei, Deus
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis:
et omnes iniquitates meas dele."

(Have mercy on me, God
Hide your face from my sins,
and block out all my iniquities


premiere: Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) November 7 2006
additional performances: VocalEssence (Minneapolis, MN), May 2007; Indiana University, April 2008

2007 VocalEssence Essentially Choral Award

Reflections on the death of the beloved


symphonic band
duration 15:00

Reflections on the Death of the Beloved is dedicated to six young people who died before their time. They were lost to accidents, crime, disease, and war. Two passed immediately after work on this piece began.

It is painful when lives are lost to tragedy, especially when those lives are young. They have gone on to realms unknown and we cannot yet follow. But we remember, and we love, in whatever ways we can.


commissioned by the St. Olaf Band with funds from the Miles “Mity” Johnson Endowment
premiere: St. Olaf Band, St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN), May 22 2009
2013 Frank Ticheli Composition Contest, 2nd place
2010 ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize, Special Distinction,
2010 BMI Student Composer Award

Voir Dire

VOIR DIRE (2010)

chamber opera in two acts
for four singers, octet and conductor
sop mez ten bar; fl cl perc pno vln vla vc cb
duration 90:00

The libretto for Voir Dire, written by Matthew Peterson and Jason Zencka, is based on and adapted from true stories witnessed by crime reporter Jason Zencka while on assignment for the Stevens Point Journal, January 2007 to June 2008.


premiere: selections performed by Opera Vista (Houston, Texas), March 2011
additional performances: Fort Worth Opera Frontiers (Fort Worth, TX), May 2014
2011 Opera Vista Award
2014 Fort Worth Opera Frontiers Showcase Selection



chamber opera
for three singers and chamber ensemble
sop mez bar; 1111/1110/pno/perc/strings 10111
duration 25:00

Three refugees are stranded in an inflatable lifeboat out in the open ocean; they are the sole survivors of a shipwreck. After three days, tensions erupt between the strangers, who each fled the same conflict for different reasons. As their pasts are revealed, cooperation-and survival-seem unlikely. Lifeboat explores and challenges the ideals of courage, social justice, and service; can these ideals overcome major divides between people of different backgrounds and experiences? Can we all live in the same boat?

A John F Kennedy Center Commission.


premiere: Washington National Opera, Kennedy Center, Jan 16 2017
2017 John F Kennedy Center Commission for the American Opera Initiative

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands


chamber orchestra
duration 11:00

Isaiah 55: 10-12

     As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
     so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
     You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.


premiere: Uppsala kammarorkester (Uppsala, Sweden), March 13 2014
other performances: Uppsala kammarorkester, May 8 2014; Vanemuine Symphony Orchestra (Estonia) May 2014
radio broadcast: Sveriges Radio P2 (3/13/14, 4/23/14)
winner of the 2014 Uppsala Tonsättartävling



duration 10:30

"Never the muse is absent from their ways:
lyres clash and flutes cry and everywhere maiden choruses whirling. Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed in their sacred blood: far from labor and battle they live.
...But whatsoever splendors we mortals may reach,
...neither by ship nor on foot would you find the marvelous road to Hyperborea."

-Pindar, from the 10th Pythian ode

The ancient Greeks believed that a blessed realm, Hyperborea, existed in the far North beyond the reach of the north wind.

Hyperborea (2011), commissioned by the St. Olaf Orchestra, is a musical and spiritual journey inspired by the horizons of the far North, especially my home near Sweden's Baltic Coast.


commissioned by the St. Olaf Orchestra
premiere: St. Olaf Orchestra 2011 fall tour, October 12-21 2011
2014 ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize for best orchestral score
2013 ASCAP Morton Gould Award, honorable mention
2014 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute selected work