COMPOSER’s Statement


“As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least direct use to man in reference to his ordinary habits of life, they must be ranked amongst the most mysterious with which he is endowed. They are present, though in a very rude and as it appears almost latent condition, in men of all races, even the most savage; but so different is the taste of the different races, that our music gives not the least pleasure to savages, and their music is to us hideous and unmeaning. Dr. Seemann, in some interesting remarks on this subject, "doubts whether even amongst the nations of Western Europe, intimately connected as they are by close and frequent intercourse, the music of the one is interpreted in the same sense by the others. By traveling eastwards we find that there is certainly a different language of music. Songs of joy and dance-accompaniments are no longer, as with us, in the major keys, but always in the minor." Whether or not the half-human progenitors of man possessed, like the before-mentioned gibbon, the capacity of producing, and no doubt of appreciating, musical notes, we have every reason to believe that man possessed these faculties at a very remote period, for singing and music are extremely ancient arts. Poetry, which may be considered as the offspring of song, is likewise so ancient that many persons have felt astonishment that it should have arisen during the earliest ages of which we have any record.”

- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871)

I am a composer. An organizer of sounds, a creator and observer of sonic landscapes.

If music is about anything, it is about expressing and conjuring emotions, a form of communication. Therefore, the evolutionary histories of both music and language share many commonalities. The studies of language and musical evolution seem to be converging, because it has become increasingly difficult to define what separates them, or to determine which form of communication developed first. Perhaps their roots are one and the same, separated not by kind, but simply by the nature of their evolutionary development. While we humans might call a mockingbird’s vocalizations “bird song”, to another mockingbird, such vocalizations are communication. Just the same as the greatest of human vocalists, their songs are not only aesthetically beautiful - they have meaning.

Most people would likely agree that the human voice was the first human musical instrument. But then what is music? How did it evolve? Is music simply a proto-language?

Imagine what it must have been like for our hominid ancestors, perhaps millions of years ago, when they first developed the ability to communicate with sound. The emotions - love, anger, the feeling of pleasure, the terrifying sounds of alarm – have all come to us through an evolutionary history which continues to evolve and affect us today.

It is my modest role as part of this evolutionary lineage that defines my life and work as a composer.

I draw inspiration and guidance from my connections with the past, following in the footsteps of the great musical innovators. Nature always informs my work, as she is indeed the greatest composer of all. In Nature, the words good and bad become meaningless. It is the same for the the natural palette of sounds. As Blaise Pascal said “Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.”

Without an awareness of this critical path – the singularity of the evolutionary continuum from past to present - it would be impossible for me to find meaning in my work.

To be part of this tradition, perhaps the most ancient of arts, I feel most fortunate and humble. Even though I have committed many years of my life to exploring the world of sound, I still feel I am just beginning. Even so, this brings me great joy.

My music is continually evolving....beginning with the smallest atomic components interacting with themselves, developing relationships, varying, recombining, and moving forward on a path of increasing complexity through the process of selection, both natural and artificial.

Evolving from silence, to silence.

And you know what they say about silence.

- Michael Henry

On the left, an audio clip of a Northern Mockingbird singing.

On the right, score sample and corresponding audio clip from my “Three pieces for Eb Clarinet.”

“The birds are probably the greatest musicians to inhabit our planet.”  -  Olivier Messiaen