LETTING GO (off the cliff) (tenor trombone and optional electronics)


Run time: as long or as short as you’d like. Trombone range: F2-Ab3. A piece I wrote for John Pisaro’s graduation recital at CalArts, where a great deal of the important decisions within the piece are left to the performer. This score contains both text and traditional Western notation; engaging with both are necessary for the performance. (Some perusal material available!)


LETTING GO (off the cliff) is a piece I wrote for my then-partner, trombonist John Pisaro, for his graduation recital at CalArts. The second half of his show, MADMAN, follows a character’s descent through poor self-esteem into the throes of a mental health crisis. John asked me for a piece that would serve as an unraveling of sorts, which posed an interesting challenge for me. The work would need to get more and more frantic as it went along, but John’s sensibilities and preferences are different than mine, and we only had a matter of months to compose and assemble the piece for his recital.

Ultimately, I decided the piece would work best within the context of John’s recital if most of the decisions regarding pacing were left to the performer. As such, LETTING GO (off the cliff) is simply a work of three lines of music and text instructions (given below) to guide the performer through the work. It is highly customizable from one performer to the next, and I’m looking forward to seeing what folks do with this piece as it continues to evolve.

LETTING GO (off the cliff) is part of my larger project LETTING GO. In lieu of a perusal score, I’ve included the rules (but not the notes and rhythms) below so you can understand how the piece would be structured were you to perform it:


  1. More than one of the three excerpts must be used in any performance; however, the performer is not required to use all three.
  2. Each excerpt should first be played through in its entirety. After that, the performer is free to chop up each excerpt and improvise using its components (either before moving on to other excerpts or after more material has been introduced). At some point later in the piece, the excerpt should be played front-to-back at least one more time.
  3. Effects pedals and other electronic materials are permissible, as long as the melodic content is audible at all times.
  4. Octave transposition is acceptable.
  5. Once all chosen excerpts for a performance have been introduced, the performer may transition from one to another at any time.
  6. For extra fun, select one of the optional tempo texts (included with this score) at random.
  7. The piece ends when the performer is unwilling or unable to continue.

Because there is so little notated content, a perusal score is unavailable for LETTING GO (off the cliff). If you have questions about the score, drop me a line.

Run time: as long or as short as you’d like. Trombone range: F2-Ab3.

Watch John perform LETTING GO (off the cliff):

Past performances:

  • 11/21/2020, Adam Summey, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
  • 4/30/2019, John Pisaro, The Wild Beast, Valencia, CA (world premiere)


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