The Pursuit of Happiness

  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Pursuit of Happiness
  • The Pursuit of Happiness




21 minutes



Program Notes

"The pursuit of happiness" is perhaps one of the most well-known phrases in American history. Our forefathers declared it an unalienable right in our declaration of independence. Wars have been fought defending it. Yet no one can completely define it.

This right, guaranteed to us merely for being alive, is not a promise of happiness. It offers us the freedom to pursue happiness…to chase our dreams…to find our thread and to follow it.

In each of the five movements of this sonata I explore a person who has touched me personally with their pursuits of happiness.

In the first movement, a passion, the music moves forward constantly. The initial theme is brought back again and again, backwards and forwards, never quite out of sight. A slightly schizophrenic pianist tries to lure the violin from its course with devilish stride effects. But by the end of the movement they have united in their pursuit.

The next movement, a dream, is a set of free variations on a theme which is never heard. Dreams are magical. They are necessary to the pursuit of happiness. To understand one’s dreams and to have the courage to follow them throughout life…that is what this movement is about.

The middle movement is a romp. It is virtually a perpetual motion piece, over almost before it begins. It is the lightest movement of the sonata, full of the kind of running eighth notes that should accompany any high spirited romp.

In a tragedy the dark side of pursuing happiness comes to the forefront. Sometimes we misunderstand our dreams. Or we become distracted along the way. With the right kind of luck we find our way back to the path. When one is not so lucky the results can be tragic.

The finale, a wish, is a syncopation-filled movement that is off and running from the first measure. With every birthday candle blown out, with every coin tossed in a fountain, with every shooting star…we wish. So natural. Themes from previous movements appear amidst the wish.

This sonata was composed for my good friends, Jasper Wood and David Riley. I have written several works for these two tremendously gifted players and it is always exciting to hear the virtuosity and insight that they bring to my music. They premiered this work on a tour of the United States in March 2001.


Violin and piano


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