Christopher William Pierce


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with an eighth note pulse which gradually builds to the return of the introductory melody.

The second movement is an up-tempo fugue distinguished by its unusual subject which takes advantage of some unique aspects of the guitar, such as string bending and campanella. This movement contains an extensive coda which gradually transforms into a bell like gesture utilizing artificial harmonics. The piece gradually moves towards silence in one guitar part, through an increasingly rapid cycle of pitches, while the other disperses energy only through a broadening of the tempo.

I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to both Tracy and Rob for their input, patience and dedication to the work during and after the compositional process.



… = 0, 1, 2, 3, 5 …). The work alternates between two central ideas, melody and gesture, with the entrance, and length of each aligning with the Golden Ratio.

Melody with Gesture was written for the National Arts Centre, where it was premiered in Southam Hall by l’Orchestre Francophonie Canadienne led by its Music Director and Conductor, Jean Philippe Tremblay. This work won the Karen Keiser prize in music (CBC, U of T).

Download the score.
Melody with Gesture




Written for cellist Rebecca Turner in the fall of 2006, the work contains four primary movements which contain a set of variations on the hymn ‘What Wondrous Love is This’. Breaking the traditional role of theme and variations, the work begins with a secondary idea before gradually falling into the theme nearing the end of the first movement. This secondary idea is gradually developed over the course of the work between the variations, both informing them, as well as being informed by the theme itself until the two become virtually indistinguishable.

The work is highly virtuosic and contains many unconventional techniques. For example, the fourth variation (movement III) asks for the theme to be played on one string, while gently tapping the string above at specific nodes to create overtone oscillations. And the final variation is played entirely without the bow, and ends with

the cellist rubbing the strings with the palm of the right hand to create a tambura effect.

Download the score.
Cello Suite, variations on Wondrous Love



modes. Alternating between whole and half steps in either direction around the central pitch 'Ab', a harmonic language of tension and release is created by expanding and contracting the harmony.

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On a Poem fo Baudelaire
‘Je t’adore à l’égal de la voûte nocturne’ from
Les Fleurs du Mal




No 6 Despondency

No 7 Postlude


‘Images’ was primarily conceived around the central voice of the guitar with each of the seven movements serving as musical commentary of an ‘image’ (Architecture, Despondency, Sadness etc.). The movements surrounding the central fifth movements, Evening (Red Tree), which draws inspiration from a painting by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian are constructed as a palindrome, with the first, fourth and seventh movements, and the thirds and the sixth corresponding with one another. Although each of the movements is self contained, a numerical

series lies at the core of the work, serving as a kind of underlying DNA. Images was written for guitarist Rob MacDonald, whose poetic performance is a constant source of inspiration.

evening (red tree)

Evening (Red Tree)
Piet Mondrian

Download the score.



Download the score.
Guitar Suite




Written while living in Baltimore, Maryland in 2002 - 03, "String Quartet in Three Movements" was heavily revised in the summer of 2007. The work begins with a slow variations on a repeated 5 note descending figure which is gradually compounded by a melody which returns in the final movement. In contrast to the first and last movements, the second movement contains only pizzicato and harmonics.

Download the score.
String Quartet in three movements


Two Pieces for Orchestra (2008)
Melody with Gesture (2006)

Duo Concertant (2008) - Harp and Sax.
Adagio and Fugue (2007) - guitar duo
Images (2005) - guitar and s.q.
String Quartet in Three Movements (2002 - 03)

On a Poem of Baudelaire (2005)
     -  2 Vln, Vla, Accordion and Soprano

Cello Suite (2006)
Suite for Guitar (2004)

Duo Concertant (2008) -
duo for Harp and Saxophone
(written for Après)



Coming Soon


Adagio and Fugue (2007) - guitar duo
(written for ChromaDuo)

No 1 Adagio

No 2 Fugue


Completed in the Winter of 2007 in Toronto, Adagio and Fugue was written for guitarists Tracy Anne Smith and Rob MacDonald. Comprised of two contrasting movements, the work begins with a highly melodic adagio containing two sections. The first states the primary melody, and the second is characterized by a 5-note descending figure 

Melody with Gesture (2006)
fl., ob., cl., bsn., hrn., celeste, 1 perc.,  + strings
(written for the National Arts Centre)


“0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 …“ by dividing each number of this series (Commonly known as the Fibonacci series) by its immediate predecessor a reoccurring quotient emerges, “1.618…”, termed the Golden ratio. These mathematical relationships form the basis of the central principles of Melody with Gesture. The melodic, harmonic, and structural pillars of the work are all derivatives of this series. The work utilizes an octave specific synthetic scale (as opposed to Major and Minor) which mirrors the first few digits of the Fibonacci series (ex. D, Eb, E, F, G

Cello Suite (2006)
variations on Wondrous Love
(written for Rebecca Turner)

No 1 Resonant; declarative

No 2 Ad libitum; Adagio

No 3 Adagio

No 4 March; sempre pizz.

On a poem of Baudelaire (2006)
‘Je t’adore à l’égal de la voûte nocturne’ from Les Fleurs du Mal

2 Vln, Vla, Accordion and Soprano
(written for Kathryn Aaron)


Written in the last few months of 2005, 'On a Poem' was written for Soprano Kathryn Aaron using the text of French poet Charles Baudelaire. With an underlying structure of a plagal cadence (IV - I), the work has two separate sections separated with the entrance of the voice. The harmony uses an octave specific mirrored scale around the pitch 'Ab', and subsequently contains both Octatonic

Images (2005)
(written for Rob MacDonald
and the Madawaska S.Q.)

No 1 Prelude and No 2 Architecture

No 3 Sadness

No 4 Interlude

No 5 Evening (Red Tree)

Guitar Suite (2004)
(written for Rob MacDonald)


Written in the summer of 2004 in Baltimore Maryland, the work contains four short movements, with two slow inner movements encapsulated by two faster movements. My first work for guitar, I sought to exploit the natural beauty of the instrument while retaining my own compositional voice

Commissioned by renowned guitarist Rob MacDonald (who was present from conception to completion), the work owes a great deal to his dedication to the work. Having been performed extensively throughout North America and Europe since its completion, the work still remains a staple of Mr. MacDonald.

String Quartet in three movements (2002 - 03)

No 1 Variation on an ostinato

No 2 Sempre pizz.

No 3 Allegro


May 2007
Interviewed by Larry Lake for CBC Radio 2. Listen below:

March 4th 2007

On March 4th at 10 pm Christopher Will be featured on "Two New Hours" on CBC Radio 2 alongside broadcast of Melody with Gesture.

January 31st 2007
Christopher has been awarded the Karen Keiser Prize for the work “Melody with Gesture”.

The award ceremony and performance will take place January 31st 2007 at the CBC Glen Gould Studio.


December 2008
BCGS Composition Commission Award

November 2008
ASCAPlus Award

July 2008
Christopher relocates to Madison Wisconsin.

June 2007
Interview for the online journal Discourses in Music by Roger Mantie. To read the interview go here:


Arizona State University. He is currently an active composer and pianist living in Madison Wisconsin.

Mr. Pierce has been the recipient of many awards; in 2006 he was awarded the Karen Kieser Prize for his work Melody with Gesture, written for the National Arts Centre where it was premiered in Southam Hall by l’orchestre Francophonie Canadienne led by its Music Director and Conductor Jean Philippe Tremblay. The prize included cash, a nationally broadcast performance from Glen Gould Studio on CBC Radio, and the complete classical collection of the CBC label. Other prominent awards include the Macht Orchestral Competition for Aquarelle which included a cash prize and performance by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra; the Virginia Carty de-Lillo Prize for chamber music for his String Quartet which included prize money and performance by Quartato Invitato; and the P. Bruce Blair Award in Composition for outstanding achievements in

music from the Peabody Conservatory. He has also been honored in recent years with fellowships and Grants from the National Arts Centre where he worked with Gary Kulesha and Augusta Reed Thomas, Peabody Conservatory, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Leonard Bernstein Fund.

His works have been performed by many notable Orchestras and Ensembles including the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra, Aspen Academy Orchestra, Orchestre Francophonie Canadienne,
Peabody Symphony Orchestra, São Paulo State Symphony, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Interrobang Ensemble, New York Contemporary Ensemble, Proteus Ensemble, and Quartato Invitato, to name a few. An advocate of working closely with performers to create new works, he has worked with many of the leading artists of his generation including soprano Kathryn Aaron, accordionist Ina Henning, guitarist Rob MacDonald and cellist

Rebecca Turner.

Among his recently completed works are Suite for Cello; Variations on Wondrous Love (2006) for New Zealand born cellist Rebecca Turner; Melody with Gesture(2006), for the National Arts Centre; On a Poem of Baudelaire, ‘Je t'adore à l'égal de la voûte nocturne’ (2005) from Les Fleurs du Mal for high voice, accordion, two violin and viola for Soprano Kathryn Aaron and Accordionist Ina Henning; Images, for String Quartet and Guitar: Evening (Red Tree) (2005) and Suite, for guitar (2004) for guitar virtuoso Rob MacDonald. Currently he is much in demand with a growing list of commissions by such ensembles as Après, ChromaDuo, and the San Francisco Guitar Quartet.



pierce (at) christopherwilliampierce (dot) com

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Born in Arizona in 1974, Christopher William Pierce grew up in Phoenix studying classical guitar. His primary studies were with renowned guitarist Frank Koonce. While remaining active as a performer, he began studying composition with composer James DeMars, and later as a composition fellow with Christopher Rouse and Nicholas Maw. His primary studies as a composer have been with Gary Kulesha, Christopher Theofanidis, and Justin Dello-Joio. Mr. Pierce holds degrees from the University of Toronto, Peabody Conservatory of Music and