Lansing D. McLoskey 
Specific Gravity: 2.72
for flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, violin, cello, percussion
Specific Gravity: 2.72  (2012)   Duration: 11'
Commissioned by the newEar Ensemble for their 20th Anniversary Season.
Winner, the 2014 Red Note Festival Composition Competition.

I.    Hardness: 7.5-8   
II.  November Graveyard   
view score
Recording: From the Specific Gravity CD on Albany Records (see below).


Specific Gravity: 2.72 was commissioned by the newEar Ensemble (Kansas City) for their 20th Anniversary Season. The term “specific gravity” refers to the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance.  The substance with a specific gravity of 2.72 is emerald, the gem traditionally given on the 20th anniversary. 

The two movements also draw their titles and characters from emerald: The first movement refers to the hardness of gems on the Mohs scale; emeralds being rated 7.5-8.  In this movement crystalline and jagged punctuations are scattered around one long, lyrical melody (primarily in the violin).

“November Graveyard” refers to the poem by Sylvia Plath, which contains the lines “The scene stands stubborn: skinflint trees hoard last year's leaves, won't mourn, wear sackcloth, or turn to elegiac dryads, and dour grass guards the hard-hearted emerald of its grassiness, however the grandiloquent mind may scorn such poverty.  In this movement the music unfolds in three different tempi simultaneously, with an introspective, soulful-yet-not-quite- melancholic melody emerging as a saxophone solo.

Furthermore, I used the tradition of soggetto cavato to embed the name “newEar” in the music, just as composers of the Renaissance would embed the name of a Duke into a mass or motet commissioned for a coronation or other celebratory occasion. The musical transliteration of newEar is DECCEAD (for those who care: n = 14th letter = 2 (in mod-12) = D; e = E; w = double-u = ut/ut = C/C; a = A; r = re (in solfége) = D).

This succession of pitches is the DNA of the entire piece, upon which all the melodies, chords, counterpoint, and harmony are based.  Literally from the opening gesture to the final notes, the listener is hearing nothing but iterations of “newEar.”


Specific Gravity: 2.72 is the title track of the CD Specific Gravity: Chamber Music by Lansing McLoskey (Albany Records, 2013).


"Lansing McLoskey’s Specific Gravity: 2.72 followed and contained some of the most successful moments of the evening. Commissioned for newEar’s twentieth season, McLoskey found inspiration in emeralds (the 20th anniversary stone) and the soggetto cavato process of implanting names into musical form, in this instance the pitches of "newEar" became the germ of the piece. Luckily the two gelled into a magnificent work, especially the second movement, "November Graveyard." This movement was graceful with lush harmonies and an overall quietude of reflection. His use of metallic percussion instruments in this movement created subtle palettes for the winds and strings to float upon..."
— Lee Harman, KC Metropolis review, Nov. 14, 2012.

"Smart, compelling and fascinating music that gives strong hints of a punk-band past.…a chaotic collision of exuberant populist style with a bluesy edge and infectious punch. … Sixth Species offers a bracing sampler from an engaging, greatly gifted composer I hope to hear more from."
Gramophone Magazine, Annual Awards Issue

"Lansing McLoskey composes music that is keenly heard and deeply felt.  His music reveals a remarkable sensitivity…resulting in works of emotional intensity. Avoiding any allegiance to “isms” he has developed a unique musical voice which is clear and distinctive."
– The American Academy of Arts and Letters, on the occasion of his receiving the 2011 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship.

"Lansing McLoskey’s is a distinctive voice in present day American music. This CD offers a fascinating cross-section of his vocal and instrumental chamber music and bears witness to McLoskey’s sharp ear for instrumental sonorities."
– Carlos María Solare. The Journal of the American Viola Society

“McLoskey’s musical interests have evolved from being a guitarist and songwriter for punk rock bands to a composer of some of the most unique and engaging contemporary music written today.
– Benjamin Faris. The Saxophone Symposium

“…one of the most exceptional and inspiring concerts I have ever attended…. [McLoskey's work] inspired me to be more critical when thinking about musical sonority, form and thematic development in the future.”
– Elizabeth Perten, Boston Musical Intelligencer

"But in fact the heart of the concert, for this listener, was an unassuming piece [Rosetta stone] by Lansing D. McLoskey - the "D" standing perhaps for dense, demanding, daring. ... The opening was an explosively metric movement of terrifying complexity and jagged irregularity. Balancing it was a second movement of rounded, mantralike piano clusters interspersed with lyrical lines in the treble instruments. McLoskey... created a magical sonority throughout this mysterious but thought-provoking piece."
–Paul Horsley, The Kansas City Star
"...THIS IS REAL MUSIC, with rhythm, melody, harmony, and form, which the listener can perceive, but definitely is from the twentieth century."
 –Thomas Hall, Journal of the American Viola Society

"A major talent ... and a deep thinker with a great ear. His Requiem is distinctive, fascinating, and compelling."
 –American Composers Orchestra press release

"The other standout on the program, McLoskey's Requiem...[is] a beautiful piece, one that conveys both ethereal solemnity and wrathful reckoning."
–Michael Manning, The Boston Globe

"[McLoskey's music]...resonates with the listener and doesn't attempt to alienate the audience. ... powerful and emotive music."
Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sential