Delirium Potastis per clarinetto, sassofono e pianoforte

Copyright © 2015, F P Ubertelli. Played by the Thelema Trio at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam (NY), October 31, 2017. Video courtesy of the Crane School of Music.

Delirium Potastis is Latin for a “given delirium,” poetically stirred up by the consequences of war (the theme suggested by the Thelema Trio for their commission) in which ordinary soldiers are both purveyors and victims of gunfire, landmines, bombs, and other forms of death. Despite the harsh reality, they try to reach inner peace by singing their incomprehension and guilt in the midst of the violence and darkness surrounding them: “I moan like a culprit, fault blushes my face, begging Thee, forgive, O Lord.” The graphic and sonorous representation expressed in the musical ideas is “seen” in the numerous onomatopoeias that punctuate the discourse.

This is the first piece I wrote after fifteen years of silence.  View the score here.

Technically, the harmony is based on Sequence 1 of the Mass for the Dead of the Roman Catholic Liturgy, Dies Irae (Day of Wrath). The Dorian mode is presented both horizontally and vertically, creating an accumulation of fourths, minor sevenths and major ninths that suggest an apparent dissolution of the leading-tone’s attractive poles.




La Fille sur l’Eau per trio d’archi

Performed by Gwyneth Thomson, Maxime Despax and Bryan Lu (cello).

I wrote La Fille sur l’Eau for the birth of my second child, Anna. It is a tribute to the fragility of life, its transcendental beauty, and the overwhelming fear of the unknown.

It is intended to portray a continuum from “the fear of trying,” as the girl considers the water and the unknown it represents, to her eventual fusion with the water, musically shown in a recurrent figure that continuously changes in order to “give birth” to a classical-type theme at the viola (bar 225). Her methodic curiosity will drive her to love what she does not understand at first as she perceives her beauty in the water and discovers her image in its reflection.

View the score here.

Copyright © 2016, F P Ubertelli.

Elle & Lui, dialogus per violoncello

Performed by Bryan Lu.

Elle et Lui is a tribute to Benjamin Britten’s Cello Suite No. 1, Opus 72.
It is intended to portray a dialogue between two opposite, yet complementary characters. It does not seek to develop any material, but to articulate a collection of events inspired by the expressivity of the cello’s registers and natural possibilities. The vocal quality of the high register speaks to the woody grain of the mid-range and restarts in the sonorous bass colla parte before reiterating the Italian expressivity of the dialogue in the high-pitched apex. The profoundly emotional contrast embellishes the unfolding of the piece toward a similar narrative in the low bass at the end, mixing fifths and pizzicati, as if a reconciliation were to take place.

View the score here.

Copyright © 2017, F P Ubertelli.

A Lyrical Interval of Time


“Side Road Swamp – poesia” aka “Lyrical Interval of Time” for flute, clarinet, saxophone, percussions, piano, soprano, narratore, violin and cello, was written for a poem by Karen Lee as part of the Sounds of Silence Initiative. It is based on a particular harmony inspired by Scriabin’s mystic chord and some cognitive “dissonances” using exaggerated emphasis on some of the onomatopoeias in the poem. It is intended to portray an array of dramatic colours in which the full indeterminacy of the poem coexists in a musical determination. The dialectical function of the music can be felt as painting within the immanence of the structure, resulting in an utopian sense of happiness.


Side Road Swamp

where roads are called side or concession

bark arms sway          praise summer sky

dark green glass ripples

frogs     dragonflies     birds unseen

answer roll call

sharp sounds whistle strings in tiny throats

laden creatures bellow

hide in weepy green drapes


curled leaves embrace brown frog

half dipped in swamp

rot of aged earth         floats hot mist

thin tree pins mulch isle in place

what holds me?

no leaf beneath

untethered      living only this

faceless maestro

breath of seen                        unseen

leads silence

fugue of browns        greens

caw           splash        bubble burst

rustle        whistle          ribbit            splash

veiled flight     swoosh     whirl

birds plead      coax        flirt

new friends breathe together as old

red car rests between hot tar and marsh

more intrigue here

than scentless lavender fields

I share poetry

she lives photography

perched on random tree stump

leans precariously

captures curve           line      reflection

of masterpiece through lens

less perfect than her eye


keen sight       ears cocked     pores wide

hold visual soundscapes

later frame in words unequal

to lyrical interval of time inimitable

we laugh         marvel     inhale

with skin

swallow swamp whole


                               karen lee © 2016



All music material © 1996-2017  Francis P Ubertelli.

Oratio Horarum


Played by the gamUT Contemporary Music Ensemble at the University of Toronto, February 4, 2017, as part of the Via Italia concert, New Music Festival – flute, clarinet, saxophone, percussions, piano, accordion, acoustic guitar, violin and cello. Featuring Ian Sabourin, countertenor and Prof. Gary Kulesha, conductor.

“Oratio Horarum – Miserere” is an anxious prayer and a cry of overwhelming fear of one’s destiny. The anxiety is first portrayed in the reaction to the name of God by the ensemble’s laughter using onomatopoeic figures, symbolizing the profound unease of the world and the incapability of men to worship God. The unfolding of the piece indeed illustrates the inner fear of one who knows his awkwardness and misery, yet supplicates God not to look upon him with the weight of his sins. The end of the gesture brings a timid Amen still tainted with anxiety but looking with hope to the promised mercy.

A buildup of fourths and fifths leads to a statement of the name of God from the countertenor, followed by an elongated arsis using projected rhythmic figures in which a person’s inner evil, among other realities, is portrayed by the audacious roar of the tambour à corde (lion’s roar), and which ends with a whispered remark by the guitar. The two subsequent variations follow the same pattern, culminating in the Amen. View the score here.

Throughout the piece, the stylistic predetermination of the countertenor struggles against the apparent hostility of its harmonic surroundings. As Salvatore Sciarrino pointed out during the premiere of the piece, “the material we heard is not transformed but only articulated,” to which I add: the material is certainly predetermined, yet empirical, espousing the proposition-reaction-reconciliation dialectic.



All material © 1996-2017  Francis P Ubertelli.

Iron Rain, Soundtrack

Iron RainIron Rain was written as a tribute to Maestro Ennio Morricone. It is music intended for film, setting an optimistic scene before delving into a world of mystery with its ostinatos by the flutes, creating more questions than answers.

The detailed orchestration hangs heavy on the flighty intentions of the aerial flutes, wrapping them in a dark fog which recalls the persistent and cumbersome rainy reality below. The ambiance is bathed in incertitude between hope and despair, as though ordeals of iron perpetually fall from the sky onto those who seek answers. View the score here.

Duration: 6’30’’