Misterium Tremendum

for Orchestra (c. 11')

“a neatly constructed work … with good clarity and variety of sound”

San Francisco Classical Voice

Misterium Tremendum was the winner of the 2000 Highsmith Composition Prize, and premiered by the Oakland East Bay Symphony in 2003.

Inspired by a passage in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact,  Misterium Tremendum pulls the listener on a journey through space and time, from nearly imperceptible lows to earth-shattering highs. Chromatic, atmospheric and aggressive gestures are contrasted with lyrical passages and moments of soaring exhilaration.

The emotional subtext of the piece draws on the awe one feels when contemplating the scope of the universe or the history of time. For some this is a feeling of joy or exhilaration, and for others perhaps, dread. This piece explores those conflicting emotions.


  • February 2003, Oakland East Bay Symphony
  • April 2000, San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra


Orchestra (2,2,2,2 4 3,3,1 hp 2perc strings)


1 movement; 13 minutes