Moon|East the music of Justin Merritt

composer Justin Merritt

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation/Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the 2011-12 McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute Prize, and the Polyphonos Prize. He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Associate Professor of Composition at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe. Hear more of him music at


Chaconne: Mercy Endures for piano
Chaconne: Mercy Endures is based on the chorale tune Danket dem Herren, denn er ist freundlich. The constantly repeated refrain in that text is “mercy endures”. The tune functions as both a recurring melodic fragment and as the basis for the chaconne formula. It was premiered by Christopher Atzinger and recorded for Naxos.
Janus Mask for orchestra
Janus, the Roman god of gates and doorways, is portrayed in masks as having two faces, each pointing in the opposite direction. Liars and traitors are sometimes described as being Janus-faced because one is never sure which is the true face. Like the mask, this work is divided into two opposing sections. The first half of the work is an aggressive Allegro in which a series of increasingly powerful climaxes which finally explode and extinguish themselves in a furious culmination. The second half of the work, marked Lento desolato, is an incredibly slow and tortured progression. The work ends with a huge build toward a somewhat triumphant note, indicating a new beginning beyond the next gate. In 2001, Justin Merritt, became the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious ASCAP Foundation/Rudolph Nissim award for Janus Mask.
Corde natus for choir
Polyphonos Prize Winner & University of South Carolina Choral Composition Competition Published by JWPepper and Imagine Publishing. Recorded by the St. Olaf Choir.
Sturm und Drang for percussion ensemble
commissioned by the University of Houston Percussion Ensemble “Sturm und drang” is German for “storm and stress”. It is the name for the late 18th century literary movement that included the early works of Goethe and Schiller. In music, it is most associated with Haydn, but also Mozart and Gluck. Sturm und drang begins with a very long, slow introduction that combines moody, timbre-based effects with gigantic builds. It is a weird landscape of sound without pulse or direction. This gives way to a frantic toccata that focusses obsessively on a single, mechanistic line. Although this line throughout is in the keyboard instruments, I treat it like an organist with a giant percussion organ. In particular, I use organ registration techniques to create unexpected color effects by combining instruments in ways that alter the composite spectrum by reinforcing certain overtones. In addition, I use a technique I derived form organ fingering to create the illusion of legato between multiple instruments.