Frahm Triptychs for Organ cover page

Triptychs, or ‘tritticos’, are like little musical books. The story unfolds as each new movement provides perspective on the last. My three movement works for organ, some might call them organ sonatas, take their inspiration from history, geography, art, and architecture.

Sample pages from the triptychs are below, along with links where you can order a complete copy for performance and study.

Carson Cooman, Composer in Residence to the Memorial Church at Harvard University, has prepared a foreword to this edition.

Cabeza de Vaca

Inspired by the 16th century conquistador’s story, especially as romanticized in the Interlinear to Cabeza de Vaca by Haniel Long. After arriving on a ship deemed for conquest, the journey ended in disaster (a shipwreck rendered the crew from 400 to 4), but Cabeza de Vaca found a way to survive among the aboriginals and became one of the era’s most celebrated explorers.

Sonata d’Eglise

Intended as a liturgical work to be played for any ordinary mass. A first movement in the form of a stately march, suggests a return of the faithful. The middle movement, a moody and melancholy cantilena, accompanies the offering of prayers and laments, and the final movement, a vibrant scherzo-type piece, sends the redeemed of God on their way out into the world refreshed in the faith.


This is music about architecture, density and sparity, light and dark, joy and anxiety and unpredictability. The first two movements lead successively to the next with an ambiguous closing gesture and as such should not be excerpted. The outer movements come from an earlier sonata for organ called ‘the wanderer’, after a poem by Giuseppe Ungaretti: “In nessuna parte di terra mi posso accasare…” (there is no place on earth where I can settle down…).

Blake Pastorals

Music after woodcuts by William Blake, the Pastorals of Virgil (1821). These three movements offer a soundscape that picks up on the chiaroscuro nature of Blake’s ‘little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise’. The music slowly develops, often with laconic phrasing and gentle registrations, to suggests the melancholy and pervasive night seen in the images.

Sketches after Odilon Redon

Music after haunting images by French symbolist painter Odilon Redon, particularly from the ‘Noir’ sketches. Conceived for a large instrument and a grand room, this set was premiered by Alcée Chriss at the Community of Christ Church (RLDS) in Independence, MO, which houses a IV/106 Casavant Frères organ (opus 3700, 1993). Symphonic, virtuosic, expressive music composed for one of America’s great young artists.

© 2022 by Frederick Frahm.
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