The next five years were a search for renewal. This period witnessed forays in several new directions: my work became more polyglot, more overtly political, and more interdisciplinary at once. Much of my time was spent on two collaborative music-theater pieces: "Hildegard" (1989), a video/performance opera based on the life of the 12th-century German abbess-poet- composer-mystic Hildegard von Bingen (written with video artist Melisande Charles and musicologist-librettist Susan McClary as collaborators), and "Seven Sevens" (1993), an opera based on lists of seven (days of creation, ages of "man," wonders of the world, dwarves, etc.) which mixes ambient sound, a rock band, seven solo performers (not a coincidence), and an electronic score. The autobiographical nature of "Seven Sevens" and my work with its collaborative team — playwright Judy McGuire and stage director Carolyn Goelzer — were pivotal experiences for me both artistically and spiritually. 

       With "Seven Sevens," it became clear that the little niche I had carved for myself in The Genesis Cycles had run its course, landing me squarely amid the confusions of postmodernism. One critic said of "Seven Sevens," "it’s a postmodern opera that incorporates not only classical composition but also any number of popular forms from gospel to tangos to country and western. And it does so not self-consciously but organically and fluidly, to capture the appropriate emotional essences and dramatic necessities of the text." It could also be said that the piece is representative of a widespread contemporary stylistic crisis — one in which pastiches full of recycled materials seem particularly apt and are much in vogue.

     These compositional experiences, combined with my work at the Minnesota Center for Arts Education (popularly known as the Minnesota Arts High School), where I have been teaching composition and interdisciplinary studies to teenage artists since 1990, yielded the next wave of artistic revelation. The fresh, untamed, freely experimental, all-encompassing activity of these young artists has had a liberating, transfiguring effect on my own artistic outlook and vision. Much of the eclectic intermingling of styles characteristic of "Seven Sevens" and such other works of this period as "O Viridissima Virga" (1992; for SATB choir and percussion, on a text by Hildegard), which combines Renaissance-style contrapuntal shapes with patterned hand drumming techniques, is directly attributable to what I would term the "postmodern idealism" of these seemingly fearless young artists.

     At 39, I experienced a rebirth of something resembling adolescence, which became manifest as a desire for change, growth, intensity, spiritual rejuvenation, clarity of purpose, and, most of all, as a need to connect more deeply with others — other artists, other cultures, other perspectives and ways of thinking. "Seven Sevens," which occupied me intermittently between 1986 and 1993, became a key transitional work, ushering in my third (and current) stylistic phase. The full production of the opera, at the Southern Theatre in Minneapolis, was a cathartic event, in which I felt the distinctions between art and life collapsing exultantly.