Everyday I typically use my morning shower to think about what I am going to do on that day. If I am writing, I start mentally preparing to work. If I am taking care of administrative tasks (lesson planning, etc.), I think about that. I also use my bike rides to think about these things as well. They are the few times during the day when I do not have technological distractions in front of me and I am by myself, figuratively as well as literally.
During my shower this morning, I was gearing up for a composition day. I was think about trends in my own music and was being critical about what I've been writing recently. In particular I was thinking about the types of motives/textures/structures I've been gravitating towards. Then this thought struck me.
Obscuring the details brings the whole into focus.
Just a quick note on the piece I am starting. I was commissioned by the Liminal Space Contemporary Music Ensemble for a piece for electric guitar and marimba reflecting the instrumentation of its core members, George Heathco and Luke Hubley. I hinted at how I was going to write this piece in a previous post. I'll define the project a little more now.
The piece will be called Memory Variations. The form considerations are simple. Theme and variations with two sets of material, A and B, fast and slow respectively. Each set of material is written somewhat quickly and then locked away from me. I can't look at it again, ever, until the entire process is finished. After the material is locked away I will wait 3 weeks and work on something else in the meantime. When it is time to work on the piece again, I will try to only use my memory and write the same material again. My memory will act as the variation device instead of trying to put the material into different styles or different textures. Every 3 weeks I will repeat the process, trying to compose the previous version instead of always relating back to the original. In this way the material will undergo evolution as opposed to development from a single source.
I think that the beginnings and endings will be very similar to the original. I think the general shape will stay consistent. I think the details will change incredibly. This experiment is similar to an eye witness to a crime (not comparing my music to a crime against humanity). They are trying to access their memory of a split second in time. Memory is fallible. It changes over time. Details get mixed up, rearranged, reinterpreted. Instead of resisting this part of human nature, I am inviting the faultiness of memory and using it to write the piece.
When I was a kid I had so many things memorized such as phone numbers addresses, song lyrics, etc. As technology has invaded our lives and shows no signs of retreating, we aren't using our memory as storage anymore. I wonder if we will begin to lose it as our species continues to evolve?
So, literally a ton has happened since I last wrote which was at the beginning of March. So much for that whole "I'm-going-to-write-more-on-this-blog" thing. So - here are the highlights from the last two months in order.
1. FInished Warning Colors for orchestra, my doctoral thesis. Many, many nights were spent finalizing the orchestration, putting it into Sibelius, and getting everything looking just right. For two weeks straight, it seemed like I never left my office. I barely saw my wife at all and commonly didn't come home before 2 or 3am after working on it all day. But, I hit that deadline. And I am very happy with the way the piece turned out. I think it is a culmination of everything I've been doing recently. It is also a starting point for future work. I tried a lot of new things in this and I am eager to continue the techniques and concepts in my current and future projects.
2. Traveled to Arizona for the premier and performances of I Wonder if My Name is Alice with the Kingfisher String Quartet and the Artifact Dance Project. I would rate these concerts among the top musical experiences of my life. Ashley Bowman choreographed the entire show, centered around the story of Alice in Wonderland with some incredible twists. My piece, The Gate, opened the second half of the show and took Alice down the rabbit hole. Watch out for video in the future. I can't wait to share this collaboration with everyone.
3. Came back to Houston and successfully defended my doctoral thesis - the day after I got back. Very enjoyable experience actually. My committee was wonderful.
4. Presented Outside the Lines: an Un-Concert with Steve Bachicha and Charlie Halka at the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. We did two nights, same concert each night. The first night was somewhat sparsely attended. However, the second night was packed. Such a great feeling. My pieces untangle my tongue and Music Box 9 were performed. Below is a video of last year's premier performance at the Orange Show. Everyone there liked it so much they asked me back for a repeat performance this year. I felt very humbled and very lucky to garner that type of response when nearly every new music performance is a one-shot. For the amount of time that is put into some of these performances, we should be getting better at doing multiple performances (see 5 Things Composers Should Do Better) Again, look for a new video of the performance soon.
5. FInished all the parts and score for the Warning Colors and turned it in. This signified the LAST thing (other than graduate) I will ever do as a student. I graduate in a week and I could not be happier. 23 years of school from kindergarden to the end of my doctorate. I am feeling accomplished but, certainly not done. Education is a lifelong process. Now I am on the other side where formal education stops and self education begins. I'm looking forward to starting that...after a tiny break.
Ok. That's out of the way. Start looking for blogs about my new projects, moving to China, and and other professor-ly topics. Thanks for reading.