The last couple of months has found me working intensely on a piece for 4 oboes, 3 English horns and percussion, or as I affectionately referred to it, music for 7 oboes and gongs.
The piece first came about when my college cohort, Amanda Pochatko (pictured left), asked me if I would be interested in being part of an alumni recital performance at Boise State University. My involvement would be playing English horn, reprising a duet "Shepherds of Provence," and composing a new piece for an ensemble of our colleagues.
I set to work, with the premiere date set for April 5, 2016 at Boise State University's Recital Hall space in the Morrison Center for Performing Arts.
One of the first things I did was make a lot of reeds!
It was a lot of fun to explore the landscape of Unraveling Night, the title of which eluded me for days. Normally I start with a conceptual title that is very close to what is settled upon when it is finally ready to print. This time, I had a text document full of various words that described the piece, but it took days to label the right feeling.
I like what unraveling connotes: a physical or emotional act of breaking down, or eroding, but also solving a problem, and gaining an understanding. It is two things at once. And night is, well, night. The night we all know, fear, and embrace. Two things at once.
I really liked the idea of 7 players that also played percussion and that each had a part, which stemmed from my original idea to create a piece that had theatrical aspects to it, hence the original title "Ceremony," but it evolved into more than that. And while each instrument is in a way telling the story of what is happening, particularly in the first two movements, the lines of that idea blur in the third movement to tell a larger story.
Now I realize that it is strange that the piece unravels from a quasi atonal realm back to a strongly tonal ending, but I think that is the beauty of life. Sometimes the pendulum swings back the other way.
As the score came together, a poem developed, and I gave it the same title:
Bones wash up on a desert shore
fragments of suits, shells and glass,
and teeth squishing between our toes.
Peeling the mirage of your shirt
we waded into the ripples
of leaves and bark that dripped
from your elbows
up to lush watery atmospheres.
Bathed in the earth's salt,
awash in worms and tigers,
fingernails and carburators
churning in the dusty tide,
we were particles swept across a sea bed,
now a grave.
Half formed memories brining in my mouth,
bitter and powdery,
cinnamon and ajax.
Did we melt and scatter, becoming
tree roots that drank every boulder
to dust, or a flower
that defiantly grew
perched high on an ocean swell,
rising for eons until trembling plates
sent rocks splashing,
petals lost in an eddy of gravel and steel beams
swirling around the town?
We spit sand at each other, laughing.
The place we collected whales and horses
watching them dart through our fingers,
disappeared, as though it never were,
and we wondered what was real,
and what we invented.
We emerge onto the moon-dark beach
the night unraveling beneath us
basked amid oil stains in your driveway
and dried by beams of sunless oceans.
You can listen to excerpts of the piece here. This is me overdubbed for the purposes of a mockup: