Matching Items (3)

Exploring the Dynamics of Environment-Inspired Musical Composition

Description

In the early summer of 2018, I found myself driving back to Arizona from a friend’s graduation ceremony in southern Colorado. It was the middle of the day as I

In the early summer of 2018, I found myself driving back to Arizona from a friend’s graduation ceremony in southern Colorado. It was the middle of the day as I wound through the mountains. The drive was peaceful and smooth, with a warm sun and a pleasantly empty road keeping me company. The thick trees and rural farmland I drove past seemed like something from a movie, trying to further convince me that life here moved at a pace somewhat slower than what I was accustomed to. I approached a sign that read “Wolf’s Creek Pass,” and recalled my mother telling me to fully appreciate the beauty of it as I drove through; this was one of her favorite places to hike and explore with her dad when she was young, and she wanted me to experience the same beauty that she had often marveled at. I had driven through here a few days earlier and enjoyed the views as much as I could. On the way back, I decided that I would add to the experience by listening to an album I had recently discovered, Béla Fleck’s Ten from Little Worlds, a smaller sampling of his full 3-disc Little Worlds.
It was this moment that served as the inspiration for my creative thesis project. I was fascinated by the interplay between the music and the scenery around me; on top of appreciating the related moods that both facets evoked, it seemed at times as if certain transitions between sections and tracks in the album were mirrored by small changes or disruptions in the general scenery. While it was interesting enough to observe the natural similarities that seemed to exist simply by chance, I was eager to explore the idea of taking a specific stretch of scenery and composing a piece of music that complemented and interacted with it.

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Date Created
  • 2020-05

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To Melt into the Sun: The Mystery of Light

Description

“The Mystery of Light” is the first movement of a yet to be completed larger work titled ...to melt into the sun for chamber choir and percussion quartet. The text

“The Mystery of Light” is the first movement of a yet to be completed larger work titled ...to melt into the sun for chamber choir and percussion quartet. The text of the work is an excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece, The Prophet. This book tells the story of a prophet-like man, Almustafa, who, before embarking on the journey back to his native land, stops in the city of Orphalese, where the townspeople, having known him for many years, entreat him to share his wisdom before he departs. The seeress, Almitra, urges him, “speak to us and give us of your truth.” Almustafa proceeds to philosophize on a range of topics including love, laws, pain, friendship, children, time, beauty, and self-knowledge. Just before his farewell to the people of Orphalese, he speaks of death, saying that it is not something to be feared, but rather, embraced as a necessary and beautiful part of life.

This interconnectedness of the life and death process, of which Almustafa speaks, is the subject of “The Mystery of Light.” Almitra’s aforementioned request returns directly and indirectly throughout the movement as a reference to humanity’s undying desire to understand the great mysteries of our own mortal condition. The choir shifts throughout the movement between the three following perspectives: 1) that of people who live in fear, whose anxious whispers grow into shouts of horror as they are faced with the threat of death, 2) that of people who share Almitra’s inquisitiveness and are inspired with wonder by the secret of death and 3) that of the prophet, as he speaks words of comfort and wisdom to those who look, either in terror or wonder, upon the face of death. My hope with this music is to share the comforting words which Gibran has spoken through the character, Almustafa, so that, as they have done for me, these words may provide comfort to those who will stand trembling in the presence of life’s most inevitable consequence.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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Alarm: A Chamber Ensemble Piece for Nine Instruments

Description

It is not a tremendous exaggeration to suggest the world almost ended on September

26, 1983. At the command center for the Soviet Union's Oko nuclear early warning

system a report came

It is not a tremendous exaggeration to suggest the world almost ended on September

26, 1983. At the command center for the Soviet Union's Oko nuclear early warning

system a report came in stating that six hostile missiles were launched from the United

States. The commanding officer at the center, Stanislav Petrov, was convinced that the

missiles were a false alarm, and indeed the Oko system had malfunctioned. Petrov was

justified in reporting the attack to his superiors, which would have likely resulted in

retaliatory strikes from the Soviet Union, leading to nuclear war. This relatively obscure,

but immensely important moment in history is the inspiration for Alarm.

This work is not a direct retelling of Petrov's story, but a musical journey imagining the

many emotions this man must have been feeling. The piece is also not a look at the

Cold War politics surrounding the event, but a study of a choice, one of massive

consequences. The most significant element in Alarm is tension. The goal of the

opening statement of the piece, played by the brass, is to immediately transport the

listener into this world on the edge. This motive is developed throughout the work, and

serves as a binding agent as the music evolves. Another crucial element is the

oscillating staccato notes usually played by high-pitched instruments. This is implying

stress one might feel- whether it be an alarm going off or time running out. As the piece

seems to reach its breaking point just past the halfway mark, Petrov makes his choice.

The final part of the work is decidedly more peaceful, emphasized by the "Tranquillo"

and "Calmo" descriptors, but there is a consistent dark undertone to Alarm. Petrov's

story is bittersweet- he is a hero, but his accomplishments were swept under the rug by

Soviet leadership, humiliated by their nuclear system's failure. The near disaster in 1983

has barely been addressed by the world at large, even as the threat of nuclear war

seems to fade. When the next nuclear crisis arises, what choices will be made?

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Date Created
  • 2020