17 May, 2009

Sunday Morning Trepanation

This morning I attended a rehearsal of the new music group TRANSIT, who will present the NY Premiere of my Sunday Morning Trepanation at the Gerswhin Hotel on May 21st at 8. The group sounded great--great great great players--but the rehearsal itself was a rather strange experience for me. SMT is a piece that feels somewhat distant from where I am today, though I still really like it. Clarinetist Sara Budde--who played a very recent piece of mind with NOW Ensemble--even commented: "This is by the same guy who wrote Spalding Gray?" It's as if I was visiting a relative I hadn't seen for a long time.

Sunday Morning Trepanation was composed seven years ago while I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan. The piece, "equates contemporary religion with the drilling of holes in the skull," and is full of brutal sonic images: grinding, crushing, drilling; mangled hymns, contorted plainchant. (I was not very subtle at 23!)

But it was very interesting to hear what musical elements I have retained or lost from that period; to hear "early Little," or whatever. For example, I'm still very interested in drama and dramatic pacing, use similar harmonic shades, mixing tonality and atonality somewhat freely, and still have certain orchestration preferences (vibes, e-bow), etc. But then there are the elements I've dropped, mostly to do with style rather than substance: giant time signatures in the score, a suspect interest in complexity which, though I think it works compositionally, now seems like an odd attempt to "sound modern". I guess the heart of the matter is that the core of my music isn't all that different that it was 7 years ago, it's just changed in its surface and in its details. It put on a new coat; got some sensible shoes.

Anyway, if you're interested you can listen to the piece here. (Careful, there are some pretty drastic volume levels!) And be sure to check out Transit on the 21st. It sounds like it is going to be a really interesting show--with music by Angelica Negron, Matt McBane, Daniel Wohl and others.

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