March 2006 Reflection

This write-up is supposed to be called “Reflections on Ireland,” but in the name of full disclosure, I have spent a significant chunk of the past three months out of Ireland. Thanks to USIT, Eurail, and Red Bull, I saw upwards of ten beautiful European cities in a stretch of six packed weeks. While I will not bore you with the non-Irish details, suffice it to say that as someone who has only experienced European art, music, and food outside of Europe, seeing the real deal fostered my growth as an artist more than any class I have ever taken. Furthermore, the trip helped me lay the groundwork for my grandest reflection of all -a four-movement symphonic ode to Ireland. Work is well on its way, but before I get into the nitty gritty music-speak, I will briefly touch on my last couple months on the Emerald Isle.

On the list of potential careers I made back in Kindergarten, wedding singer fell well below astronaut and firefighter. However, while I have not fought a fire or gone to space to date, I found myself signing a real Irish wedding (second only to a real Irish wake) in February. I am doing another one in April, so before I’m booked solid, push your wedding date slightly forward and call my agent (who, in case you were wondering, doubles as me). Otherwise, I enjoyed Valentine’s spectacles, participating in my various University ensembles, and gearing up for Saint Patrick’s Day.

And now to the composing. I am currently working on two smaller pieces entitled Norman (age 8) Ascends the Refrigerator to Find the Matzah and Norman (age 11) Visits the Optometrist. These have been great studies in long-form building, which is necessary for my Irish suite. I intend for the movements to be fairly large in scope, which means they will need enough ideas and development to sustain their duration. The other great thing about the Norman pieces is that they pass various concrete ideas through abstract compositional filters. Some parts are strictly narrative, whereas others are completely subjective and responsive, whereas others distort the narrative by breaking it down parametrically to the point where it is simply a material-generating device. This will be essential as I try to translate the visual and cultural world of Ireland into music. Right now, the four movements are looking as follows:

Lester: Colossal and grotesque. Antiphonal and unflaggingly multiphonic. Isolated voices that intersect without changing their doggedly fixed trajectories. Many different ideas evoking different cultural loci a-la-Mozart. Utilizes the full orchestra almost all the time but in two different ways, treating the instruments as individual entities at most times but combining them into unified textures at pivotal moments.

Munster: Jovial, lively, and always a beat ahead of itself. Mercurial and ebullient. Many deceptive and false climaxes, as well as hundreds of discursive interchanges that constantly change the course of the piece. Rarely uses the full orchestra, and when it does, only for fleeting and incidental moments. Despite the high velocity of change, a unified texture resulting from mimesis and thematic repetition.

Connacht: Painfully slow and brooding. Deals entirely in full textures, with no instrument having individual agency with the exception of occasional solos. Dark, damp, mystical, and contemplative. Nostalgic, confusing happiness and sadness. Cavernous. Pathetique. Beautiful.

Ulster: Not surprisingly, organized around two poles of cacophony. These are not thematic or timbral as much as geographical within the orchestra. Different instruments participate in the ‘dialogue’ at different times and to different degrees. Violent, lurching sonorities and alien timbres. Percussive batteries. The conversation remains unresolved at the end of the piece, which concludes subito.

Currently I am trying to secure a premiere of the work. If anyone reading this conducts a large symphony orchestra willing to give it a read, I will reorganize, alphabetize, and chronologize your entire score library. And it is now 7:05, which means that the music department is emptying out and I can secure a piano. This means I will now pretend to be a rock star for at least an hour. Happy trails!

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