Last night I had a new piece, Always, Ghosts, played by the Composers’ Collective ensemble at the National Opera Center in NYC. Written for piano, cello, clarinet and horn, its a relatively short piece. The musicians were amazing and I look forward to getting the audio and video we had captured posted here. Here are my notes on the composition:
Always, Ghosts was composed as an intention to be a short film. In four parts, entrance, searching, realization, and exit, the music follows the plot of a ghost experiencing these moments and thoughts. The piano is the foundation of the scenery while the cello, clarinet, and horn together act as its observations. In the story, the ghost comes into reality floating, pre-dawn, over the Hudson, returns home to find its child asleep in bed, finds its own body in the woods, concludes its wife was the murderer, and then leaves this plane resigning itself to confusion, sadness, and helplessness. Set in a summer scene on the Hudson River, the composer found inspiration from very early train trips. He would listen to solo string music between New York City and his childhood home in Albany, seeing the sleepy old towns in the grey morning light.
With this piece, I used a non-repeating 12-tone pattern twice. This means there is an A and a B section, but since there was no repetition of a melody, you won’t notice it without counting tones. But the repetition of notes is allowed, so I used rhythm more as a compositional tool in this.
The structure itself hides the A – B idea in that there is simply a point where I finished all twelve tones and then used another twelve tones. In all, this piece only uses 24 tones.
The idea that it is a nocturne-style composition comes from the slow and hushed nature, using muted trumpet and cello. The title “Sleepy Hollow” has no reference to the children’s story, instead alluding to that feeling of waking up sleep deprived before the sun is up and you can’t seem to form thoughts yet.
Now that i-Products are so fast and powerful, way more than my first Mac, a beige G3 running at 333MHz and an 8GB hard drive, I’ve been excited about music composition on only iPad or iPhone. Plus, when I heard the Gorillaz made their album The Fall primarily with iPad instruments, I thought the device may actually be ready for real composition and writing. And when Korg released the Gorillaz version of the iElectribe, I felt my thoughts were confirmed.
The challenge used to be that applications on i-devices didn’t talk to each other. That meant that working on a synth from some random company wouldn’t interface with Garageband, the multi-tracking software, so you’d either have to record it on another iPad/iPhone or your computer’s DAW. Enter into the picture, Audiobus, an application that acted as software routing from certain apps into Garageband, as well as filters and effects apps along the way. Apple saw that novelty and added inter-app audio support to Garageband.
So now, with a recording studio in my bag, I can record on my commute into the city. The first results of using Garageband and an app called Chordion, over the last week, are posted in Soundcloud, as well as on my music page.
While attending Juilliard, I found a lot of my classmates loving the read-throughs of our compositions done by the amazing musicians there. We kept saying to each other how awesome it would be to make a group for us to be able to have our works performed. Also, living in the city, there is a wealth of other composers, musicians, and directors around us. It seemed silly not to join together, pool our resources, hire some musicians and get our pieces heard.
So, last month, we organized, formally, and created the Composers’ Collective. This group of about 12 composers, all Juilliard-trained at some point, is working towards a common goal to promote our work and encourage each other. I’m so excited to be leading this organization as the President so that what we do will be heard, eventually leading to more opportunities and options as we explore our musical journey.
In 2010, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya to work with Seeds for Hope in a Music 4 Life program. I developed a 2-week training curriculum for a group of young students within the Kibera slum. It was a very wonderful, eye-opening experience. I loved every minute of it.
If you can, donate to SFH. They are a fantastic organization, run by truly caring people (and also my friends!), that provides schooling funds and assistance to at-risk girls in Nairobi.