Friday, January 23, 2009

Fast Openings

I'm finishing up a piece for two French horns and piano for a friend/colleague Katie's recital in March. Chamber music for horn & piano abounds, but I don't know if there's much out there for two horns, which is a trial in middle-range tonal blurriness (I'm trying hard to avoid monotony). My piece is a mini-narrative of the hornist's coming-of-age of sorts, and also rewrites a couple of Radiohead melodies-- a bit unexpected in classical horn repertoire. Also, the second horn may or may not play a bag of silverware and broken glass shards.

I'm excited to premier this piece. I think it will be a great performance, but I've also come to realize that most of my music begins slowly, and this is the first work to break out of that habit. The spark of realization came from an interview at Indiana University, when one of the professors pointed out that to get accepted into Indiana I would have to write some "tonally aggressive, hard-edged music". Well, I didn't get accepted anyway, and that's their loss. But something positive came from that interview, in that I suddenly saw myself lacking works that began with a good kick in the pants. And perhaps they could go somewhere else during the piece, tempo-wise (the french horn piece is more like fast-slow-fast) but there's no reason why I can't try some crazy opening bars. In fact, almost every one of my works begins slowly, or at least sort of ambiently, except for some pop tunes.

I don't know if this is a result of my personality, or habits of composing. I'm certainly a pretty calm person, and for years now I'm drawn to slow-tempo classical music, that of John Luther Adams, Arvo Part, Takemitsu. And to minimalism, which isn't always that slow, but can often seem "out of time". Perhaps it's a refusal to give in to fast-paced living and take time out for a contemplative experience. Brandon and I were talking the other day about music which resonates in us: some people get all a-quiver for Stockhausen and some feel the vibes of Debussy, and perhaps that's one of the many reasons that music is so personal and subjective. In other words, why music=awesome. And despite listening to a lot of quiet slow music, I love dance parties, so why don't I try writing more dance party jams?

Working on this piece has been a big help in me thinking of other things besides slowly-shifting gauzy tonalities: I'm more curious in this piece about off-kilter rhythms, combined with sort-of-singable melodies and a hott left hand line in the piano. I'm less concerned about the chords lining up, or whether this random F-sharp will fit in with this horn line. I think my music could get really interesting if I could write intricate fast music and crazy rock and roll chamber music along with other Impressionistic passages; the combination of the two could be exciting. Also, on a less intelligent note, I read two different horoscopes for my sign this week and they both said essentially to Embrace the Raucous. I better do what they say.

Oh, and if you say I need some more tonally-challenging music, you might get arm clusters. Just so you know.

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