On Composing "The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson"
WEEK ONE: Medicine Cabinets:
DAY ONE – 30 DECEMBER 2013
In the car listening to whatever bullshit comes on my iPod. Somewhere between Closing Time and Come On Eileen I start thinking about Damien Hirst's Medicine Cabinets. I remember looking at images of them and being drawn to the directness of the subject matter and the simplicity of how boxes and bottles of various mundane pharmaceuticals were arranged within the cabinetry. White and colors. Simply put, he hung the shelving that you would see in pharmacies on the wall and voila, art.
A hint at a title appears in my head: A Catalogue of All Known Psychotropic Drugs.
Or: A Catalogue on the Efficacy of All Known Psychotropic Drugs.
I begin to imagine that the orchestra piece (the first of the six pieces due (soon)) could be like a catalogue. Much like my trio from a few months back and the cowboy piece, this piece too could be broken into subsections (not movements) inspired by the clinical name – not trade name – of several drugs. Some kind of colorful arrangement of names and treatments contained within an orchestral cabinet, not unlike the arrangements of medicines in Hirst's.
Day Three – 01 January 2014
No music yet. Just considering options for musical trajectory, particularly harmonic trajectory. We know the following so far:
- The piece is probably going to be a concatenation of 4-5 parts. These parts should be harmonically related and feel as if they are cut from the same cloth.
- I'm not going to steer too far away from my current harmonic language, which is somewhat diatonic but prefers the interplay of minor thirds and 0134 collections.
- Because of the nature of the performance, the piece should be easy to understand. Meaning the harmonic narrative should be clear; the timbral narrative can be complex.
I should do something I'm good at and not try to recreate the mess that was the previous orchestra piece, against Colorado (more on this later). I'm good at starting from a single point and opening up from there.
I'm considering that using my oboe concerto, eating filumena lionheart, as a point of departure may be for the best. Meaning, chains of minor thirds to create a false sense of diatonicism.
DAY FIVE – 03 JANUARY 2014
I've been thinking about using pieces/experiments I already have as a springboard for the piece. Usually, if I'm bored (or out of ideas) and sitting in front of my keyboard, I generally tool around and try to make at least some kind of music – sketches, experiments, soundscapes, loops – whatever comes to mind, whether it be bad or good. The outcome of these sketches are these short and succinct pieces that range from ridiculous to not-so-bad. Over the course of writing all of these pieces to come, I'm sure there will be a lot of them.
I've been kicking around the idea of perhaps using some sketches that I've made over the past few months. The first is Fanfare B, one of two in a series of sketches commemorating the lines of the wonderful NYC subway (the other one is Q). I may use this because it has the kind of opening this orchestra piece needs: Big and bold. Please ignore the mambo in the middle of it. The second piece, quarternotes, is well, interesting. I don't know how I would incorporate the sung material. Maybe I'll make the violas sing it. Regardless, it has a luminescent quality I like.
Here are those pieces:
DAY SIX – 04 JANUARY 2014
Finally wrote something. I don't think its going to make it as is, but at least its another (skeletal) option of how to start the piece.
It's pretty minor thirdsy.
If you're reading this, I'm curious what you think about the three sketches I posted. What works or doesn't work? Which is a better opening? Leave a comment!
DAY EIGHT – 06 JANUARY 2014
Day 8 was productive. I think I have a good start now to the orchestra piece – It's aggressive and I like it.
Since the piece will be a catalogue of various pharmaceuticals (their relationships to each other are still unknown at this point (title also TBA)), it is fitting the first drug in the catalogue is Phenylephrine. Phenylephrine that is injected directly into the corpus cavernosa as a detumescent.
Attached is a sound file of what I have so far. Again, my caveat is: it's not final, it will be expanded, and will hopefully be better in the long run.