Many new things are starting to happen, but they are all currently in the early conceptual stages. Here’s a brief over-view of some current and potential upcoming projects (all of which I’ll write about in more detail as they come nearer).
For the last couple months (since March 25th, actually) I’ve been working on a new piece for amplified viola and pre-recorded sound (“tape”) with an optional percussion section. This is the second electro-acoustic piece I’ve written, and I’m very excited about it. I’m still getting my feet wet with manipulating samples and field sounds. I still haven’t quite settled on what samples I’ll be using, but I still have plenty of time for that.The element of optional percussion only happened about half-way through the writing process. As I was thinking about the tape parts (three all together), the middle one sort of became something much more accompanimental (is that a word?), rather than an independent texture. As the motives, lines, and shapes began to come into focus, I started hearing percussion instruments. I decided rather than require the live percussion section, to make it optional by making a variant of the live parts within a tape part. Both versions will be slightly different with the idea that there will be incentives for the performer(s) in either version. Also, practicality was part of the decision. Not all ensembles will have a vibraphone, marimba, crotales, and toms at their disposal, so the optional tape part would act as a supplement. Either way, I think this piece will have a lot to offer.
After I’m finished with this, I’ll be starting a short to medium duet for violin and cello. This piece will likely be much more virtuosic and showy as I am writing it for a particularly exceptional violin player in town. He and I have been discussing the possibility of curating a “rock-themed” type concert sometime in February of 2014, and this will definitely affect my thinking as I’m writing it. I began my musical adventures in rock and heavy metal, and I fully intend to import the kind of power-chord infused driving rhythms and wailing guitar-like solos that come with that world. I’m basically going to attempt to make the violin and cello sound like two electric guitars (possibly through the use of amplification and distortion? – we’ll see).
Finally, I plan on exploring an ensemble that seems to be gaining popularity with competitions; a variant of the Pierrot ensemble. In my case it’ll be a septet consisting of flute, clarinet in A, violin, viola, cello, percussion, and piano. With these forces, I plan on exploring something I began with my two books of miniatures for piano (Aphorisms I and II); the miniature. Short-form pieces are a unique compositional challenge. Can you create the sense of arc, tension, release, and closure within the span of a minute, or even a few seconds? I have no idea, but I’m going to find out. I’m planning on having an odd-numbered amount of movements too. The reason being simply because I’ve been finding more and more that I tend to gravitate towards even numbers; even number of movements, sections, rhythms, or whatever. It’s a habit that seems to be working against me, so I’m going to nip it in the bud by writing at least seven movements for this ensemble, possibly more depending on how it goes. Each section will likely be one to three minutes, at most, but possibly even less.
In addition to focusing on odd numbers and miniaturism, I also am going to make a conscious shift away from a melodic-centered type of writing towards a much more gestural/timbre-oriented approach. Again, this is to combat habits I’ve found myself stuck in. I am and will always be a sucker for melody. For me, melody the apotheosis of nearly all the parameters of music contained within a single idea. Harmony, rhythm, register and time are all contained within a strand of notes. For a long time my approach has focused on the melody as being the central idea, the core nugget that contains everything the piece will become. Now I want to expand my thinking. I am going to try and force myself out of my comfort zone and see what becomes of it.