BRING A PICNIC!
Saturday, March 20
3:00 p.m. (free admission)
Greenville Town Common, 1st St. & Greene St.
About Alternative Community: Much of my compositional work is characterized by an effort to make socially relevant music – not necessarily reflecting or commenting on social issues in a direct way, but rather embodying a sounding space that highlights the social nature of music making. This is manifest in my commitment to bringing together performers from many different musical backgrounds, in ways that both play to their strengths and ask them to participate in unfamiliar modes of performance. An Alternative Community is, to date, my most ambitious effort in this vein – a large-scale piece with a flexible structure (I think of it as a “site-specific work in progress”) that incorporates musicians from rock and classical backgrounds, and which invites participation by artists in any performative discipline.
The piece is cast in several continuous movements, each one utilizing a distinct compositional and orchestrational approach. The early movements set the instruments and subgroups off from one another, with tentative steps toward unity. Finally, in the last two movements, the ensemble evolves from a group of scattered individuals into a powerful collective musical force. The piece is thus a reflection on an idealized notion of community: a group of people brought together by shared interests and convictions, working together toward a common vision, their collective accomplishments enriched by the individual strengths of the community’s members. The score is constructed in such a way as to encourage, highlight and value the contributions of each performer, as they collaborate in a unified artistic expression.
The music evokes a range of dramatic and emotional qualities, but as I’ve lived with An Alternative Community for a while, I’ve consistently been struck by an overarching sense of melancholy. Aside from whatever connotations its individual musical gestures might have, I think that melancholy stems from my own generalized anxiety about the way contemporary American life – suburban sprawl, neighborhoods divided on class and race lines, social media and smartphones replacing physical interaction – seems to have irrevocably snipped some of our most basic human threads. I offer this work, and the community of artists it brings into dialogue, as an opportunity to muse on an alternate view of the world we inhabit.
Two of the movement titles contain dedications. “Prayer (for C.C.)” refers to Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981), a British composer whose work has been extremely influential on a generation of experimental musicians. His commitments to social change, both within the musical establishment and in Western society at large, and to making music that is performatively (if not aurally) accessible to musicians of all stripes, have influenced my own aesthetic. The text-based score for this movement, as well as the explicit breathing metaphor – i.e., the Chinese characters “xi” (inhale) and “hu” (exhale) in the electronic accompaniment – are references to his ideas and working methods. The “J.F.” in the closing “Elegy” is my dear friend and colleague Jennifer Fitzgerald (1975-2007), with whom I co-founded pulsoptional in 2000, and whose piece how terrible orange is referenced in the music of this movement. Most of the musicians participating in the Greenville performance remember Jen as fondly as I do; I dedicate this presentation to a cherished and deeply-missed member of the alternative community.