Below are a few photos from the May 29th debut performance of my new piece for men's choir and percussion ensemble, Cutting Word, at Seattle Pacific University. Cutting Word was performed again on June 1st, which is where the recording below comes from. Overall I feel really pleased with the performance - director Ken Pendergrass did an excellent job preparing the ensembles and shaping the conversations about performance decisions.
Just before my May 5th concert at The Chapel, the Seattle Times published a short preview that noted that I am, "clearly obsessed with bringing found natural sounds into the concert hall, " and two concerts at Seattle Pacific University this week featuring my new work Cutting Word would seem to back up this statement. Cutting Word - for men's choir and percussion ensemble - is based around three haikus that I wrote:
dead possum in road
face already eaten by
a flock of ravens
parallel jet streams
coming together at dusk
pink clouds to the east
a thousand mushrooms
covered in a soft cold mist
quivering in the wind
The concept of a 'cutting word' comes from haiku practice - the cutting word being the word that links two juxtaposing ideas together. So, within my new piece Cutting Word there are haikus that are sung (except movement two, which is simply an expression of the second haiku above), there is the slightly unusual combination of men's choir and percussion ensemble, and the choir and percussionists alike are required to play natural objects at different times. Since the singers are sitting out the second movement, they become a shifting series of textures by waving branches in the air, and the percussionists will each play a tray of natural objects that they are instructed to manipulate in order to create the sound of someone moving through the woods. All in all after sitting in on the rehearsals last week I'm feeling really excited about the debut this week - and you can hear it twice - May 29th and June 1st. Detailed information about the performances is below...between the performances, continuing to write this big site-specific piece for 100 Acres, and preparing a talk on some experiences in Zen that I'm giving on Sunday, it should be a very full week.
May 29th - Debut of Cutting Word, for Men's Choir and Percussion Ensemble at Seattle Pacific University - 7:30pm, Bach Theater (on campus of SPU), Seattle.
June 1st - Performance of Cutting Word Men's Choir and Percussion Ensemble at Seattle Pacific University - 7:30pm, 1st Free Methodist Church (on campus of SPU), Seattle.
After a couple weeks of settling back into normal life in Seattle, I've finally begun to unpack the myriad of experiences I had in New York in April doing all three of my time-specific pieces, including the sunrise event in Fort Greene, and my new piece, Blue Hour, which I also presented as guest composer on a concert in Hartford. The Blue Hour event's attendance was hampered by rain earlier in the day, but the event itself was still a success as evinced by the interactions exhibited and community that sprung up as a result. After the event people were sharing slices of pizza and chatting readily with total strangers, and some people talked and connected at a nearby bar for hours after that. One of the attendees, Kyle Lynch, wrote a review for The Glass, which you can read here.
Blue Hour on the lawn at The Hartt School
Towards the end of my trip I headed to Hartford to be the guest composer on Scott Comanzo's Private Works Music Festival. We did Blue Hour out on a large grassy mall in the center of the University of Hartford's campus, and it was interesting to observe people's inclinations in regards to how to particpate. With fair weather prevailing and an expansive and calm campus setting, after the cue to press play was issued participants drifted away to take things in on their own or in small groups - some laying down, others circumambulating the field, and still others twitching nervously and pulling out hunks of grass.
The Blue Hour events were wonderful on the east coast, and I was able to connect with a lot of people whom I rarely see or have only ever interacted with on the internet, but now it's time to get ready for a few Blue Hour events back home on the west coast. I'll be announcing the details about these events in the coming months.
I'm really excited to share some news about a new site-specific work that has been commissioned by 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park in Indianapolis. This new work is called Hungry Ghosts, and will debut on September 20th - full details can be found here. Throughout Asia there are various festivals that are based around the idea of deceased ancestors coming to visit the human realm from the hungry ghost realm. Offerings to ancestors are given in the form of food, and at the end of the festival lanterns are lit and set out en mass on a body of water, often carrying an inscription of the ancestor’s name and well wishes. Hungry Ghosts is an interpretation and dialogue with this tradition as a result of my own interaction with Chinese and Japanese culture through Zen practice.
A dozen or so musicians will be in boats a bit before sunset and will play a new piece that reflects and responds to the grounds of the sculpture park, as well as my own ancestors. As the music goes on for 45 minutes or so, the audience will be able to walk around the lake to hear the music as it changes from different angles. The different sections of the music will be triggered by myself from within a boat via different natural sounds such as Conch shells, rocks, and branches, and the music itself will be divided into different sections based on abstracted ideas or sentiments my own ancestors - musical, familial and otherwise. Composer Michael Schelle has graciously agreed to provide some well-rehearsed players from Butler University's great New Music ensemble - the JCFA Composer's Orchestra.
As darkness approaches, people in attendance will then be invited to light a lantern and send it out onto the water as the music is ending. The 100 or so lanterns are being designed and realized by artist Erin Elyse Burns - and as you can see from the photos she took during a test run here in Seattle (above), the lanterns release at the end of the event will be quite spectacular! Imagine those lanterns times 20! Besides the square ones seen above - which the audience will be invited to help make before the event - Burns will also construct a couple dozen lanterns that will be more elaborate that reflect the nature of ancestors, family, and the cultures that this event is derived from.
It is the aim of this event - and much of my work - to allow people who would not ordinarily enter into the concert hall to interact with music in new ways and to reflect on their familiar surroundings with fresh perspectives. And, in particular with this one I hope that Hungry Ghosts will encourage attention to the moment and to the immediacy of our lives through reflection on their connection to the past.