Monday, May 18, 2009

Blurry Buddha at One Arm Red

Blurry Buddha at One Arm Red (Chris Becker)

I’m currently working on an original score for an evening length dance piece choreographed by Sasha Soreff. The title of the piece is The Other Shoe and it basically deals with fear and the ways we live with and/or transcend this intense emotion.

Like me, Sasha creates work out of a process, which means movement is being generated in rehearsal with specific themes and concepts in mind, but not with beginning, middle, and end imagined as of yet. I half-jokingly described my compositional process for this piece to her as “holistic” – meaning, I’m generating a short two to three minute sketches or “demos” that like are linked via some recurring sounds or motifs: two particular scales (a pentatonic and "Egyptian" scale), rhythms that place duple patterns over triple, and the use of distressed or "buried" sounds to convey a sense of intense emotions beneath a surface facade.

I would also describe this stage of the compositional process as “populating the landscape” with indigenous sounds.

Structure seems to be emerging quickly. Sasha’s rehearsals are very focused and physically demanding. I’m attending rehearsals when I can to play some of the music in progress for the dancers and to see new movement as it comes into being.

The final score for The Other Shoe will prerecorded – played back via a CD. The tracking is going in stages over the next several weeks with a final mastering session scheduled the week of the show (!). I’m composing the aforementioned “demos” on the computer and have already had one session with pianist Daniel Kelly who played some material I had composed (including a short piano piece for a Gollum like character in The Other Shoe that was inspired in part by Daniel’s own playing on his solo piano CD Portal) and improvised over several of my current mixes in progress. In the next couple weeks, drummer Jonathan Kane and cellist Lenae Harris will contribute musical performances to these tracks as well. I'm trying to compose music that is primal yet otherworldly.

I’m happy to realize that the music is drawing upon some bands I haven’t listened to for quite awhile but who are a part of my musical subconscious. Bands like The Cocteau Twins, Coil, Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, PIL (Flowers of Romance), and Nine Inch Nails are all bubbling underneath the textures. Still, it can’t be overstated how incredibly important the individual musicians I’ve chosen will shape the final score. They bring their respective sounds to the mix and the alchemy that results is shaped in the end by me at the mixing desk. Until then, check out their respective links for a taste of their musical projects.

So far, the dancers have been incredibly receptive to the music, which means a lot – that’s really the only way you the composer know if what you’re giving them is working or not. So onward…

The revised The Other Shoe Mixtape

Daniel Kelly – Emerge, Portal
Jonathan Kane / February – Jet Ear Party
Harold Budd and The Cocteau Twins – The Moon And The Melodies
Igor Stravinsky - Les Noces
Einsturzende Neubauten - Strategies Against Architecture
Zeena Parkins - 16 Feet + Cello (from Necklace)
Coil - Tainted Love
David Byrne and Brian Eno - My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts
David Darling - Journal October

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