Cameron Sharif - June 2, 2013
On Sunday I will be presenting four new pieces of music. Helping me do this will be Jared Borkowski, Chris Icasiano, and Carmen Rothwell - all who I’ve had the pleasure of working with before, but never in this exact configuration.
My process for composing these was slightly different than usual. I often focus on larger shapes, sounds, and themes in a piece, whereas these compositions had me focusing on smaller details, and trying to find a way for the compositions to make sense on a structural level, freed from issues of sonority and instrumentation.
If there is anything that glues these pieces together it is probably their motivic insistence. One of my tendencies as a composer - which can either be a strength or a weakness - is my seeming inability to let go of the first idea that I have. This can make one aspect of the music uniform in some way.
There is a lot of rhythmic uniformity in this set of music and often what I chose to be the variable was harmony and color. I am interested in the technique of creating a melody through slightly shifting chord colors, one or two voices at a time. I am constantly inspired by the use of this technique in the music of Arnold Schoenberg among other early 20th century composers of his school. What inspires me about some of his works are the lush orchestrations of dissonant harmonies and how they intuitively don’t stand out as being “weird”, and are in fact quite pleasing to the ear. I noticed that with smooth-voice leading it is possible to make the strangest 7-note chords bleed in to each rather seamlessly.
Being able to make something pleasing sounding (well, to me at least) out of such tonal ambiguity and harsh dissonance is exciting. So, that is a technique that I focused on most for the final piece, which is dedicated to a theory professor I had the chance to study with while at the University of Washington.
The set we are playing is:
III. Sweet Exorcism
IV. John Rahn
I should also note that the first piece, Quagmire, is a true outlier in this set and was written at a different time, when I was listening to different music (February-March of this year I couldn’t get enough 1967-69 Miles Davis Quintet and Baroque harpsichord music). So, we are going to get that one out of the way first.
I have no special instructions for the jam session. I just hope you enjoy the music and feel compelled to participate in the session that follows!