Et exspecto has been the hardest piece I’ve ever had to write. The music came in small bursts, with long stretches of me beating my head against the desk. I have stacks and stacks of sketches and sections that just didn’t fit the piece.
I attribute this to a couple of things. First of all, I was writing the piece at one of the busiest times in my life. Every minute I wasn’t in rehearsal was spent writing, even when I was in class. As a result, I had to take a lot of time away from my piano rep, but that turned out to be a good thing, which I’ll talk about in the next post.
But the biggest factor in the difficulty was most likely that this is one of the most personal pieces I have written yet. The piece is very much about my struggles with anxiety over the past year or so, and I had to make sure the piece was reflective of that. It very much feels like a lot of what tends to go on in my brain, it’s just a constant nervous energy, filled with thoughts that don’t get completed, sudden changes of focus, all with this underlying twitchy pulse. It’s almost a day in the life of.
I’m somewhat happy with the way everything turned out in the end. I used a lot of things that I just won’t know how they turn out until I hear humans play it, so I can’t be very sure, but I took a lot of risks and tried to step out of my comfort zone for this one.
The piece is mainly based on a tone row derived from the opening bars of movement three in Messiaen’s “Et exspecto resurrectionem et mortuorum,” one of my favorite pieces, which also, coincidentally, is for a wind ensemble. I quote the opening figure verbatim at the very start of the piece. In general, I split the six notes in half, with each set of three notes forming the basis for the harmonic and melodic material, often right on top of each other. A lot of material I derived directly from permutations of the row, and other material I came up with on my own, but it ended up being related to the row anyway.
Another very personal aspect for me are the pieces I reference throughout. Each of these pieces (which I’ll not name here, you have to guess) are very important to me on a deeply personal level and have had a profound influence on me musically, and on me as a person. I’ve had it in my mind to reference a lot of the pieces for a long time, and it gives me a lot of joy to be able to do it in such a personal and meaningful context.
The perusal score and midi are now posted on the aptly titled Et exspecto page. The piece will premiere at the beginning of June, with the Stuart High School band. Doug Martin, former director at Stuart, organized the commission while was the director there last year, but took another job at the beginning of the year, and as part of my residency there, he’ll be doing that classic hit, hydrogen jukebox, which should be a lot of fun. The commissioners have exclusivity until November of this year, just in time for everybody else to do it on their fall concerts, so start planning now, band directors of the world.
I’m very excited about my new projects, including a clarinet sonata for Michael Rowlett, the clarinet professor here at Ole Miss, and my next chamber opera, which I’ll be writing this summer. Exciting things to come.
And I await…