Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program

Music

Advisor

Richard Teitelbaum, John Halle

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Over the course of my four years in the Bard college music department I was able to absorb a wide variety of compositional influences, most of which I believe have manifested in my senior project. I started out in the department with the intent of exclusively focusing on notated composition, but was drawn more and more to the endless permutations of free improvisation. This essentially began when I started rabidly consuming the works of Sun Ra, John Cage and The Boredoms. This was only magnified by extremely positive experiences in Thurman Barker’s big band and a group of musicians who habitually played John Zorn’s COBRA. These experiences taught me a massive amount about incorporating improvisational sections into an otherwise formal structure (most of the ensemble I work with was culled from Thurman’s band). Of course, what I intend to do isn’t strictly ‘free’ improvisation considering that it is bound by sections of very strict notation and conduction. This is used to maximize the textural affect of my concept, which mainly centers around the absolute failure of American infrastructure to enfranchise its citizens. My first senior concert featured three unrelated pieces and two improvisations. The three pieces concerned: the mass suicide of a disenfranchised New York drug subculture, the plight of a mutilated woman who desires fame, and the abandoned factories of Albany. The improvisations were also stylistically driven toward conveying this paradigm. This is also achieved by the specific instrumentation (trumpet, two saxes, trombone, electric guitar, two basses (acoustic and electric) and two drum kits) which distorts a traditional jazz big band by utilizing a disproportionately large rhythm section. I believe that with this textural variety and the inherently chaotic nature of a nine person improvisatory group I am able to effectively portray the creeping, psychic brutality of post-industrial American life. My second senior concert has a much more cohesive story, focusing on the exploits of a wooden box as it gains sentience for six seconds and relives each time it has been privy to a notable moment in 20th century American failure. It has seven sections and a palindromic structure. The first and seventh sections are entirely notated. The second and sixth resemble jazz heads. The third and fifth are graphic scores presented in the form of comic books. These sections are especially relevant to the concept due to the fact that a central thematic concerns the digital compartmentalization of information. What better way to express this than with a square that contains lingual and pictorial cues for atmosphere? The fourth section is comprised of three poems that the box writes to a floor he falls in love with in 1930’s Winnipeg. These poems are spoken simultaneously and punctuated by a brief choral section. The whole piece is simply entitled ‘The Box.’ I believe the symbol of a downtrodden industrial container is incredibly useful in expressing the bizarre conformism that propels the gap between rich and poor to extend ever wider. Not only is a box tragically mundane, but it also implies the will to compile material goods into discreet packets; a necessary mental expenditure for those seeking to define their lives via accumulation of property.

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