People often ask Alex and I what it is like having two composers in the family. Letʼs just say itʼs lively! Our household has been particularly ʻexcitingʼ lately as we are both finishing new pieces at the same time.
Alex is writing his biggest and most profound work, Devotions for The Elmer Iseler Singers and Esprit Orchestra complete with expanded percussion section, and I am writing my smallest work, Small Beautiful Things, a set of eleven pedagogical piano pieces. Devotions premieres on Esprit Orchestraʼs final concert of our 33rd season on March 31, 2016 at Koerner Hall.
Devotions was inspired, in part, by the writings of Lao Tsu about the Tao, an ancient Chinese philosophy of life, as well as lines from a Japanese martial arts text and indigenous peoplesʼ poetry. Its movements have titles that reflect these profound words and ideas: Wondrous Tao, Be Brave!, Lifting Hands, Mask, Luminous Spheres Ascending.
On the other hand, one of the short pieces in my set of eleven is called Little Balinese Dancer. It was inspired by the lovely, enchanting, magical child dancers who performed for us in Bali. I recalled their expressive eyes, hand gestures and the unique way their bodies moved to the Balinese gamelan music. I wanted to capture their movements to the lilting cadence of the music as the dancers moved so expressively to its hypnotic rhythms and exquisite colours.
Another of my pieces is called Little Grey Bird, a composition that was inspired by a small unusual visitor who came to our bird feeder every day for several weeks this past winter. It was most unusual because it sat on the feeder from early morning until the sun went down, day after day. Our family became very attached to our little grey bird. Then one day, it disappeared. I felt compelled to write a piece that would do honour to our small friend. Not wanting it to be a sad ʻrequiemʼ for our bird, I needed this piece to be charming but not saccharine. After several attempts and many drafts, the thirty-seven bar composition caught just the right, sweet tone.
What is it like in our home when we are both composing? As a hint, letʼs just say that we have completely opposite working methods. Alex works at a computer. I play every note at the same baby grand piano that I had when I was a piano student. Alex loves working into the very wee hours of the morning. I like to sleep!
What is it like when both of us are writing a film score together? Youʼll have to ask our daughters!
Itʼs an interesting household.
Note: I am still trying to persuade Alex to be one of my pre-concert chat guests. He is being evasive….!