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  • Writer's pictureisaacrsmith

Thoughts on "Universal Thoughts"

It feels good to be part of a live performance again! On November 8, the NouLou Chamber Players opened the University of Louisville's New Music Festival by premiering new works by myself and other students at U of L. It was a great concert, and I think most everybody there was just relieved to be back in a concert hall performing/listening to live music again.

The NouLou ensemble was great to work with, and I would encourage everybody to check them out on social media and on their website! My piece, entitled Universal Thoughts (of an Unoriginal Author) was the most difficult thing I have ever written, and they tackled it with enthusiasm. In addition to using a lot of extended techniques and irrational time signatures (5/6, 9/12, etc.), I was experimenting with the concept of non-linearity for the first time (see my page on this piece for more info). I took a number of poems by Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman, and through a lot of redaction and tying together common themes from the various texts, I created my own text for the piece. I then used different "code words" to signify different sound worlds (e.g., "death"= dissonant, loud, slow chords in the whole ensemble). The form became a fun puzzle as I used the contrast and switching between these sound worlds as a way to create form and build the energy. In other words, the switching between sound worlds starts slowly, happening about every 45-60 seconds. By the climax, though, the ensemble is switching between drastically different textures about every 5 measures. It creates a whiplash of emotions and I was extremely pleased with the way the ensemble pulled this off.

I am using a similar technique on a larger scale to write my thesis, which is very much underway now! My biggest thing to improve on-- being nicer to the vocalist!! I will have more info about this in future posts.

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