Coming back from spring break this last week, the WMU New Music Ensemble Birds on a Wire hit the ground running with two rehearsals on Sunday, rehearsals Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and our concert Wednesday night. Our piece Vox Inhumana, written by James Mobberley and directed by Dr. David Colson, is scored for small ensemble (voice, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, sax, percussion, piano, and electronics) and featured soloist Rebecca Sherburn. Vox was one of the most challenging pieces that we have attempted to date because of its large unmetered sections and wide range of techniques and effects. This is due to the subject matter of the piece, Dante’s Inferno of the Divine Comedy, as it depicts a journey through hell, purgatory, and heaven. Such an otherworldly setting calls for a plethora of otherworldly sounds.
If Tom Wait’s Alice and Radiohead’s Kid A were to have a baby and it was raised on diet of the Inferno, that’s what I think Mobberley’s piece sounds like. I say this because it’s not as dark of a piece as you might think. It’s less about death and pain and more about the secession of man’s millions of desires. In a way, it’s very Zen. I talked to Dr. Mobberley before the concert and he said himself that there is some “Eastern” influence in terms of his own philosophy. As the piece draws to a close, the vocal part calls for less and less vibrato (a very human quality) and instrumentation relaxes and stratifies with soft colors. If you are familiar with Motion Picture Soundtrack from Kid A you might get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Interestingly enough, my journey with Birds on a Wire has been quite similar. To be absolutely honest, “new music” is not my cup of tea nor is it my first pick for repertoire. However, what I have learned is that some of the most valuable experiences are ones that you do not seek out yourself. Not only have I grown as a musician but I’ve had spectacular experiences with our directors, guest artists, and colleagues. The moral of the story, and perhaps Vox Inhumana, is that life takes you to unexpected places. And that’s not only okay but it’s a really good thing. Consider that if you only did the things that you picked out for yourself, how boring would your life be? And when it’s all said and done, everything you do is just another notch on your belt.
In other news, I’m in the process of touching up Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major for my Suzuki certification, learning Bach Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, preparing for USO’s trip to Detroit with the DSO and Leonard Slatkin, and performances for the Society for Composers’ Conference.
There is no rest for the wicked.