Describe your inspiration for composing the piece.
Devastation Deconstruction was a piece that I've wanted to write for a long time now. The basic concept for it came to me one day from one of my bagpiping practice sessions. The instrument produces sound by first striking the drones and blowing air into the bag, then playing into the chanter. In those few seconds the drones are striking up, though, there's no specific pitch created until pressure is applied to the bag. Instead, there are multiple dissonant sounds that I found really unique and interesting to the instrument. It was something I knew I wanted to explore in the overall arc of this reed quintet piece.
The other inspiration was in working with the Vanguard Reed Quintet. I'm currently taking a course at the University of Michigan which highlights building professional and creative collaborations between the composers and chamber ensembles in the class, which is how I was introduced to the quintet. Their goals of expanding the repertoire with new contemporary music unique to their instrumentation, along with their high level of passion and artistry in their performances, really inspired me to write a piece for them that exemplified the fantastic work that they are doing to achieve these goals.
What is the overall conception for the piece (for example, is it programmatic or abstract? Is there a specific formal structure, color, or musical device you employed?)
Much of my works focus on specific musical goals, such as formal or harmonic or rhythmic devices, and Devastation Deconstruction encapsulates a lot of these ideas together. The piece was constructed to build up gradually to a middle section that wildly takes over. I decided to create a rhythmic motive at this point which throws off any sense of cohesion and clarity from any previous material before employing all of the instruments in the quintet to use various extended techniques. Pitch-bending was something that I especially wanted to use, which ended up becoming part of the wild motive that "deconstructs" the entire piece. The whole piece leads to every player in the quintet playing independently from each other and pitch-bending randomly against each other, with no sense of real, structured time at all.
What are some of the goals you strove to accomplish in writing the work?
Apart from my musical goals, one of the things that I really strove to accomplish with this piece was to be able to write something that was both challenging for the Vanguard Reed Quintet - challenges unique to the group - while also creating music that's fun, exciting, and can be enjoyed by any audience.
What are some of the challenges you faced in writing the work?
What I really liked about this chamber ensemble was how unique their instrumentation is and the limitless amount of possibilities there was to create new music with them. That being said, the limited amount of repertoire available for this particular instrumentation was definitely a challenge that I faced, as it gave me the opportunity to rely more on my ear and what I knew about each of the instruments in the group. During the compositional process, and especially during rehearsals, I also had to rely on a lot of experimentation to determine what kinds of timbres and colors and instrument pairings worked well with the group and what didn't in the overall texture. This was definitely important when I approached the pitch-bending portions of the piece. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of each instrument in the quintet certainly helped as well.
What do you hope your audience ultimately take away the most from hearing your work?
I hope that audiences will be inspired by this piece to become more involved in the arts community, whether that be by coming to future concerts at here or other places, hearing a new perspective of music from listening to this work and the other pieces by my fantastic colleagues, or simply just coming to see a good concert programmed by fantastic musicians and gaining some sense of enjoyment from it.
The Millennium Composers Initiative is a group of composers actively seeking to provide new experiences for audiences and performers everywhere. Our initiative includes members across the globe creating fresh and engaging new music for all types of ensembles and media, with various concentrations in both acoustic and electronic music. We strive to push the limits of what defines music through conventional and experimental means.