---UPDATED DECEMBER 28, 2020 W/ VIDEO TRANSCRIPT---
We are excited to begin sharing with you the Composer Spotlights for our collaborative concert with Front Porch! This event will be taking place on December 11, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan and will feature world premieres of new music written by 5 of our MCI composers.
For this concert, each of the composers were asked to create a piece of music reflecting environmental issues within their respective local areas. MCI composer Conner Leigh Shaw's piece B00m and Bust addresses the issue of fracking at the height of the oil and gas industry within his home state of Colorado.
Learn more about Conner's new piece below:
Hi! My name is Conner Leigh Shaw; I'm a composer from Greeley, Colorado, and I currently reside in Los Angeles, California. I'm here today to talk about my collaboration with the Front Porch ensemble - they are currently working on a piece I wrote entitled B00m and Bust.
B00m and Bust is inspired by a number of things that I have both perceived growing up in Colorado, and that continue to be relevant to people living in Colorado, with regard to our environment and our energy future. My inspirations for the piece first started with my memory of my high school graduation having a backdrop of an oil fracking well. Something as important in a young student's life, as a graduation had this backdrop of fracking, which unfortunately in many cases of it showing to cause health issues in communities as well as a non-sustainable resource. My other inspirations for this piece are historical, and, in my program notes, I note that the oil and gas boom in Colorado (and the economy it's generated) is nothing new. There have been many different eras of generational, or temporal, economies in Colorado, including the first non-Native American settlers who were often silver and gold miners that were headed west in the [California] Gold Rush, and then, during the 20th century, radioactive materials were sought after in Colorado (and also stored in Colorado) during the Cold War. And, there seems to be these recurring cycles of "boom-and-bust" economies - hence, the title of my piece.
The piece, overall, is extremely programmatic. I guess the most programmatic element of this is - in the piece - I ask the ensemble, at the end, to (through their instruments and their sound); I ask them to create the sound of a low jack-pump, which is a device that extracts oil. I ask them to relay the sound of this jack-pump as if it's the last, lone jack-pump left in the state and nothing else exists there, which is essentially - definitely - a possible scenario in the future, considering the way the environment is going. This idea of environmental immediacy also had a strong connection to the concept of the piece. Throughout the piece, there is a theme that is in a bluegrass style that every time it recurs - like in a rondo; every time the theme recurs - it becomes more and more frantic, and more and more chaotic things happen, and so this idea of cycles speeding up and events speeding up and becoming more disastrous is key and essential to the piece.
However, I sought to contrast this with the potential for us to change our environmental and energy future. Contrasted with the more frightening sections of the piece - including the end of the piece being somewhat apocalyptic - there are moments of hope that bleed through, and those moments are the potential for people in Colorado, as well as throughout the world, to revolutionize the kind of energy we are consuming, and also to ensure that what we are doing here on Earth is not "boom-and-bust" and that everything we do on Earth can be sustained.
Along those lines, I would say that, in part, some of the piece - because of its explicitly programmatic and somewhat political leanings - the piece is definitely an example fitting in with the rest of the four Front Porch collaborative concert [pieces] that they will be doing. The piece is intended, in some way, to be somewhat a piece of activism, and also to grow people's awareness.
The piece itself uses certain elements that are supposed to help the audience be a bit more aware of what's going on, so - for instance - this idea that (during my research for this piece, the idea I found that) there were over 20,000 oil wells in Colorado in 2017, just in the county I lived in alone, factored heavily in this, and so I was doing things in the piece where I was taking the number of oil wells; I was turning those into musical notes based on the [foured] system (taking notes 1-12 and assigning those chromatic pitches). I was also doing things where the words "oil" and "gas," the letters themselves, were translated into notes. So, the idea of oil and gas, and the number of wells in Colorado in the county I lived in, were both included in the piece.
This was challenging, too - to try and find something that an audience would want to be entertained by, but also have a piece of activism - and so those elements were very difficult to try to coalesce into one piece. But, the important thing is that - what I felt was most important was that - there were at least some sections of the piece that were hopeful.
For me, as a composer, I was extremely interested in this opportunity to create a piece based on environmental issues, since it weighs so heavily on me and my daily life, especially being in this generation of millenials that is extremely worried about our future. In a way, the most rewarding thing for me about composing this piece was that I was able to express some of my issues and anguish in my own community and kind of externalize them in a way that was both entertaining, but also a piece of activism that I had not necessarily done with music before. I actually continue to hope to do this kind of writing in the future that brings awareness to certain subjects in a tasteful and entertaining, but also meaningful, way. I really appreciate the opportunity from Front Porch ensemble, and I hope you all enjoy my piece B00m and Bust.