The next Composer Spotlight of our upcoming collaborative concert with Front Porch features a new work by MCI composer Isaac Mayhew. Each of the five composers who will be featured in this event were asked to create a piece of music reflecting environmental issues within their respective local areas. Mayhew's piece Elegy for Uncommon Ground addresses the presence of climate change and its impact in the state of Minnesota:
Describe your inspiration for composing the piece.
The idea for that piece is to capture the experience of living through climate change on an everyday level. I live in Minnesota, in the center of the continent, where I'm not faced with the tangible effects on a day-to-day basis in the way that people elsewhere are. This is not to say that there aren't very real consequences to be felt. However, since we are talking about such a macro-concept, it can be hard to feel on a daily level - except for on social media, where there is still a raging debate about it.
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?)
I was reading an online article about the ways in which my home state will feel the effects of climate change over the next thirty years, when I discovered the comments section. For this piece, each movement title is a Facebook comment, and within each movement, I tried to capture the both the tone and feeling behind the comment itself as well as my own experience of reading it.
What are some of the goals you strove to accomplish in writing the work?
I wanted to capture the frustration of having a debate over widely greed upon facts and realities. I also wanted to mock the willful ignorance of climate change deniers.
What are some of the challenges you faced in writing the work?
As I was writing the piece I found myself incorporating a lot of seemingly unrelated musical elements, and was having a hard time making them fit together. In the end, I decided to leave the piece a little rough around the edges because I think that gives it character and also works as an analogy for the chaos of our social media feeds.
Is there anything specific about your piece you'd like your audience to look out for?
The second movement has some interesting things to listen for. I wanted to poke fun at the sort of "Baby Boomer Nostalgia" that I see as a major impediment to taking real action on climate change. The two main themes in this movement appear in the following places:
What do you hope your audience ultimately take away the most from hearing your work?
I would hope that listeners would be able to laugh at the humor in the piece but also make connections between the piece and their own lives. Despite this being about climate change specifically happening in Minnesota, this is a greater issue happening globally.
For you, as a composer, what has been the most beneficial and rewarding part of your collaborative process with Front Porch?
Front Porch is an exciting and upcoming music ensemble and it is an honor to have the opportunity to write for them. They have a very unique instrumentation that presents many possibilities.
The Millennium Composers Initiative actively seeks to provide new experiences for audiences and performers everywhere, regardless of aesthetic, style, or background. 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 experimental and conventional means.