Falls the Shadow

This piece, composed in early 2016 is one of my more obtuse works, written at the time simply for the sake of being obtuse. The main harmony seen in the jabs towards the beginning as well as towards the end of the piece were derived from sitting at the piano trying to find the most dissonant combination in a three note “chord,” which I figured to be a tritone followed by a half step. In hindsight, my journey into extended dissonance could have been started somewhere besides vocal music. After all, there is a reason that voices are the primary instruments used in church music. They are generally seen as holy, as what instruments are trying to imitate. From a technical standpoint, it is also naturally harder for for vocalists to sing horribly dissonant music without any tonal center. Fortunately I was blessed with the opportunity to work with the group EKMELES, who are extremely talented and always open for a challenge. Still, these are things that you must take into account while writing for vocalists, which I certainly did not.

That’s not to say that I hate the piece, however, or that it has no redeeming factors at all. This piece focuses on sparseness and use of space, as well as extended techniques such as whispers, spoken word, and simulating wind by making shhhhh noises. The text is taken from T.S Eliot’s The Hollow Men, which is one of my favorite works of poetry by him and I think conveys a powerful message. The dark, emotive lyrics are reflected by the dissonant harmonic content and screaming high notes, especially from the soprano. Chanting is often a source of rhythmic drive, when it actually exists in the piece, and has become a frequently used tool for my other compositions featuring lyrics. This composition features disparate elements, moments of scarcity and moments of intensity, in which I try to emulate the calm sections of Eliot, as well as the storm. Although not the catchiest or most emotional of my pieces, I am still proud of the work I’ve done, and entirely thankful to EKMELES and my mentor Kevin James, who steered me in the direction I wanted to go in and made my vision as great as it could be.

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