Anita Brown

 
 

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Disarming The Tempest, for Symphony Orchestra

As a selected composer, among thirty-six others nationwide, of the 2012 Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute's "Intensive" workshop at UCLA this past August, I had the option to begin composing a piece for symphony orchestra through a secondary submission. The deadline for the "Readings" segment of this institute is Friday, October 12, 2012. It called for a sketch score for one minute's worth of newly composed music. Eighteen composers will be selected from the pool of applicants. They will have the opportunity to participate in the "Readings" segment during which their works will be read by one of four symphony orchestras in the country. As of the early morning hours of October 11th I have submitted the required music and documents electronically. The piece I am composing is entitled "Disarming The Tempest" and is described below in this excerpt from my cover letter. I have no idea whether my piece will be selected as one of the eighteen whose works will be read, but it's great to be included in this forum. Thanks to Theresa MacDonnell who talked through the brainstorm to arrive at this title, and to Evan Barker for talking me through upgrading my printer/scanner drivers in order to scan in the hand score to "Add Venom, Shake Well" for my work sample. Deepest gratitude also to the combat infantry Marine who generously answered some composer's questions as well as sharing his artwork with me. You know who you are. :) Thank you for all you do. This piece is dedicated to you and all your brothers in arms. JCOI is sponsored by American Composers Orchestra and Columbia Univeristy. The following is an excerpt from my cover letter to ACO/JCOI: "The piece for which I submit the enclosed excerpt is entitled "Disarming The Tempest." Its sketches began on September 8, 2012. Its intent and message are consistent with a relatively new personal inspiration to illuminate the plight of returning combat veterans suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This personal calling is a by-product of my original research and time spent writing and producing my large-scale work, Stand: A Symphony for Jazz Orchestra, premiered in September 2011: www.standsymphony.com. While generating artistic considerations for "Disarming The Tempest," the book I was reading, Soft Spots by veteran infantry Marine Sgt. Clint Van Winkle, offered a detailed, parallel presentation of this story and guided my plans to a greater extent than I had imagined possible. Therefore, this work is an orchestral narrative akin to the spirit of Sgt. Van Winkle’s book. The piece is in AB form. The A section and its development represent a window into the tempest within the returning combat veteran dealing with PTSD, while the contrasting B section speaks to every warrior’s goal of Disarming The Tempest brought on by combat, and regaining inner peace. The exposition reveals four short melodic motives derived from four spoken phrases a civilian might say to a returning combat veteran. The three used are outlined below in order of increasing offensiveness; the third being THE worst and most offensive question one can ask a combat veteran. The fourth is his response. Civilians’ verbal phrases: 1) So good to see you! 2) We’re so glad you made it home alive! 3) Did you kill anyone? Combat Veteran’s verbal response: 4) Thank you. Thank you very much. These phrases are incorporated both as instrumental melodies and also as melodies in unison with speech. The “SPEAK” instruction is passed around the orchestra as the semi-intoned speech is paired with players in unison or harmony. Performance notes will be provided in the score and parts. The character of the accompaniment illustrates the veteran’s internal dialogue, unbeknownst to well-meaning, curious civilians. As I write, I envision an image, in the A section, of one warrior attending a civilian gathering, much to his discontent, upon return from battle. The spoken phrases impact his focus at this civilian gathering where he feels out of place. Sounds of war manifest through orchestral means, disorient the veteran and conjure flashbacks of the battlefield and this unspoken conflict. Through its development we hear the veteran’s struggle and resolve to achieve inner peace, as the material morphs, and introduces a contrasting, more peaceful B section. Intermittent flickers of the unspoken conflict continue to remind the audience that the veteran’s struggle is ongoing, personal and invisible." ~AB

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