Between Words and Images

Composition for MU's New Music Ensemble inspired by the artwork of Asma Kazmi.

I wrote this my last semester at MU (Spring 2012). I went up to STL for a day to meet with Asma Kazmi and her group to get inspiration for the piece I was going to write. I don't remember the timelines after that but this was pretty much the last thing I did at MU.

Performed by NME at CAMSTL on 2012-05-19:

Description from Score

Between Words and Images was inspired by the artist Asma Kazmi's music_project for the Contemporary Arts Museum of St. Louis. I must admit immediately that the inspiration comes first and foremost from the conceptual framework that supports all of the visual art associated with this music_project as opposed to any specific image. Asma's fascinating concept deals with exploring the liminal space between words and images and the familiar and unfamiliar, ultimately to reconstruct experience. For several months, she met with a small group each week (and I had the pleasure of being included one of the weeks) to talk about experiences that they've had. After communicating using words, they drew images (hence the title) to aid the reconstruction. The images add another dimension for the creator of the image and the person interpreting the image.

I operate from a similar framework; my piece takes place in the liminal space between wild, unfamiliar gestures (a possible aural equivalent to an image) and more traditional, familiar sounding melodies. The first half of the piece consists of the presentation of a short, wild, gestural motive (one that basically rises and falls in contour) and its gradual transformation into a more familiar sounding melody. After a few minutes, this abruptly transitions into the second half which has a different premise. On my visit to St. Louis to meet Asma and her group, I played some of my own music for the group. They reacted to my music in real time by creating images; they were taking something unfamiliar and making sense out of it in their quick paintings. In a similar act of reinterpretation, I take a Bach fugue (something familiar sounding) and transform it into wild, modern gestures. Early on in this second half, the fugue is quoted literally (the exact pitches and rhythms are kept intact). I begin altering it by adding more instruments and hence more notes. I then gradually transform it into a gestural, modern language by subjecting it to various modes (octatonic, whole tone, until it finally reaches atonality), exaggerating Bach's original contours, using extended techniques, drastically changing the dynamics, among countless other techniques.