2(II=picc).2(II=corA).2(I=Eb, II=bcl).bcl.1.dbn-2.2.1.btbn.1-timp.perc(3):BD/tam-t/3nipple gongs (E4, F3, D2)/7tuned pipes(E5, D5, B4, G4, E4, C4, A3/vib/buk/glsp/4graduated brake dr./gentorag/lg wooden plank/lg Chinese cyms/med washtub)-pft-strings
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz, CA
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music / Cristian Macelaru
When Lou Harrison died in Indiana, I was living in Michigan. We were both far from our homes on the coasts; his west, mine east. Though we had never met, his death marked the first time I had mourned the passing of a composer as an elder within a community. That we had been so close geographically when he died—a mere four-hour drive—made it feel all the more tragic to me that we’d never connected: a missed chance, a lost moment.
Though I had studied his early works as a young percussionist, it was Threnody for Carlos Chavez that really changed my life. So moving, alive, and full of humanity, it is among the works most dear to me. His Concerto in Slendro and Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra came next, introducing a new kind of buoyant energy into my musical sphere, and challenged my thinking about both sound and form, while his La Koro Sutro confronted me with the strong assertion that there could be beauty in the void. His influence has found its way into my compositions in surprising ways; ways that a casual listener might only vaguely ascertain.
But beyond even his work, I found immense inspiration in his life itself: that he had the courage to follow his own path, especially in an era when homogeneity and conformity were even more desired and expected. That he set out to make a life for himself that made sense to him, and him alone—to conjure a life as if from nothing. This is perhaps what I find most inspiring about Lou Harrison.
The title The Conjured Life is borrowed (with permission) from the brilliant art curator Lynne Warren. She had originally used it for her exhibit on the lineage of surrealism originally presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and most recently seen at Stanford. And though it seems unlikely that anyone would call Lou Harrison a surrealist, the title nonetheless seemed too fitting not to use. Through his work, he helped conjure life in others, and in his own life, he conjured the manifestation of his own truth. And while no single work of any variety can summarize a life entire—and I certainly don’t claim to have tried here—my piece The Conjured Life is at the very least an impression, an ekphrasis, and a posthumous thank you. I am grateful to the Cabrillo Festival for offering me this opportunity to thank Lou Harrison, at last.
- David T. Little