Composing, to me, is sitting at my desk with a pencil and lot of manuscript paper. I start at the beginning and write to the end. I write to full score from the get go. I find the little ritual of lighting a candle and some incense is a great way to quickly focus my mind to the task at hand. Each composing session starts with listening in real time in my head from the start of the movement to where I left off the day before. My piano is nearby in case I need to check something, to try out a sonority or melody, or just noodle around with some ideas to try to figure out exactly what it is that is playing in my head. And because there is a piano actually in the piece, I do try the piano part slowly to make sure that everything fits under the hand. Even though I know Jamie Parker is fearless and can play just about anything. (I studied piano, but I am certainly not a pianist.)
It was extra fun that, along with scientific terms, poet Michael Redhill had included some music terms in the poetry as well. The seventh movement Relict mentions a “savage pianist” trying to “salvage” music. Relicts are things that survive from an earlier time. So I gave Jamie a workout, and wrote a movement that was a jaunt through the history of western art music. In succession, sometimes obvious and sometimes not, there are references to Bach (by way of The Partridge Family because of course), Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Berg and finally Messiaen. Just as Michael’s poetry was infused with the voices of other poets, the music of this movement is infused with the voices of other composers.