blackout poetry (2017) for violin and piano

Austin Kleon’s poetry is written through an act of creative destruction. Each poem is written by redacting or “blacking out” most of the words on a page of a found text with a black marker, leaving only isolated key words and phrases. The finished “blackout poetry” is poignant and fascinating: fractured blocks of text hang suspended like puddles of light, and reading these poems feels like extracting luminous meanings from a sea of black.

In writing “blackout poetry,” I was interested both in this process of disintegration and in the aesthetic effect of reading these poems. In the first section of the piece, the violin and piano dance off of each other, illuminating hidden melodies in each other’s lines of running notes, just as Kleon’s poetry reveals a hidden lyricism and humor in an existing text. The second section is slow and glassy, with crystalline harmonies and ephemeral gestures hanging suspended in space. The piece is anchored by a short melody that begins and ends the piece, a slowly rising motif that seems to gently ask a question that is never answered. As the piece closes, fragments from earlier reappear and slowly disintegrate, and the music splinters, like words drifting apart…

Selected Honors

Selected in MotoContrario Ensemble’s 2019 Call for Scores

Emerging Composer — Tribeca New Music 2018 Composition Competition

Selected Performances

March 2019 — performed by MotoContrario Ensemble as part of Festival Contrasti in Trento, Italy

December 2017 —  performed at Hear&Now Concert by Giancarlo Latta and Wesley Ducote at Shepherd School of Music in Houston, TX

November 2017 — premiered at Shepherd School of Music Fall Composer’s Forum by Giancarlo Latta and Wesley Ducote in Houston, TX