figures in violet light was a difficult piece to write. After spending a week immersed in the traditions of Thai music, it was a challenging but rewarding task to synthesize the colors and idioms of this music into a new work. Similarly, it was difficult as a Western-trained composer to distill my musical language (which is normally precisely notated) into a work which could be played by musicians with no experience reading Western music. For me, this workshop was also about finding the most effective way to communicate and collaborate, and explaining my music often involved a combination of verbal description, crudely drawn scores, and demonstration. What emerged from this process is a collaborative work that is part notated score and part structured improvisation: dense waves of sound collide, and delicate textures gently sustain and develop over the course of the piece.
The title is borrowed from Wallace Stevens’ Two Figures in Dense Violet Light from his first book of poetry, Harmonium, which seemed an apt description of the rewards and challenges of cross-cultural artistic collaboration.
The poem is excerpted below:
Speak, even, as if I did not hear you speaking,
But spoke for you perfectly in my thoughts,
As the night conceives the sea-sounds in silence,
And out of their droning sibilants makes
figures in violet light was written collaboratively with Thai classical instrumentalists from Burapha University through the 2018 Experimental Thai Music Laboratory for Young Composers. Special thanks to Koji Nakano, Shih-Hui Chen, and to my wonderful translator Tunchanok Jindanon.
March 2018 — premiered by students of Burapha University as part of Burapha University 2018 Experimental Thai Music Laboratory for Young Composers in Bangsaen, Thailand