An MFA Performer-Composer Graduation Recital presented by the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts

     I. Autotomy (To Write a Song), for voice, banjo and electronics
     II. Arkarua, for string quartet (6:15)
          Violin - Lauren Baba, Emily Call
          Viola - Alessandra Barrett
          Cello - Betsy Retig
     III. Asteroidea, for five pianos (15:30)
          Shan Shan Ding, Chris Schunk, Kristin Erickson, Ingrid Lee*, Shane Summers
          Rehearsal direction by Andreas Levisianos
          Conducted by Marc Lowenstein
     IV. Ambulacral Groove, for five Ewe drums (31:30)
          Master drum - Dan Ogrodnik
          Bell and shaker - Josh Carro
          Kidi - Brian Foreman
          Sogo - Tony Gennaro
          Kaganu - Amir Oosman
     V. Abyssal, for voice and electronics, et al. (36:42)

All electronic processing is produced by two guitar pedals, a Digitech Whammy pitchshifter and a Boss DD20 Giga Delay.

This recital occurred on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in the Roy O. Disney Concert Hall. All performers are CalArts students or alums. Special thanks go to Marc Lowenstein, my composition professor and savior for conducting the piece on such short notice due to an unfortunate injury.

Asterozoa is a subphylum in the phylum Echinodermata. Characteristics include a star-shaped body and radially divergent axes of symmetry. The word is Greek for "star animal", but in modern vernacular zoa is also an insult, and so can also be interpreted as "dumb person of the stars", a phrase which in my opinion covers a lot of ground.

Asteroidea is a class belonging to the subphylum Asterozoa. It is synonymous with starfish, which are a keystone species of coral environments, as well as one of the relatively few lifeforms capable of surviving the abyssal plains. Asteroids are characterised by a central disc with an odd number of radiating arms, similar to flower petals. If damaged, some species of starfish will regenerate by secreting stem cells over the course of months or years.

When threatened, asteroids may also sever their own limb to escape a predator. This defense mechanism is called autotomy. This process is exactly like writing music. These lyrics from the opening movement are lifted from my music theater piece Lunatic Sun and are as follows:

     To write a song
     To write a song, to hear
     A universe appear
     Where once was still

     To write a song
     To know you’ve taken something deep inside
     And from it made a little point of light
     It’s such a thrill

     To write a song
     To write a song
     And then to hear
     The whole world sing along

See? Same thing.

The purpose of this recital composition is to take an open approach to my personal rhythmic aesthetic. I grew up with electronic music, but just like you don’t need an oud to make Arabic music, you don’t always need electronics to make electronic music. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at CalArts, it’s that my aural landscape isn’t tied to any specific timbre, genre or instrumentation. It’s tied to something more fundamental that I haven’t found any suitable name for yet.

The oldest echinoderm fossil is Arkarua adami, dating back roughly 530 million years. The imprint preserves a five-lobed central region representing five ambulacral grooves, which are characteristic of echinoderms. It was discovered in the Flinders Ranges of Australia, home to the Adnyamathana people for tens of thousands of years and counting. It takes its name from Arkaroo, their version of the enormous Rainbow Serpent that inhabits the Dreamtime. Referred to as either male or female, Arkaroo came from far beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains, rivers and gorges as it pushed upward. It battled other mystic spirits, protecting the region from drought and famine, drinking dry and then replenishing the water of the salt flats. As it rests, Arkaroo’s belly rumbles, shaking the Flinders Ranges to their core.

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