Performed by Ekmeles (voices) with Russell Greenberg (perc), Isabel Castellvi(cello), Kobe Van Cauwenberghe (guitar), and Carlos Cordeiro (clarinet). Music by Taylor Brook, Text from David Ohle's novel Motorman (1974). Mahir Cetiz conducting. This performance is of the Premiere at the New Roulette (Brooklyn, NY) on March 4th, 2012.
Motorman Fragments was written in the Fall of 2011 and early 2012 for Ek’meles vocal ensemble through Columbia Composers. It is a setting of twelve chapters from David Ohle’s Motorman. One chapter corresponds with one movement with the exception of chapters 41-45, which are all grouped together in the eighth and final movement:
I - chapter 24
II - chapter 27
III - chapter 29
IV - chapter 31
V - chapter 36
VI - chapter 38
VII - chapter 30
VIII - chapters 41-45
From the point of conception for this work, I considered the text to be the most important element. I envisioned a form that relates closely to radio-drama, presenting entire chapters as unaltered text taken directly from the novel in spoken form with some sort of sonic accompaniment. As such, the text is almost exclusively spoken (with indeterminate pitches) rather than sung. There is coloration of the central spoken parts through pitched speaking, whispering, and even occasional singing, but the central focus of the music is nearly exclusively the spoken word. In delivering this text, the performers imitate the sound of the author reading the text from a recording of the chapters made by the author specifically for this project. I took these recordings of Ohle reading and altered them slightly in terms of timing, and sometimes pitch, to create “audio scores” for the performers to learn from.
One of the aspects of Ohle’s novel that I find intriguing is how within the frame of his dystopian reality he treats the grotesque or bizarre as completely normal. Inversely, familiar elements, often distorted pieces from Americana, take on a strangeness or absurdity. This is something that happens constantly in any society without us even making note of it. Take, for example, the way farm animals are raised or the ability of many city dwellers to walk past a passed-out person on the street without thinking twice. I have attempted to reflect this in the music as well: a typical guitar texture is made strange through microtonal harmonic procedures... a spoken voice is doubled by whispering and noise sounds form an instrument... remnants of typically American music are inserted into a grotesque collage.