Barbeque Man Unleashed is a ballet/piano concerto with action figures depicting the legendary rivalry between professional wrestlers Barbeque Man Jr. and Baron Banks Gentry. The score is divided into two sections, or wrestling matches, and reflects changes in wrestling story lines I witnessed growing up, progressing from family-friendly morality plays as a child to more adult oriented and racy content during the so-called WWE ‘Attitude Era’ of my teenage years. It features electrifying entrances, devastating bodyslams, chair shots, crashes through broadcasting tables, toilet submersion, and lots of other wrestling-related stuff. I made a miniature wrestling arena and my brother, Gray, did the photography. Samir Arora edited. It was written as part of my dissertation in music composition at Duke University.
In this ballet, the contrasting entrance themes for the two wrestlers clash to result in overlapping key centers, rhythms, and tempos. I establish the themes of the two principals in Part One, and for the most part the music mimics the action on the screen. Part Two has a more free-flowing, continuous musical form with greater independence from the choreographic action. I tried to fuse various musical styles, drawing from high modernism (such as serialization of pitch and rhythm and collage), cartoon music, Hollywood blockbusters, and Southern popular music (including several styles of country music and gospel). Though none of the borrowed tropes in this piece are immune from parody, they are all valued equally in terms of their emotional weight in telling the story.
Like much of the music I love, wrestling relies heavily on timing, but it’s also not monochromatic. Wrestling matches can go from serious to comedic in an instant, playing with the emotions and failing if allowing the viewer to get too familiar and comfortable. Viewers are supposed to feel angry, surprised, sad, happy, disappointed, scared, and amused, and sometimes in no particular order. You can’t categorize great wresting matches by a singular sentiment.
Ultimately, my joy for professional wrestling is based on watching highly skilled performers create unforgettable stories through semi-predetermined choreography. The same can be said for music. - Paul