Minimalist Music

Can monotonous music be interesting?

This is the musical dilemma I placed myself in when I started composing Thirty Minutes of a Three Million Minute Journey. The piece attempts to encapsulate the experience of Syrian refugees walking from their war-ravaged country into Europe in search of a better life. I wanted this elongated chamber work to maintain the same mood and feel throughout and capture the monotony and drudgery of walking ever so slowly over a very long distance.

From a compositional standpoint, this is a tricky endeavour since you want the piece to express the programme but not literally be boring. I could make a bold artistic statement and just repeat one note for a 1/2hr – there’s definitely that element to it. But there’s more opportunity through the sound of the clarinet and piano to expand and have peaks and valleys with dynamics and articulation and pitch range. All really blah terminology that the non-musician will find boring, but when you hear it, you’ll experience it on a very sub-conscious level.

And as a composer, that’s something that I like to mess around with – my audience’s sub-conscious!

Rehearsal - Michael Westwood, Gregory Millar - Thirty Minutes of a Three Million Minute Journey

I was a bit nervous if it would come across, but after attending Mike and Greg‘s rehearsal last week, I’m very happy with the outcome. I felt the tediousness and pain and drudgery that the refugees must feel, but it was also an interesting musical experience – yeah, nailed it!!:)

You can decide for yourself if I succeeded in my artistic endeavour or not by attending the piece’s premiere this Friday @ noon in downtown Toronto. More info available here.

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