Category: Half Notes Blog

Half Notes: Of Sound and Line

Joint Statement by Trevor Watkin and Jessie Mott: terror and gracewhere is the wound a sense of urgencyelongating, unraveling immediacydelicate birdsong, an alien thing structure queered by animal improvisationconfident lines in a strange sky Two artists composing their pieces together, separately. She, a 10-inch x 10-inch print. He, a musical score for orchestra and big band. Her work can be held …

Half Notes: Aurison

Go on line and try to find a satisfactory definition of music. I dare you. Or for a more interesting challenge, ask five musicians what music is; I guarantee you’ll get at least twelve answers. My favorite definition of music is: Time defined by sound. It’s short. To the point. Non-judgmental. Almost zen-like. There is …

Half Notes: Memory Bubbles

Because I am neither a musician nor a tech geek, I was doubly handicapped when I talked with Randall West about his composition Memory Bubbles. West, co-founder of the Chicago Composers Orchestra, is a musician/composer who writes algorithmically, using computer code to give musical shape to his inspirations. I’ll not say more about how all …

Half Notes: Volition

How is it that two children born of the same parents, and living for the first several decades of their lives in the very same environment, can develop in quite different directions, can interpret their world—and their place in that world—in remarkably different ways? In the early stages of composing Volition for CCO’s January 25 …

Half Notes: Amped

The art of musical composition is a conversation between the person writing the music and the people who will be asked to play it. What makes this conversation challenging, however, is that it is carried on in the head and heart of the composer alone. As a composer develops a piece, she constantly struggles to …

Half Notes: Let Me Sing

The three remarkable women whose poems inspired “Let Me Sing” probably never knew one another, but composer Eric Malmquist brings them together into one seamless orchestral conversation. Or maybe a panel discussion is a better analogy. Given voice by the orchestra—with guest Soprano Ariana Strahl—each poet will speak in turn, leading us on a musical …

Half Notes: Rest

Brandon Harrington was present in 2014 when his grandfather died. This man’s passing was the inspiration for “Rest,” which Brandon wrote several months later. In “Rest,” we hear death presented as two journeys embarked on simultaneously. In one journey, the dying person confronts death at the end of life. In the other journey, the still-living …

Half Notes: Secret Sky

If birds sing on a lushly wooded island, and no one is there to hear them, is their song still as beautiful? If no one is there to witness, as wedges of waterfowl fly high overhead on their annual migration, do their wings and voices roil the air just the same? “Yes, let me show …

Half Notes: Will There Be Singing

In a recent conversation, the composer of “Will There Be Singing” explained: “I do not try to deliver a social or political message through my music, yet I have to say that when I sat down to compose ‘Will There Be Singing,’ world events were creating in me a turbulent anxiety that I could not …