Enjoy Wayne’s thoughts on his newest composition being premiered by NOCCO this upcoming weekend!
Have you written for a full orchestra before?
Yes. In 2004 I wrote an oratorio for 3 voices, soloist and chamber orchestra entitled Joe Hill: 16 Actions for Orchestra, Voice and Improvising Soloist. This piece premiered in Seattle at Meany Hall and featured Robin Holcomb, Danny Barnes, and Rinde Eckert on vocals and Bill Frisell on guitar. Later it was recorded and released on the New World label. http://www.newworldrecords.org/album.cgi?rm=view&album_id=81839
In 2015, The Seattle Symphony commissioned and premiered my composition, “Those Who Remain: Concerto for Orchestra and Improvising Soloist”. This piece also featured guitarist Bill Frisell. It was written for full orchestra. A recording was released in the fall of 2018 on the National Sawdust Tracks label. https://waynehorvitz.bandcamp.com/album/those-who-remain
Both recordings were made by members of the Seattle Symphony and other freelance musicians, contracted by Dave Sabee and recorded at the Chapel at Bastyr.
How does your approach differ from writing for a jazz ensemble or band?
Well fundamentally it doesn’t differ much at all. I sit down and work every day until I am done. That being said I certainly use different skill sets, and the skills needed for an orchestra piece are particular to the form. I need to be particularly fastidious about notation, often in other music we don’t need to make the instructions as precise.
In addition, many times rock and jazz musicians fumble when they are creating a work without a rhythm section (bass, drums etc.). The entire approach to making the rhythm move in “classical” music is fundamentally different. Creating grooves and altering ideas on top of that is usually unsuccessful in chamber music or orchestra music, and it takes time and a few failures to figure that out if your roots are in music genres that typically work with rhythm sections. Of course, studying the masters helps as well!
Mostly it is just an enormous amount of work. I think it’s almost always true that “inspiration is for amateurs’. But if you are writing a new tune for your improvising trio to perform, you can lean a little more on waiting for the muse. An orchestra piece takes months and months to write, and you need to wake up every day and act like a professional!
How did the theme of “creation” inform or inspire this piece?
I did not want to write about the Judeo-Christian notion of creation, mostly because it has been done many time before, and it may be my dominant culture, but it is not my belief system. I thought briefly about approaching another culture’s creation myth, partly because I have been a student and admirer of many of these myths for most of my adult life - I just enjoy reading about those sorts of things. But 2019 seemed like a bad year to come anywhere close to something that might be perceived as cultural appropriation, so I quickly dropped that idea.
I soon realized that science is my creation myth, so I did a lot of reading, mostly books written for the lay reader, about physics, biology, history of science, time, evolution, and so on.
Some books about interesting characters in science, others more about the theory. I found it fascinating, particularly in this horrific period we are in where fact is fiction and vice versa. I ado really believe that science strives to be “fact based”, and that we are in peril if we ignore some obvious ideas that the scientific community is telling us. At the same time science has and continues to do great harm, or at least the technologies that come from science, so it’s nuanced and complex, as always.
But the one thing that is certain is that what “know” is always a myth of some sort, and science is no exception. What we know now won’t be what we know in 2 centuries, and I am certain that the Big Bang and the theory of evolution are just as much “myths” as the earth being built in 7 days or that the earth is really a turtle. And the proof of that will be in 500 years, when people find our science just as quaint as we find earlier creation myths today.
I don’t particularly care for programmatic music. I usually take my inspiration from the piano and my imagination. But I had fun writing around different ideas - the beginning, time, light, life etc. I hope people enjoy it!