Last month (July 18 to be precise) marked my first professional recording session, at the fabulous Fraser Studio at WGBH in Boston (putting me in good company – like Yo Yo Ma and Duran Duran). The session was for a (hopefully!) upcoming web series spotlighting young composer-performers, being pitched by producer-extraordinaire David Peth. It was a fantastic experience all around, from my extremely talented co-performers – Tanya Kalmanovitch (viola) and Borey Shin (piano) – to the über-professional and patient recording engineers. The session was filmed, and also included a video interview, so if the show takes off, people will unfortunately be accosted by my physical appearance. Hopefully we’ll all survive.
The musical content for the project was a set of pieces written last summer and this, titled Chapel Music. The idea for the piece had been brewing for some time, the inspiration being my experience with and love of sacred spaces. My personal background is in various protestant evangelical settings, but my thoughts were (and are) much broader. The deliberate setting aside of any space for prayer, reflection, devotion, meditation, or inspiration is a beautiful thing – and an increasingly rare one, as urban areas expand and time becomes shorter. From large cathedrals, to small stone chapels, to peaceful gardens and wooded sanctuaries, sacred spaces have always been a source of clarity, humility, and tranquility for me, and it’s this sense of solace that I wanted to capture in the music.
I decided to make the pieces improvisatory (rather than through-composed/ fully notated) because the idea of a collaborative creative process, to me, is something akin to the experience of communal prayer or devotion. The written notes and pre-described form create an environment – a space – in which to play, while the improvisations are very personal and spontaneous – like prayer. I was very fortunate to have Tanya and Borey – two very talented and accomplished improvisers – with me on this project. Their insight and splendid realization of the piece deserves as much credit as I do for its creation.
Hopefully the video will be ready soon! In the meantime, here are the audio tracks from the session. Enjoy!