I LOOK UP AS I WALK (2014)
Instrumentation: solo piano
Having conducted a little analysis of Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated!, I was keen to use the piece’s variations structure for myself. My mind-blowing act of creativity was to take a selection of Rzewski’s gradual melody-obscuring procedures and reverse them, such that my starting material becomes less fractured and more discernible with each section. I reasoned that this would be more effective the more recognisable the starting material was, and thus the choice of Kyu Sakamoto’s irritatingly catchy Sukiyaki as theme (the song is an ever present force in popular music, and I believe it was on my mind at the time after reading an article like this: https://www.npr.org/2013/06/28/196618792/bittersweet-at-no-1-how-a-japanese-song-topped-the-charts-in-1963 that lays out its surprising and rather fascinating trajectory from Japanese Pop single to its clandestine presence in a Snoop Dogg song).
I think this piece—one of my earliest—prefigures the role of melody in much of my later work. In the kinds of circles I want to approve of my music the inclusion of melody is considered a near act of heresy, but the reluctant surrender of my high-art pass is not without good reason: once you have something that other people want, you hold the power, and the inclusion of a good ol’ melody in a composition gives me something I can withhold from or grant to the listener at will to a desired emotional effect. Make something nice just so you can take it away, is my advice to you (see Perpetually Receding Horizon).