I am thrilled and honored to be composing a new work for the Seattle Symphony 2012-13 Sonic Evolution program! The mission of Sonic Evolution is to feature orchestral commentary on Seattle’s legacy of inventive and groundbreaking popular music, so my new piece will reflect upon the legacy of the progressive rock group Yes and will feature its drummer Alan White, who resides in Seattle, as a soloist.
In late January I traveled to Seattle for several days of collaboration time with Alan White. I honestly had no idea what to expect (although we did meet over the summer), but I made sure I was as prepared as possible (whatever that means!), and things went swimmingly. Alan is a joy to work with—a fantastic musical mind, full of ideas and excited about all sorts of music. Needless to say, his drumming chops are amazing beyond description. We worked hard, and also had fun…we ate mussels, drank beer, and played darts (he’s really good at darts). I have a TON of sketches and notes to incorporate into the piece that will assist in “Yessifying” the music, and as he said when we parted, “Now YOU get to write all this down, HAHAHAHA!!!”
An especially memorable event was being taken through an analysis of the third side of Tales from Topographic Oceans— a play-by-play of what happens with each instrument and how the parts are interconnected. That music is complicated, people. Polyrhythms, meters overlaid across other meters, shifting tempos, so many things. And the entire band plays everything by ear! Nothing is written down. Nothing! if anyone out there reading this thinks that rock music can’t be just as technically challenging or solidly constructed as classical music, think again.
While this project is completely different than anything I would have come up with on my own, it is proving to be very, very interesting. We are both having to stretch ourselves creatively, and it’s a blast.