The Body Electric was written for the 2009 Wellesley College Composers Conference and was premiered on the final concert of the conference with Jim Baker conducting.
Writing a work that attempted to capture the mood of this epic poem seemed impossible. Because of the inherent abstract nature of text-less music, writing a work that was a musical blow-by-blow of the poem seemed equally impossible. For me, the solution was to take three fragments of the poem and focus on conveying their particular moods. In the score, I have included the following lines at the beginning of each section: “the Body electric”, “A divine nimbus exhales”, and “the Body at auction.”
Performed by American Composers Orchestra; conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky.
Chamber Symphony is constructed in three movements, played without pause; “Hammering Out,” “Open-ended Echoes,” & “Radiant Nation.” The movement titles suggest a general atmosphere each attempts to express rather than articulating a clear program that each follows. The outer movements act as the antithesis of each other in terms of texture and mood (each represents a political party – you decided which is which). “Hammering Out” employs an aggressive, relentless, pounding beat that frequently shifts, and utilizes a great deal of loud metallic sounds. Politically, this movement represents an extremely powerful political machine that eventually pounds itself out of control. “Radiant Nation,” a much lighter and optimistic movement, uses an up-beat grove throughout. This movement embodies the persistence of the cool, driven candidate that seemed to rise above the fray. The middle movement, “Open-ended Echoes,” is less political and represents the connective serenity at the heart of humanity. Following the overtly pulsated and destructive nature of the first movement, “Open-ended Echoes” is somewhat meditative and almost void of any perceivable pulse. The movement attempts to transform the volatile nature of the first movement into the radiant spirit of the last.
Chamber Symphony was commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra (www.americancomposers.org) for its Orchestra Underground Series with the generous support of Paul Underwood. Additional support for the ACO’s Emerging Composers Program comes from the National Endowment for the Arts. The premiere took place on November 14, 2008 at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall with Jeffrey Milarsky conducting.