David T. Little

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Variants for Mother Jones

Performed by the Ensemble Courage, Dresden; Titus Engel, conductor

Although it might appear that the two works submitted here occupy different points on the musical spectrum, they are nonetheless unified by their source of inspiration: people’s everyday struggles, be they political, economic, or emotional. The exploration of these struggles has always been an important part of my work and is what has brought me to compose theatrical music with an explicitly political message. These elements—combined in equal part with my experience as a rock musician—have helped form my compositional voice.

 “Variants for Mother Jones” from Valuable Natural Resources—the older and angrier of the two works—is politically direct, wrestling at once with the history of child labor in the United States and with one of the hardest questions I have ever tried to answer: “What makes (instrumental) music political?” The inspiration and title for the work stem from the words of the late, great American folk-singer Utah Phillips, who once told a  classroom of children: “You're about to be told one more time that you're America's most valuable natural resource. Have you seen what they do to valuable natural resources?” 


Dear Atticus

Performed by the Bard Conservatory Orchestra; Leroy Davis, soloist; James Bagwell, conductor.

Moving from the political to the personal, “Dear Atticus” is the final aria from my opera Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera, which I composed in late 2009 with librettist Royce Vavrek. In Dear Atticus a lonely old man fulfills a promise to his only friend—his pet bird, Atticus—setting him free after 10 years of companionship. The release of the bird is the climax of the opera; you’ll hear the joyously over-the-top moment when it happens. As Atticus flies to freedom to live out the rest of his hopeful days, the old man is left alone with his long-ingrained daily routine, his own quiet struggle. 

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Comments [12]

Dr.Dick from Harrisburg PA

The question of "originality" is pointless with most of the composers I hear writing these days and very few of those I've heard today would be considered "original." Too much emphasis is placed on "originality" when it would be better if they could focus on how to use that material in their own way. Sometimes it's absorbing a pre-existing style and finding your own voice out of it - this is something that usually comes with age and experience, not with a doctorate. I've never heard a composer who was an infinitely better composer the day after earning a doctorate if he or she wasn't a good one the day before.

But I'm biased - I've been listening to David's music since 2003 and I find, whether he's original or not, he knows what he's doing and that, to me, is more important. Off and on throughout the day, I've heard music that is "reminiscent" of Schoenberg, Carter, Ives, rock, smooth jazz and generic minimalism - that doesn't mean it wasn't worth listening to or considering for a future commission.

But my vote is here - not just from what I heard today but what I've heard developing over the last 7 years.

(by the way, doctorates are *highly* over-rated...)

Sep. 08 2010 03:43 PM
Viswa from Houston, TX

I have heard David's music over the past number of years since David was one of the early winners of the Opera Vista competition. I have constantly been impressed by his growth and development as a composer. It is always exciting to look forward to the next David T. Little piece!

Aug. 11 2010 03:23 PM
pda from Jersey

These two pieces show me the diversity of this composer

The first piece was exciting and I could "see" the story in my mind as I listened. What was surprising was that I had a different (but still as vivid) story during the second listen. That is pretty amazing to my untrained ear.

The second piece was absolutely beautiful, touching even haunting.

Quite a talent for a young composer!! I would expect to hear a great deal more about him!

Jul. 23 2010 11:31 AM
pda from Jersey

These two pieces show me the diversity of this composer

The first piece was exciting and I could "see" the story in my mind as I listened. What was surprising was that I had a different (but still as vivid) story during the second listen. That is pretty amazing to my untrained ear.

The second piece was absolutely beautiful, touching even haunting.

Quite a talent for a young composer!! I would expect to hear a great deal more about him!

Jul. 23 2010 11:29 AM
Carl S. from Bloomington, IL

Captivating -- great storytelling -- let's listen:

Jul. 14 2010 05:13 PM

This here boy may not yet be a doctor, but his music is medicine to this old man's ears!

Jun. 30 2010 11:04 AM
Boulezbian from Manhattan

@Kathy

I would say that Mr. Little's music is quite a bit more "original" than your comment! Perhaps you're overdoing it a bit with the mind-altering substances there in Amsterdamn.

Everyone knows that the more degrees a composer has, the more that composer can embrace ideas over substance. And *that,* my dear Kathy, is what could move Mr. Little's music from "beautiful" to "high art."

Even though Mr. Little's music is, in my most humble opinion, rather "original," that does not make it safe for Orpheus to commission him. At least not yet. I have heard that he is *almost* finished with his doctorate, though, so perhaps he will have earned it by the time the nomination committee makes its final decisions. I suppose it couldn't hurt to keep Mr. Little "in the running" pending completion of his advanced degree.

Jun. 26 2010 10:42 AM
Kathy from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Boulezbian from Manhattan, doctorate has nothing to do with your quality of work or merit.
The second piece has some beautiful passages.
This composer does not sound original though.

Jun. 26 2010 06:05 AM
Boulezbian from Manhattan

I think Orpheus would do well to hold off on commissioning Mr. Little until he has earned his doctorate. That would be, in my most humble opinion, the safest way to proceed with many of these younger composers.

Jun. 25 2010 11:27 PM

O, hai. Pleese commission David so he can by me more kitteh food and toyz.

Jun. 25 2010 11:30 AM
Lainie from NYC

I'd love to hear a David Little Orpheus piece! His composerly combination of smart orchestrating and pants-kicking aesthetic sense make his music hugely engrossing over the widely diverse group of ensembles he's worked with.

Jun. 22 2010 01:37 AM
Eugene Woznicki

I have been listening to David's music for years. I find it wonderful that one person can write for a symphony orchestra, a band, then turn around and write 3 opera's at the same time ( one being a cantata). Listening to Two Soldiers from Soldier songs brings tears to my eyes every time. I believe David is on the edge of being one of the great composers of our time.

Jun. 21 2010 08:56 AM

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