Origins of compositional ideas

I forget sometimes that the best way for me to get inspired around my own composition is to go out to more contemporary music performances.

Seems obvious, right? But somehow I still don’t do it often enough. For example:

Late last week, the nienteForte staff had a meeting with a group involved in a Top Secret Project that we’re putting together for our Season 11 opener next October. I’m one of the composers that’s going to be writing on that project, and as we explored some of the parameters around it, I found myself soaking in all of the information as initial groundwork, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to actually do with it.

Then, last night, I went to a concert featuring New York contemporary guitarist Giacomo Baldelli, and as I was sitting listening to the fourth piece on the program, the structure for the piece that I wanted to write for the project just hit me. How I wanted to use the space, the performers, the kind of material that I was going to use – it ran into me and hit me like a brick, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

A long time ago during my undergraduate studies, I wrote a flute trio called Shades of Three. That piece was based around each flute having a spotlight moment around a single musical form. While those spotlight moments are similar, they have small differences in them that the other flutes support before the climax where all three flutes then spotlight together in harmony.

The piece I’m going to write for this project feels like a spiritual sibling to Shades of Three. It’s tentatively titled Forces of Fours, and it expands on the idea of “spotlight” by layering multiple kinds of spotlights throughout the work – the creative form and material dictated by me as the composer, the creative mix of strict vs improvised material dictated by the choices made by the individual performers, and the instruments themselves which deserve their own spotlight.

We’ll see what comes of it as I start writing it – I’m not in a space to put serious work into it yet as I still have to finish the piece that I’m writing for the Portland Percussion Group, but no doubt that as that piece progresses and as I get more steeped into this current season’s concerts with nienteForte and with Versipel in particular, my creative momentum will continue to move forward.

Pretty exciting year ahead.

Mendel Lee

I'm a composer, musician, and music educator residing in New Orleans, LA.

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