For quite some time now, I have been interested in exploring agrarian values in my music. The act of farming and the act of composing probably seem like two disparate things, but more and more I am seeing correlations that are meaningful to me. You cultivate the land. You plant the seed. You care for it. You harvest the bounty. It’s a life cycle, much like beginning and completing a piece of music.
I was born and raised in Kentucky, a mostly rural state (my hometown, as of the 2010 census, has just under 7,000 residents), and at any given point I was likely a mile within a farm. I even had music teachers who owned and operated family farms. After moving away, I became interested in the work of Kentucky writer Wendell Berry, and these writings have been very influential in leading me to consider composition in these ways. Not
only that, but in researching my own ancestors, I have discovered that for many generations in the past they were farmers. Incorporating these values into my compositional thinking, and specifically creating music that is “about” soil, plant life, etc. is my way of honoring that legacy.
“Orchard” was born out of these considerations.
An orchard is a plot of land used to plant and harvest fruit trees. This collection includes fifty pieces, ranging from 45 seconds to just over three minutes, all titled after,
and, in one way or another, inspired by botanical fruit. When composing each piece, I considered the various features of a particular fruit in order to arrive at compositional decisions. So, in essence, the music takes on my interpretation of a fruit’s texture, shape, color, or flavor - either in combination or focusing on just one of those
elements. To this end, given the brevity of each piece, I almost see these as “seeds” of what could be more long-form musical ideas. Each piece lasts long enough to express a specific idea - to “make a point” - and then it’s over. There’s no further development or variation, and no kind of extension into a formal pattern. My goal, then, is that when audiences listen to this music they will experience something similar to actually eating a fruit: the
experience is brief, but satisfying.
Due to the number of individual pieces in “Orchard,” and the fact that in order to perform every piece would require devoting an entire recital or concert to just this music, pianists are encouraged to pick and choose the pieces that meet their programming needs and order them however they’d like. The prospect of this is truly exciting to me as a composer, because it means that there will inevitably be combinations put together by performers that I would never have imagined. Plus, I believe ordering the pieces in various ways will put the
music in different contexts, creating a unique experience each time a pianist performs the music.
“Orchard” is the result of a commissioning consortium made up of 30 pianists and supporters, and was composed from January to August 2018