West of the Sun (2018-19)
The title, West of the Sun, has multiple meanings to me: most directly, it references Haruki Murakami’s novel South of the Border, West of the Sun, and more generally this piece draws inspiration from Murakami’s body of works. In South of the Border, West of the Sun, the main character’s name is Hajime (はじめ) which translates to “beginning” or “genesis” in English. The idea of genesis plays an important role in the beginning of this piece: my goal was to wholly create the sound world of the piece right from the start, as if the listener opened a door and was suddenly in a different universe.
The piece is conceived in five connected sections, four of which are titled after Murakami novels, characters, or chapters within novels: Hajime, Kafka/Sputnik, The Thing Made Elsewhere, and End of the World. The final section is the orchestration of an earlier solo piano piece of mine called “blood orange.”
Murakami’s writing has served as a touchstone for me in recent years, primarily due to his treatment of surrealism. In West of the Sun, there is a duality of real and surreal, conveyed musically as a “double-timeline” that crossfades over the course of the work: on one hand, there is a gesture-based timeline that unravels from highly-compact, rhythmic and harmonic dissonance at the beginning to near-nothing by the end, and at the same time a thread, starting as a single note (E), that expands into a chorale by the final section of the piece.
At the most foundational level this piece is meant to be perceived as an “opening” into a new sound world (as mentioned before), and this is a reflection of the “opening of worlds” in my own life that have led me to my current creative work and general interests. Notably, the “world” that has become the most open to me in recent years is that of food culture, and I have my partner, Susanna Hancock, to thank for that. The last section of this piece, “blood orange,” is dedicated to her.
On that note, it’s also worth acknowledging the impact of Chef Eric Fralick of Noble Rice in Tampa in my work, and in this piece: Chef Eric’s menu is full of Murakami references, notably his Omakase (or tasting menu) which he has titled “Hajime.” The influence of Murakami in his work as a chef has directly had a profound impact in my life, both creatively and personally.
West of the Sun was commissioned by and is dedicated to Dr. William Wiedrich and the University of South Florida Symphony Orchestra