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Music Box 9

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Published on May 21, 2012

I was approached by Lynnette Wallace, Executive Director of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Arts to produce an event of my music at the Orange Show Monument, created by Jeff McKissack from 1956-1980. The venue is a winding labyrinth of colorful, found objects and materials. I leapt at the opportunity. The event which would eventually be called, untangle my tongue after my fixed media piece of the same name, featured Music Box 9. I wanted to feature not only my music but, the space itself. I also wanted to attempt to address several 20th century music concerns that had been on my mind.

In pursuing a doctorate in music composition from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice, my colleagues and I were often presented with questions about audience and receptiveness to our music. As the 20th and 21st centuries have progressed, "art music" has seen a decline in audience while visual art has flourished. Why is that? Visual and aural art are sometimes largely based on the same or similar concepts and ideas. My conclusion was simply, you direct your own experience with visual art. The composer and conventions of the concert hall directs your experience with music.

The idea for Music Box 9 was to give the audience the freedom to move and create their own experience. The piece starts with seven configurations of solos and duos scattered around the Orange Show. The audience is free walk at the their own pace and hear each bit of music as they please. Each "bit" is very important to the 8th movement of the piece for the full ensemble. In this way, Music Box 9 attempts to alleviate another strain that 20th and 21st century music places on the audience: lack of a common musical language (Mozart and Beethoven, though a generation apart shared the same basic musical language). Each composer since the beginning of the 20th century has developed a very personal musical language. With so many different musical languages being presented at once, the audience is often lost in translation (through no fault of their own).

Music Box 9 "teaches" the audience subconsciously about the piece by giving them the important bits out of context. When the full ensemble assembles and performs the 8th movement (roughly 8 minutes long), all of the bits will fit together. The audience, through creating their own experience previously will be able to remember, recognize, and create meaningful relationships between all of the previously heard bits. It is an experiment in memory. It also experiments with the audience as an active participant in the piece as well as the venue being an integral character in the development of each audience member's experience.

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