Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

It seems like it’s been a while since I’ve made anything new available online, and indeed it has been a couple of months since I put a new piece online. Working on my short film has been first and foremost on my mind artistically. Along these lines is how I came to compose
“Ambient Sustenance”
, which you can download just by clicking on the link provided. Originally my goal was to write the music I planned to have playing via stereo in “Unwinnable Hand” prior to filming, a process that resulted in not only this piece but my other two pieces I’ve completed this year, “Rhythmic Muzak in C-Minor” and “Alone With Percussion,” which are also available at Sonic Cinema. But as I was recording these pieces, it became clear that none of them were quite what I had in mind for the music in “Hand,” but I was really pleased with what I came up with nonetheless and wanted to share it with people nonetheless. Like the two pieces that came before it, “Ambient Sustenance” was what I might call a happy accident- it may not be among my most compelling or artistic pieces, but it’s certainly an enjoyable one to listen to I think. I hope that you enjoy it as well.

In addition to announcing the release of a new piece, I’d also like to announce the start of another one. The following is from a MySpace blog/Music List email I sent yesterday:

I don’t often do this sort of announcement, but I think the piece merits such a break from my usual thing. Starting today I will begin work on a piece long in my thoughts, and long worked on in the past (I first worked on it my final year/semester at Georgia State). It is entitled “Sonic Contemplation,” and will be a piece for trombone and electronics. Those long familiar with my music may remember that this was originally conceived as a piece for viola and electronics for a composition competition State was having back in 2000. The contest came and went, but the piece remained one I wanted to write, if only to deal with what I had gone through the previous year (see below). But when I graduated, my work on the piece halted. I’ve often wondered about this over the years, and a few theories have emerged, but the piece never left my mind. I always wanted to go back and complete it. Here is a description I wrote about my intentions for the piece back in the day (the liner notes you could say):

“The Inspiration and Influences for ‘Sonic Contemplation'”
The idea for the piece came out of the need to express feelings previously masked. With Sonic Contemplation, I’m attempting to depict the struggle of someone dealing with a loss very close to them from the point of discovery of the loved one’s condition to their passing several months later on through the emotional difficulty and “dealing” after. This isn’t always the way it is (even for one person who’s experienced multiple losses), but arguably, no other way is more painful. Last year I lost my grandfather to Cancer; he was an important influence in my life, and very much believed in my music, even learning how to download it off the Internet when I first made it available online. He had attended marching band competitions in Georgia, Florida, Indiana, and Tennessee, as well as symphonic performances in Chicago and Atlanta in high school, even if he didn’t get to see me personally. When he passed away over the summer after months of fighting the disease, I felt as though my reason for composing had died as well, and it was very difficult to get back into, even though the ideas were there. There were even times when I wondered “Why Bother?” and contemplated the most drastic of measures. It was a dark several months emotionally, and while beginning to compose again helped (a close friend even suggested I write a song or “tone poem” of sorts about it), I eventually came back to wanting to realizing the several ideas I had, though I still had difficulty wondering whether it was worth it.

Around the time I began composing again (I hadn’t written much in the months of my grandfather’s illness), the announcement was made about the neoPhonia composition competition for works for viola and either piano, percussion, solo, or tape. That was when the ideas for this piece began. At first I only knew I wanted to write for viola and tape; I had no real idea at the time it would become such a personal piece. Once I had finished the piece I was working on, I then began work on Sonic Contemplation. A few things about the piece I knew I wanted to do include: 1) I knew the electronic part would include a combination of MIDI and Csound; 2) I wanted to attempt to only use six notes (w/ various octaves), an idea inspired by an earlier work I had done called Five Stages Suite, which used the six pitches not features in this set.

This piece has been influenced by many pieces of music, though if you listen to most of them, you’ll notice I didn’t just “ape” the sound of them- it was the mood I was after. One was John Williams’ shattering score for Schindler’s List- the powerful violin solos by Itzhak Perlman and devastating orchestral mood of the score have stayed with me ever since I first heard the score. Another was Tan Dun’s more recent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with his bold lyricism and the weeping cello of Yo-Yo Ma bringing gravity to the gravity-defying martial arts onscreen.

You know I’ll let you know when the piece is completed.

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle (Currently Out of Print)

Categories: News, News - Music

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