vocal

We've Got To Find A Way

We've Got To Find a Way
for tenor, electric piano, and fixed media
composed by Michael Malis
after "What's Going On" by Al Cleveland, Renaldo “Obie” Benson, and Marvin Gaye

Denzel Donald, voice
Michael Malis, electric piano
Premiered at Sidewalk Festival, Detroit MI, 8/3/2019

A recomposition of Marvin Gaye’s seminal piece “What’s Going On,” “We’ve Got To Find A Way” expands on “What’s Going On” by featuring newly composed material for electric piano and voice. This newly composed material is interwoven with an electronic backing track that samples the original track extensively, bringing the recomposition into conversation with the poignancy of the original recording. The track consists of nearly 200 different samples, and is comprised almost entirely of samples from “What’s Going On.”

“What’s Going On” is a song that asks deep questions about peace, power, and utopia. Set in the civil unrest of the late 1960’s, Gaye gets straight to the heart of many of the issues that faced society at that time. In many ways, it’s staged as a lament for the ails of society (brother brother / there’s far too many of you dying.) But it also strikes a hopeful tone (you know we’ve got to find a way / to bring some loving here today.) This classic song transcends the times that it was written for and is extremely relevant to our current era of social and political unrest. Furthermore, “What’s Going On” has an extra layer of importance in Detroit, the city that birthed this masterpiece.

Almost 50 years later, it’s appropriate to ask: what, if anything, has changed? “We’ve Got To Find a Way” highlights that question, and gives audiences the opportunity to investigate this question themselves. Some of the recomposed elements of the piece are a radical departure from the original, allowing the audiences to meditate on what has changed. But by using samples from the original track, this piece stays tethered to the original, allowing the audience to meditate on what has stayed the same, for better or for worse.

Nourishment

For Soprano and Two Pianos
Text by Carmen Malis King
May 2017
Duration: ~7 minutes

Carmen is one of my favorite poets in the world, and also happens to be my wife. I'm grateful to her for lending me these three pre-existing fragments for the sake of this piece. I wrote this piece while we were engaged, and I believe it brought me closer to her and we prepared for marriage.

This piece deals with cycles, and particularly deals with cycles that are two slow to perceive but are nonetheless present, embedding cycles on a structural level.

Recording performed by Caroline Quick (soprano), Wataru Niimori (piano), and Zi Ang Han (piano) in Milna, Croatia, July 2017.

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Just putting this out there: I would LOVE if someone commissioned me to arrange this for one piano and voice. Or maybe for piano, voice, and percussion? Perhaps as part of a larger song-cycle utilizing Carmen's poetry, or dealing directly or tangentially with these themes? Just putting that out into the universe so that maybe one day it will actually come true.