impro

Head and Heart

For Cello Quartet
November, 2018
Duration: ~9 minutes

Commissioned by the Detroit Composer’s Project.
Premiered at the Third Place Concert Series in Ann Arbor, MI on December 16, 2018.

Premiered by the Hole in the Floor Quartet:

Kellen Degnan -- cello
Wesley Hornpetrie -- cello
Ben Rodgers -- cello
Hanna Rumora -- cello

In early September of this year, I discovered a cassette tape that I made, dated July 7, 2016 -- my birthday. I immediately put it in my tape player. Upon listening, I was struck by the recording. The recording, which was me improvising solo piano with electronics, lacked many things: high fidelity, musical structure, a sense of articulation. But the recording more than made up for that lacking in one crucial area: heart. I heard an arresting vitality; the potent and powerful electricity which we musicians constantly grasp for.

In the pursuit of more abstract and advanced musical concepts, it's easy to let this unquantifiable realm of musicianship -- musical heart -- go unattended. Head and Heart works to locate that sensibility at the center of its universe. This piece honors the part of myself that is my least articulate self, the self that I don't have words to describe, the self that I can't justify or defend or reason with, the self that I've run away from or tried to grow out of. In creating Head and Heart, I transcribed one section of that cassette tape recording and used those musical materials as a basis for the whole piece. That material finds a literal statement in the opening theme of the piece, and recurs throughout.

But I also applied analytical processes to extend that material -- using my head to extend the reach of my heart. After all, the initial recording that inspired this piece doesn’t exactly hold up; it’s messy, wild, and formless. Head and Heart uses that exciting kernel of energy as a starting point, but moves that energy into distant and far flung directions completely beyond the reach of the original material. The result is a synthesis of the two approaches; where the heart fails the head picks up, and where the head sputters the heart interjects.

I hope that this piece inspires a sense of true vulnerability; a graceful acceptance of those moments when our hearts can lead us to our authentic, inarticulate, honest selves. Additionally, I hope that it models a measured and thoughtful approach to living; an approach where we buttress our emotional cores with contentiousness and care. In this sense, head and heart can be are complimentary, interdependent, and mutually supportive.