I was 12 years old and had just watched the film Apollo 13. I was convinced that I wanted to become an astronaut. The film had affected me so strongly. However, as a child I had asthma, and soon realized that it would be very difficult for me to pass the rigorous physical training that becoming an astronaut requires. But I wondered to myself, how was it that watching a film had inspired me to embark on the difficult path of becoming an astronaut? How had this idea been planted so deeply in my mind? For me, it was the music, the film’s soundtrack, that had given the film so much emotional power. When I realized this, that music had the power to change people’s actions and perceptions of the world, I decided I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to create music.
The piece that Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will be performing, Prisms, Cycles, Leaps, is the result of many years of experimentation, training, and research, and is the first in a series of works of a similar theme. While a student at UCLA and California Institute of the Arts, I’ve had the privilege and joy of studying music from many different cultures, including West African music and dance, but also Hindustani classical music, as well as music of the Balkans. All of these musical traditions have had a strong influence on the piece. How could I bring these different musical traditions into the same space, together with a Western classical orchestra? The main point of difficulty was notation. Many elements of these musical traditions are learned through oral methods rather than from reading notes on a page. Some of the most interesting rhythms to me are ones that can be felt in more than one meter. If you can imagine, it felt to me as though these rhythms were alive, and I had to wrestle them in order to put them on the page! I began to understand why many of these rhythms come from an oral tradition, as some feel very different from how they appear on paper. It took many attempts and experiments, (along with help from some sight-reading musician friends), to figure out how to most effectively notate these rhythmic ideas. In the end, it was quite a wild ride—which I hope you will enjoy!