Ben McCarroll-Butler, our 2015 Spectrum New Voices Composer, tells us about his piece Until, which premieres May 29th at Your Wish is Our Concert.
“My friend has just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. We need to accept, grieve, support, and still find joy.”
So reads my composition topic for the upcoming Spectrum concert. I was struck by the short but emotionally loaded wording of the submission; the acknowledgement that this was the start of a long and difficult journey, but also the implicit hope and openness to the fact that this diagnosis is not the end. The topic begs the question: in the face of an inescapable decline, how does one find hope?
This is the story of a journey of uncertainty
This is the story of a journey of uncertainty, the story of two people: the diagnosed and the supporter, and their changing relationship with each other and the world. I was drawn to the idea of representing each person of the pair and chronicling their dialogue and relationship as they travel through this journey. Throughout my composition process I found myself asking how literally these aspects can and should be reflected through the composition; I settled on pairing the instruments to create two dialoguing sounds that each get chances to speak soloistically and respond to one another. The silvery sounds of the vibraphone and voice play the part of the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s while the warmth of the clarinet and marimba represent the supporter; listen for their dialogue as they travel.
This brings me to the title of my piece: ‘Until’. Both the supporter and the sufferer find themselves asking ‘until’ questions: ‘This should be manageable until I forget how to _____…” “Everything will be fine until he no longer recognizes my face…” Until, until that critical moment when according to our (often harsh) ways of thinking the sufferer can no longer be called themselves. This way of thinking is rooted in a fear of the future. However over time and through the journey, from the tiny tender present moments emerges another truth. It is a reimagination of ‘until’: you are you and I am me, and through the trials and the troubles I will be with you until the very end.
from the tiny tender present moments emerges another truth. It is a reimagination of ‘until’: you are you and I am me, and through the trials and the troubles I will be with you until the very end
Through these past months I’ve had the pleasure of working under the tutelage of Dan Jamieson, workshopping ideas, discussing composing and talking about the importance of storytelling. Dan has been a great resource for me and has opened me up to some new ways of thinking. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with him as the Spectrum New Voices Composer and I’m really looking forward to premiering ‘Until’ at the upcoming concert beside some composers and musicians I really respect. See you on May 29th!