We’ve all been there. The sun set hours ago, and you are out (or on the phone, or talking online) with someone that you only sort of know. Somewhere in the back of your head, maybe you’ve started thinking about calling it a night – but you’re on the fence; neither of you quite want to go, or stay. So you begin talking – testing the waters, trying to get to know each other, and at first it’s timid and unsure. But then – a breakthrough; you’ve found common ground, something to relate to each other with. The words flow more easily; slowly you are discovering more and more about this person you had only a vague idea of before. And you keep talking until it’s time to go – at which point you leave, feeling connected, knowing that you’ve gained a new friend.
Maybe that’s a bit romantic – maybe your experiences have a few other twists and turns. But whether under starry nights, city lights, or laptop’s glow…you’ve been there, for sure.
Aziza Mohammed, who is the director of Salon West and the audience member who suggested this idea, had a strong idea of how this piece would move.
“[It starts with] a beautiful lyrical line that’s very timid, very soft, and then a burst of excitement,” she said, before ending with “the two main voices moving together along that lyrical line.” With the contour of the piece mapped out already, now I just had to figure out how to tell the story with the instruments available. Throughout this piece, you’ll hear the voice and clarinet as our two people conversing – they trade a wide melody back and forth, instead of sentences and words, to show how they dance through topics, trying to learn more about the other person. The percussionists are setting the background for the scene, dictating the flow of energy. Sometimes they are steady, setting the pulse of the piece – but they also have moments to shine and groove, propelling our conversationalists into revealing more about themselves as the piece moves along.
When Aziza and I first met, I asked her what she thought about topics for lyrics. After all, it’s a piece about a conversation; shouldn’t there be words? But the answer was firm: it doesn’t need to have words; the melody can tell its own story. And as I wrote, I began to realize that the story I was trying to tell didn’t need words anyways.
So, in keeping with the theme of choice for this concert, the topic of the conversation in this piece is all up to you! The music is the backdrop to your imagination, just as the night can be the backdrop to honesty and discovery, when our walls come down, and we learn more about each other. And the night, being the only time when these kinds of conversations happen, can be said to have a mind of its own. The title of the piece, “Esprits de nuit,” comes from this idea – that maybe the consciousness, the spirit of the night, is guiding us into spaces where we can connect more deeply with one another.