I recently had the pleasure of writing music for first-time filmmakers Caitlin Carroll and Brad Forder for their documentary on Washington DC’s murals, Painted City. It is an unusual look at the amazing artworks that appear on walls all over this beautiful city, as seen through the eyes of Perry Frank, a historian whose mission is to document as many of these as she can before they either self-destruct or are laid to waste via urban revitalization.
Two things made this a particularly fun project for me:
1. I got to use classic go-go grooves throughout the score. If you’re not familiar, go-go is a style of music unique to Washington DC that incorporates elements of funk, R&B and hip-hop. It hit its highest spot nationally with Chuck Brown’s 1978 hit “Bustin’ Loose,” but here in the DMV it’s still going strong.
2. I got to record Vince McCool, one of my favorite trumpet players. His playing is something of a throwback—he reminds me of Al Hirt, Jonah Jones and Louis Armstrong. I never miss a chance to record with him.
I re-arranged my symphonic composition, Postcards from the West, for symphonic wind ensemble. This is my first foray into the world of wind ensemble music—and I love it. It think this might be the most exciting area of composition that is happening the US right now. When I took on this arranging challenge, my first thought was “What will I do with all those clarinets?” But after a week spent (mentally) in the middle of that lovely bunch of reeds, I ended up thinking that maybe one can’t have too many clarinets. The fact that most wind ensembles exist in colleges means a composer can also feel free to write for extraordinarily large and weird percussion set-ups. Most colleges will have full concert marimbas, chimes, lots of timpani etc. These are elements that I am usually very careful about including in my orchestral writing, because they often require rentals and cartage fees that the orchestra must underwrite. I’ll never abandon orchestral composition, but I must admit that writing for wind ensemble felt liberating in a way. I feel certain I’ll turn to it again soon. If you’re curious, you can find the score and synth realizations here.