The Sum

lightning-bolt-at-nightThe Story Behind The Sum

The Sum is quite literally a manifested amalgamation of life, gravity, and the unrestrained energy that unites the seeming chaos of it all. Its origin is not completely meaningless, though the capacity for potential energy supersedes any initial intentions. The Sum was written specifically for the Nebula Ensemble’s 2016-2017 new music season, however, given its “wholly” nature, it is adaptable for any 5 person ensemble of 3 treble instruments, 1 bass instrument, and 1 percussionist. Even the percussion can be minimized to 5 piece drum set and marimba (or Glockenspiel), eliminating the timpani. The Sum is a gift that may be distributed and performed freely among new music lovers. All I ask is to be notified of any performances and credited as its composer. From Colorado with Love!

At the time of this writing, our nation is preparing its delicate psyche for the most obnoxious and vexatious political election in history, my wife is pregnant, and many of the young people I work with on a daily basis believe the world would be a better place without them. Far from the darkest of days indeed. Nonetheless, the equations that heretofore governed and valued the simplicities of life are non-functioning in such complex times. Complex to the degree of our refusal to be bottle-fed by informational zealots of the media. We grant multimedia access to our homes, our minds, and educational institutions, with very little regulation for fact. These equations cease to work when absolute values are exchanged for imaginary numbers, many of them as shallow as the outcome they attempt to manipulate. Undeniably present, now more than ever we are forced to re-establish priorities, values, and truth. A strong foundation is the beginning of The Sum.

In music, the things that matter most are not things at all. Legends are often described as having a unique voice, a quality of musicianship, or even a dependability that helped unite entire ensembles. Audiences have been moved to tears or fisticuffs simply by the presence of certain sounds, melodic ideas, or convention changing intervals. In a single word, the things that matter carry gravity. The Gravity within The Sum is not so much a musical idea as it is the combination of ideas and their symbiotic nature. The opening sequence, for example, is a series of 4 jazz like solos where the drum, the bass clarinet, then the two flutes, build on each other through a 12 bar blues pattern. Why is this significant, you ask? Simply to underscore the reality that no person, musician or otherwise, is an island. We work together, we play together, we make music together. Reciprocity and solidarity are the gravity of The Sum.

From a notational standpoint, I chose to continue a scoring method that I call the Story Score. In addition to traditional sheet music notation, this method includes some graphic elements, written descriptions/instructions for the performers, improvised sections, as well as the influence of an actual story. Other examples utilizing the Story Score method are also available for modern music ensembles. By expanding on traditional sheet music notation, I hope to achieve a more collaborative composition that allows the musicians/artists/ and audience to effect parts of the whole. Similar to a “choose-your-own-adventure” book, the less structured parts of the piece demand input from the musicians. On an individual basis, each of the 5 musicians has the opportunity to showcase the sum of their instrument, including the use of extended techniques, vocal parts, and improvisation. Perhaps the most striking feature resulting from this style of composition is the reality that each performance will be original and remain uniquely imprinted. May this piece and the story it tells spark a fresh and creative energy with each performance!

– Adam Hooper