David T. Little’s latest work for orchestra, The Conjured Life, receives its world premiere at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music on August 5. The work was commissioned by the festival to commemorate the centennial of composer Lou Harrison, a Cabrillo Festival paragon. The Conjured Life will be conducted by Cristian Macelaru as part of his debut season as artistic director of the festival.
Little regards the work as a posthumous thank you to Lou Harrison, who had influenced Little early in his musical career. He explains Harrison’s impact on his own work in this statement:
Though I had studied his early works as a young percussionist, it was Threnody for Carlos Chavez that really changed my life. So moving, alive, and full of humanity, it is among the works most dear to me … His influence has found its way into my compositions in surprising ways; ways that a casual listener might only vaguely ascertain.
Little’s choice of instrumentation for The Conjured Life drew inspiration from Harrison, who was well known to incorporate East Asian elements into his music. Little’s unusual scoring includes a washtub, a gentorag (an Indonesian bell tree that is used in Threnody for Carlos Chavez), and a buk (Korean folk drums). The final movement’s phrasing takes inspiration from gamelan music.
Clocking in at 16 minutes, this is Little’s most substantial orchestral work to date, written in three attacca movements: “Invocation,” “A Nest of Shadows,” and “Aubade (for Lou Harrison).” The middle movement, “A Nest of Shadows” is inspired by the Kenneth Koch poem One Train May Hide Another; the movement references several of Little’s compositional influences and explores the idea of musical lineage across generations of composers.
The title of the larger work is borrowed (with permission) from art curator Lynne Warren’s exhibit on surrealism at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Little explains that “through his work, Harrison helped conjure life in others, and in his own life, he conjured the manifestation of his own truth.”
David T. Little has had a long relationship with the Cabrillo Festival, having previously participated in its composer/conductor program in 2003. His piece SCREAMER! – a three-ring blur for orchestra was performed at the festival in 2004, and more recently, HAUNTED TOPOGRAPHY was presented in 2015.
For more information about David T. Little, visit his page on the Boosey & Hawkes website.
For more information about the concert, visit the Cabrillo Festival’s website.
Photo: Eric Marin, from the film Cherish, Conserve, Consider, Create.