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the noble bocce ball

I finally downloaded the recording for How to be a Deep Thinker in Los Angeles from the Midwest Composers Symposium. (For those of you composers from the visiting schools who still want the recordings, email me and I will upload them via YouSendIt.)

Here's the recording.

Okay, what is wrong with this recording? THERE IS NO BOCCE BALL.

Oh my goodness. I was only able to listen to 3 seconds of this recording. (If you listened to the whole thing, please let me know how it is. I'm sure it's awesome because Tyler rocked the piece, but, alas, I hear no ball rolling.)

This adds to my realization that a few people don't take this bocce ball seriously.

Conversation in point: I attended Bonnie Whiting Smith's simultaneous realization of two John Cage's pieces (51'15.657" for a speaking percussionist), and afterwards ran into Allen Otte, professor of percussion at CCM and member of the group Percussion Group Cincinnati.

I thought we would be talking about the concert, but instead he opens with this:

"I don't...understand...why his back is to the audience...when he is speaking.... It's one thing IF the person has the music in front of him and they are ignoring everyone else around them.... But without the music, one is....liberated and can...DO something with the piece."

At that moment, I finally understood what the heck he was talking about.

"The percussion setup is in a circle because the narrator is in his own spiral universe," I said. (Tyler's back is to the audience at certain points because of the circular setup.)

"I see.... That's a bit esoteric for the audience to grasp, don't you think?"


"And...I'm not really sure about that ball rolling at the beginning....It seems a bit...disconnected to me."

Okay, here's the deal: I didn't conceive the piece with the percussion setup in a circle and the percussionist/narrator delicately rolling a bocce ball offstage. This is something my librettist suggested.

After hearing a recording of the very first never-to-be-released recording of Deep Thinker, I felt there needed to be a tiny little prelude before the piece started, something that would let the listener know that they were going to hear something philosophical and wonderful, and that they must listen with reverence.

My librettist said, "Have your percussionist roll a bocce ball at the beginning!"

Cool idea. Then my librettist suggested that I have the percussion setup in a circle.

These ideas actually complement each other, and that's why my librettist came up with both ideas simultaneously. The circle setup is representative of a galaxy, and while this piece is being performed, the percussionist is spiraling inside this makeshift galaxy. The bocce ball is representative of a sphere leaving the galaxy and works as a symbolic preamble to the piece. It's foreshadowing, see?

What can I say? That bocce ball really tied the room together.

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