View performance on YouTube.
Eyes Wide Open is a brief composition for string orchestra and D.J. This is the third work I have written combining acoustic performers with vinyl LPs spun by a live D.J. It is also the third opportunity I have had to collaborate with the wonderful composer/D.J. Jennifer Mitchell. In addition to the challenge of trying to integrate the grooves produced by the D.J. with the ensemble, I had the additional task in this piece of writing for younger performers. My friend, Georgia Ekonomou, the Director of the Paideia Chamber Orchestra, became acquainted with several other of my works integrating acoustic instruments with a live D.J. and decided to commission such a work for one of her advanced groups. The Paideia School in Atlanta, Georgia is a preeminent private pre-K-12 institution with a very vibrant Arts program. While the young string players at the Paideia School are very fine musicians, I did try to keep their experience level in mind while creating the work. It was very helpful for me, therefore, to keep the words of my great mentor, Donald Erb in mind during the writing process: “Simple music does not mean simple-minded music.” Going into the project, it was important that the resulting piece maintain a high artistic standard for myself and for the students.
The title itself alludes to the exuberance of youth and the ability to see and experience life with fresh eyes. It is also somewhat a study in contrasts. On the one hand, the form of the work is somewhat old-fashioned. Musical materials are presented in more or less a rondo form. However, on the other hand, the combination of techno grooves mixed with this older form and written for a very traditional ensemble serve as a metaphor for me of a younger generation picking up the traditions of their parents and making them their own. The work also features the use of a lot of open strings throughout. Aside from the obvious connection to the title of the composition, this technique also allowed for greater facility in some of the more technical passages. The title Eyes Wide Open also obliquely references the notion of a mind and ears that are wide open. I very much appreciate open-minded artist/educators like Georgia Ekonomou who work to bring new ideas and experiences to their students and audiences alike.