Long before I became the composer of music my mother generally enjoys, I was the composer of music my mother generally responded to with non-committal accolades like “Did it sound like you wanted it to?” (I.e. “Please tell me they played it wrong.”) Some call my early compositions “scary monster music.” I like to think of it as street cred.
But let’s not dally on questions of whether I’ve sold out or seen the light; let’s get right to the music. One of my compositions from my grad school days was called “Dinosaur,” so named because it was thin on one end, much much thicker in the middle, and thin again on the other end. It’s an aleatoric composition, which means that instead of reading from a score that tells exactly which pitches to play and when, the musicians are given small chunks of music and freedom to improvise within certain parameters. For example, “repeat this phrase for the next 20 seconds” or “improvise on this scale in duet with the Violin 2.” Perhaps the most famous example of aleatory is Terry Riley’s In C.
Take a listen to the Carnegie Mellon University New Music Ensemble taking on a scary monster, in this case a Dinosaur.