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From the Ashes – International

This was a piece I wrote for a composing and conducting program called LAFCI (Los Angeles Film Conducting Intensive). LAFCI is a selective program that asks applicants to compose an orchestral work within the limits of a set orchestration and in the style of film score. I was accepted to the program based on this composition.

The inspiration for this piece was a clip from the film Fantasia 2000 where we witness the full destructive power of the firebird awoken by the forest Sprite and her companion, an elk. I wrote this piece to capture the emotional life of hope lost and hope regained as well as the atmosphere of new growth following desolation.

My process for writing From the Ashes began with coming up with the musical motifs. Each musical theme I wrote needed to fit the mood of the both the desolate beginning and jubilant ending. The beginning of the transition between these two main dramatic beats happens when we see the Sprite’s tears begin to seed the land. To achieve an elegant transition I needed a melodic strain that could be morphed from something arid and hopeless to something soaring and burgeoning. It really needed to feel like we were in the same world once life was breathed back into it. John Williams once said that the process of finding his themes takes great care and I like to think I share the same philosophy. I also wanted to make sure I “cast” the piece with the right soloists or sections of the orchestra to capture the essence and pacing of each moment. At one point this meant I needed to shrink the ensemble down to solo piano. At points in the story a cacophony of woodwinds represented the frenetic energy of growth and restoration, and at others the grandeur and hope of the French Horn embodied the growth of the sprite into a soaring creature of creation.

Part two of the LAFCI program is taking your composition into the real world and on to music stands for a live orchestral performance. This is a unique aspect of LAFCI that distinguishes it from other composer competitions. While touring to Bulgaria, I worked with Angel Velez and Conrad Pope to hone my conducting skills and overcome my doubts on a podium. In one week I transitioned from feeling rather untethered and lacking language for effective communication with an orchestra to feeling in command with a baton in my hand.

In the end, this project marked a tremendous leap forward for me as a composer and conductor. I will take this project with me in any future endeavor where I’m graced with the opportunity to conduct a session orchestra or where I need to capture a wide emotional arc through music in a relatively short time.

 

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