Composition recitals showcase senior work

Two composition recitals were performed by students this weekend.
Christopher McCormick’s recital was held on March 14 ,and Scott Campo’s recital was on March 15.
McCormick, a senior composition major, has composed an opera titled “In a Grove.”
He said, “Essentially the opera is a murder mystery. What you know from the get go is that a man was murdered, and his wife was raped by the notorious bandit Tajomaru.” The story is told through seven testimonies including the bandit, the wife and the murdered man.
He explained that the opera is about ambiguity. “Each testimony contradicts the other, and the opera becomes less about figuring out the truth and more about figuring out why each character presents themselves in the way that they do,” he said.
The opera is based on a story of the same title by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke. McCormick said that he read it in high school and it resonated with him then. During his first year at Susquehanna, he was sitting in a class and the idea hit him out of nowhere, he said.
“I thought it really lent itself well to people singing, with the music becoming an entirely new sort of testimony and interpretation itself,” he said.
He said that early in his process he sketched out short musical ideas to get a sense of what he wanted the opera to sound like as a whole. He said he wanted to avoid stereotypical Japanese or Asian sounds.
“There are some cues I’ve taken from traditional Japanese music and tried to morph into my own sound and musical language. Essentially, I took the tuning of a plucked instrument called the koto and used that as a scale that generates a fair amount of the music in the opera,” he explained.
McCormick said that he wrote the bulk of the music over this last summer.
“Pretty quickly I realized that it would be completely impossible for me to write the libretto, compose the music and put all the musicians together and rehearse by myself, so I asked Joey Maltese to co-write the libretto with me,” he said.
“Once everyone else got involved, the project became so much bigger and so much more out of my control than I ever could have anticipated in a really good way,” he continued.
He said that the staging is very minimal and consists mostly of everyone standing and delivering their music. There will also be artwork by Cole Tucker-Walton, a friend of McCormick, projected throughout the opera.
McCormick said, “After spending so many hours and weeks sitting in a dark room staring at a computer screen, writing the music, pouring over every detail and being really obsessive and insane, it’s been really exciting to sort of let go of all that manic control that a composer has and watch everyone take a piece of it and make it their own in a way that is sometimes completely different from what I ever could have imagined.”
McCormick also mentioned that there is a possibility that it could be performed at State University of New York at Binghamton.
Campo has composed eight pieces that will be performed for his recital.
His compositions include two electronic pieces. One titled “Gyrotelephonopathy” involved a solo horn and fixed electronics. He said that it is an exercise in the tone colors produces via manipulation of periodic waveforms.
The second, titled “Score for an Excerpt from NAQOYQATSI,” was set to the backdrop of a film clip according to Campo. This was composed for a collaboration between the composers’ studio and the University Orchestra that called for scores to be performed live with silent or abstract films. According to Campo, the piece was presented through a recording of the University Orchestra.
The recital also featured a horn and voice duet set to the text of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and a piece that follows a man through a nightmare and into a lucid dream.
He said: “My pieces tend to take on a disjunct kind of form. Often I will create a theme or idea and then move away from it quickly and abruptly into another, seemingly unrelated theme, and then either back again or into yet another unrelated idea.”
He explained that he finds this sort of form to be very apparent in art and media of our time.
Inspiration, he said, comes from “anything and nothing, simultaneously.”
“My tendency towards a disjunct form in my music is partly a result of this- short bursts of creativity result in chains of short, unrelated ideas,” he said. “I find it terribly difficult and frustrating to write using something specific as inspiration because the music I write in that mindset never seems to match exactly the idea I had.”
Instead, he said that he puts forth an idea and constructs a little world around it.