Last August, I began work on a fairly large, complex piece for actor and chamber ensemble. I took a few breaks from it over the course of the last few months to write some other pieces, each time returning to it refreshed and with a deepened perspective.
Among other challenges I set for myself in this piece was to create an innocent, wide-eyed narrator for the story I was composing. Through the course of the journey of this story, I wanted the narrator, which was not human, to maintain its sense of wonder, avoiding the clichéd route of innocence crushed through bitter experience.
Upon completing a performable draft of the piece this month, I had a surprising realization: the story I had written could work equally well with a world-weary — even cynical — narrator, a personality in complete opposition to the one I had initially imagined.
How far apart are worldliness and innocence? How comfortably could they co-exist in the same person? This week I’ve been measuring the difference, trying out various balances in tone, trying to create just the right level of cognitive dissonance, much in the way I would explore varying shades of intensity in a harmonic scheme. In the process, I’ve been getting a fascinating lesson in character development, making me feel ever more sensitive to the implications of my artistic choices.