The premiere of Seven Stories was a great pleasure for me, but also a great relief. I had begun to believe the piece was cursed.
The composition process, for one thing, was a good deal more twisted than customary. I began working up the concept in the summer of 2010. After about six months, I had the whole thing pretty much completed. At that point, though, I realized there was a fundamental flaw with the tone of the piece, so I started over. Six months later, I had finished the reconceived version.
About that time, I began collaborating with a filmmaker friend to create a backdrop for the piece that would help illuminate and articulate the form. Another filmmaker began working on a documentary about our collaboration. Watching both of these visions unfold was fascinating – filmmaking, like music, is one of those things that non-practitioners usually know something about, but seeing a couple of pros – and I should say “artists” — in action was a quick lesson in how much more is involved than meets the eye.
Unfortunately, though we got some very promising footage, after a few months of work we all had to acknowledge that we didn’t have enough to make it happen in a way that would be completely satisfying for any of us. End of backdrop, end of documentary.
And that’s where the performance problems jumped in. A few weeks before the scheduled premiere in Galapagos last October, we learned that Galapagos’ management had changed and there was no record of our booking. Ransom Wilson did a wild, last-minute dance in search of an alternative before arriving at a date in November at DROM. We thought all was well, but – surprise — Sandy made sure not much was happening in lower Manhattan in early November, and Ransom had to scramble for yet another option.
He came up with our February date, but about the time Sandy hit I realized another flaw in the conception of the piece – I was trying to create a work on my own in a format that really calls for a collaboration of experts in various fields. Successful theatrical works are the products of many minds: writers, directors, designers, actors. I had a vision of Seven Stories that I believed could work without all of those contributions. Ultimately, though, I had to come to terms with the fact that – in my desire to see the work produced sooner rather than later – I was shortchanging the concept.
Once again, the answer was to start over, and I wrote the piece, in effect, for the third time in a year and a half. This time, though, instead of taking me six months, the whole thing took about six weeks, which I suppose shows the benefit of practice. Now the piece was just a musical composition, with zero theatrical elements.
No sooner was this third version of Seven Stories completed – about a month ago — than the soprano had to back out because of other obligations. Fortunately, Ransom was able to work his last-minute magic once again, pulling the amazing Mary Mackenzie on board.
Given all of this bouncing around, I would hardly have been surprised if we had been hit with a blizzard on Wednesday. Flakes came, but fortunately in manageable quantities, and the show went on.
And what a show: Seven Stories was in great company with fabulous works by Thomas Adès, Matt Marks and Eric Nathan. To be honest, when I learned about Ransom’s concept of the program – Toy Stories – I had my doubts. But the concept turned out to be just on the other side of insane – the side we call “brilliant.”