I'll admit it: I'm sometimes a little too enthusiastic. I can't count the number of times I've said something (a hamburger, a graphic novel, a laptop, a zoo) has "changed my life." I think I really do mean it in the moment; over time, though, most of these "a ha!" experiences fade away into a sea of little influences and inspirations gurgling somewhere, unperturbed, in my subconscious.
There have been four events in my life, though, that have altered the courses of things in ways so deep and immutable that I know, unequivocally, that I've left a "before" and entered an "after." They are:
- When I fell in love with my wife.
- When our son was born.
- When I first heard Ravel's string quartet.
- When I read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.
This particular announcement, I'm happy to say, concerns #4.
My dear friend Joelle Kross (who just happens to be a very talented soprano) approached me last year about collaborating on a recital piece - a song cycle, with piano accompaniment, to be performed in Chicago during 2016. Ms. Kross is a fantastically emotive singer, and she possesses an expressive, fluid coloratura. She's basically a composer's dream. So I said "yes," immediately; finding a suitable text, though, proved to take considerably longer.
Then, a few months back, I stumbled upon an incredible poetry project called Erasing Infinite. The poet, Jenni Baker, has spent the last couple of years creating "erasure poetry" from every single page (and trust me, there are a lot of pages) of Infinite Jest. It was a beautiful idea; what was even more remarkable was the execution. The poems - some of which whittle an entire page's contents into three or four words - are breathtaking. Some are laugh-out-loud funny; many are heart-wrenching.
I immediately emailed Ms. Baker about a possible collaboration, and she was just as excited about the idea as I was.
So now I get the chance to write a piece for an amazing soprano (who also happens to be a great friend), in a new city (I've never had anything premiered in Chicago), on stunning poetry that distills and explodes and refracts the words of my favorite book.
You know what? I think this just might change my life.