Good times! : a celebration of the life of Blair Milan, 1981-2011
by Tim Hansen (2011)
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This piece was composed for the Norfolk New Music Workshop in
June 2011. A few months before the residency, a very close friend
of mine, Blair Milan, passed away very suddenly from undiagnosed
leukemia. I knew that I had to write a piece to celebrate Blair's
life, especially since the date of the concert was June 25th,
which, serendipitously enough, would have been Blair's thirtieth
birthday. My task was complicated however by a condition of the
residency that I was to compose a piece in the spirit of the
unique genius, American composer Charles Ives.
Amongst other things, Ives' work is characterised by sudden and unexplained changes in mood, key and tempo, superimposition of apparently unrelated material, and an unapologetic love of quotation and pastiche. It were these elements I chose to focus on in my piece.
It just so happened that Blair and I worked together on a number of theatre productions over the years (Blair was an actor). The biggest show we worked on together was a black comedy piece set in a circus freakshow called Death's Waiting Room (directed by Danielle Harvey, script by Sam Bowring). In this show, Blair played a confused transvestite by the name of Marie Antoinette. Marie Antoinette was confused because she was convinced she was biologically female, and she longed to be male. Nothing the other characters could do would convince her that she was, in fact, a male like she wanted to be. As dry as program notes like this can seem, let me assure you this situation was pretty hilarious.
I tell you all this because Marie Antoinette performed a (very dirty) song in Death's Waiting Room called "Weed" in which she touted the imagined joys of being male. I wrote the music for this show before I had ever considered composition as a career, and despite the naivety of my work at that time "Weed" had a great harmonic progression in the chorus, which essentially consisted of a descending chromatic scale in the bass: A minor, C, B, B flat. Despite weeks of my refusal to acknowledge this as a valid basis for the piece, the muse (and probably Blair) won. Good Times! is based upon this harmonic progression in a wide number of guises and transpositions.
Instrumentation: Clarinet/bass clarinet, trombone, piano, drum kit, violin, double bass.
Duration: 10 min.
Difficulty: Advanced — Rhythmically challenging
Dedication note: Dedicated to Blair Milan
Commission note: Commissioned for the Norfolk New Music Festival, 2011
First performance: by Adrienne Pope, Mark Broschinsky, Victor Caccese, Gleb Kanasevich, Thibault Bertin-Maghit, Edward Neeman, Julian Pellicano — 25 Jun 11. The Music Shed, Ellen Battell Stoeckel Estate, Norfolk, CT, USA
The piece has also been orchestrated for: Clarinet/bass clarinet, trumpet, piano, keyboard, percussion, cello, double bass.
- Influenced by: Theatre
Performances of this work
25 Jun 11: The Music Shed, Ellen Battell Stoeckel Estate, Norfolk, CT, USA. Featuring Adrienne Pope, Mark Broschinsky, Victor Caccese, Gleb Kanasevich, Thibault Bertin-Maghit, Edward Neeman, Julian Pellicano.
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