Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale (2022)
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, electronics and video
This piece will soon be available via Composers Edition
Commissioned and premiered by Hub New Music
Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale was inspired and shaped by Dan Albergotti’s short poem of the same title. Written long before the pandemic, the short sentences imagine activities that (I assume) Jonah might have used to fill the time while living in the belly of the giant beast. Read, reread, and reread many times again – the activities which range from the pithy (‘Count the ribs.’) to heart-wrenching (‘Make small fires with the broken hulls of fishing boats.’) took on steep, exaggerated meanings as the days of lockdown passed.
I treated the sentences both personally (in composing the music) and as impersonally as possible: I sent the poem to two percussionists (Sam Wilson and David Skidmore) and asked them – with no further input from me – to interpret the various sentences in the form of a video diary. Their ‘entries’ (including a full reading by Sam) make their way back into the piece, triggered at the appropriate moment by the Bass Clarinetist. Layered on top of these videos are captions that I harvested during months of watching Netflix with a small baby in the house: The volume turned down in the hopes of some unbroken moments of entertainment.