As we get ready for Saturday’s show at the MATA Festival, Taylor Brook gives some insight into his piece, Against the Morning. Come check it out this weekend at Roulette!


The Talea Ensemble will be giving the US premiere of my recent composition, Against the Morning, as part of the MATA festival this Saturday night at Roulette in Brooklyn. This piece explores the possibilities of a “what-if?” genre of contemporary music, as I began the work by posing the question “what would Schoenberg have written if he had composed his orchestral piece Farben today?” How would Schoenberg have explored the same coloristic ideas now that the normative palette of timbres and tunings have expanded so much in contemporary music? Although these questions are both faulty in nature and purely hypothetical, they allow me to face these great, imposing works with an attitude of curiosity and playfulness.

The reason for conceptualizing the piece in reference to Schoenberg’s Farben came from the nature of the commission itself, as it was to be premiered as part of a recreation of Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances, a concert series that ran in Vienna, and later in Prague, during the late 1910′s and early 1920′s. This concert series was, for better or for worse, a breakthrough in terms of how new music was presented as the pieces would have only performed after they were deemed “ready” as no program was given until the audience had arrived in the concert hall. The group presented both chamber music as well as reductions of orchestral music such as Debussy’s Aprés-midi and Bruckner’s 8th Symphony. These orchestral arrangements would have the curious instrumentation of a proto-sinfonietta, consisting of woodwind quintet, string quintet, piano, and harmonium. The harmonium gave the arrangements a particular fullness and was often employed to approximate an orchestral sound in the chamber-music setting. In my work, I decided to make the harmonium a soloist that does not lead the group as much as serve as the fountainhead of the musical proceedings.


Against the Morning begins with Schoenberg’s famed five-note “Farben Chord”.  Instead of the slow canonic modulations of the harmony in the original, rather the chord is treated as a block of sound to be parsed, expanded, developed and reshaped. The music then takes Schoenberg’s thematic material and reworks it into a microtonal passacaglia that explores the orchestration possibilities on simple melodic lines. What follows I will leave for the music to show you itself.