I first met Marcello Angelini (artistic director, Tulsa Ballet Co.) in November of 2007 while touring the Ballet's facilities. Kivisto Hall was little more than a dirt lot at this point. Marcello and I got to chatting about various things related to music and it came up that I worked in Los Angeles as a film composer. I could have sworn I'd seen a lightbulb flash above his head. Before I knew it, we were collaborating on a new commission for the Ballet's Creation Series and I was being introduced to choreographer Ma Cong.
Ma and I worked tremendously well together. He is a rhythmic choreographer and I am a rhythmically oriented composer, so the ideas began flowing almost immediately about how to approach the music. One challenge we encountered was the length of the piece. In this short form of ballet, there is really not enough time to introduce any kind of comprehensible story. Consequently, we decided to present the music and dance in a freer, more abstract way akin to the difference between a symphony and a tone poem.
I was thrilled to learn the theme for the ballet would be Mediterranean. I come from very strong Greek roots so naturally I jumped at the chance to flavor the music that way. I wanted to give the music as much Greek flair as I could while still maintaining a Western sensibility. Greek scales and rhythms are so potent and distinct it would be easy to overdo, so I adopted an air of subtlety rather than slapping the audience in the face with an excess of over-stylized music.
The instrumentation is traditionally western in nature; woodwinds, French horns, percussion, harp and strings. I decided an effective way to introduce the Greek character was to employ the sound of mandolin and bouzouki; both undeniable staples in the musical diet of the Mediterranean. Those instruments are not necessarily featured in the music although they play an essential part in the overall tone of the piece.
Ma created an incredibly graceful and wonderfully dynamic work and I'm saddened the music must be presented here without it. However, despite the absence of its physical movement, I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to the ballet as much as I did writing it.