Ill, 2002 (7′)
for two violins, marimba, and drum kit
When I was a teenager, the soundtrack to my life was the then-contemporary hip hop of the early 1990s. That period was arguably the greatest era in hip hop sampling history, as copyright law had not entirely caught up to producers, who were using newly available sampling technology to bring the sounds of 1970s funk and soul (among a host of other musics) to a younger generation. The “tsss-ip” sound of the open and closing hi-hat was a bedrock sound in that music, and when I was asked by the Bang on a Can Summer Institute of Music to write a piece for the strange ensemble of two violins and two percussionists, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to “bring the beat back” by using that sound as the driving force behind a notated work. In addition to that percussion reference to hip hop beats, I also use the ability of the violins to glissando while playing specific rhythms to emulate an old school DJ trick that uses turntables to produce a similar sound. Ill is the first piece of mine to explicitly draw off of my hip hop beat-producing past; it’s difficult to blend such different musics, with such distinct approaches to sound production, but I think this piece does well in combining the funk of hip hop with the control of the classical notation system.