Rock Me Samuels, 2004 (8′)
for NOW Ensemble (flute, clarinet, electric guitar, double bass, and piano)
Rock Me Samuels was my first composition for NOW Ensemble, and it reflects, in some ways, what I want the group to be: virtuosic, both individually and as an ensemble; capable of switching between classical and popular idioms; and generally intense and uncompromising. The piece is a little crazy. It is based on an idea taken from the sound of samples restarting their looped patterns at irregular beat intervals, a sound that’s heard in a different form in much of Stravinsky’s music (but that’s not important for this piece). Unlike in hip hop or drum and bass (where one hears this technique used), where all that it takes to get the effect is to hit a button, here the ensemble must stop and start on a dime. It’s really difficult. The middle section of the piece has a strange, loungey feel; the relaxed mood is a necessary break from the intensity of the beginning. Some classic rock material breaks the lounge wide open, and we get back to the beginning, but with differences. If you’re wondering, my middle name (my mother’s maiden name) is Samuels. Rock Me Samuels is dedicated to my people in Detroit.