INTO the VOID is the first prize winner in the 2015 Percussive Arts Society Composition Contest. It was composed from February to April 2015. I spent most of the time writing this piece from the hours of midnight to 4 am, sometimes later, and this was all due to being a full-time student and being in too many ensembles and courses.
Before receiving any formal training in music composition in the Spring of 2015, I was a self-taught composer. My knowledge of music was supplemented through some music theory in my previous semesters of college, but I never formally learned how to develop a theme or how to write a 12-tone row. One thing was certain: After seven years of learning, I just decided to write what I love to hear.
My professor and mentor, Dr. Joe Moore III, encouraged me to take composition lessons with him in the spring, so I accepted. Among other pieces I was required to write, I told him that I wanted to compose a piece for the PAS Composition Contest, and he thought it was a good idea. Over the course of two months, I constructed this piece after doing research on consciousness and spirituality. I knew I wanted to write something cinematic, so I took that idea and ran with it.
This piece loosely depicts my take on an out-of-body experience. It is separated into four sections. The first section sets of the mood of the piece, and it is meant to transform the environment of the stage, performers, and audience. It should give the sense of solidarity and wonder. This section grows until the climax propels the listener into the next section which represents the journey to the void. This section weaves in and out of different tonalities and modes, and there is no true sense of ‘home.’ The listener is taken through new themes and ideas as the words of the text are repeated until a new idea and word are presented. (I had so much fun writing this section!) The third, percussion-oriented section appears out of nowhere and suddenly, the environment is changed to an ethereal world of awe. The simple melody in the glockenspiel and the driving motor in the vibraphones present a music box effect, but the lack of harmonic changes and lydian mode still keep the music light-hearted and honest. The music builds and grows heavy as the choir takes over in this ethereal section. The voices build and intensify the mood as previous material is repeated in a longer and more massive way. The section climaxes in a huge and resounding swell from the percussion instruments to lead way into this angelic chorale. This is what I think heaven might sound like. The music perpetuates our perception of time as we are taken from our angelic realm to return home in the fourth section. The fourth and final section is the journey from the void to reality. Previous material is used, but the piece takes another turn for an epic coda and slowing ending. The piece ends with the soprano soloist singing the entire haiku, and the listener finally reaches a sense of ‘home.’
The wind symphony version ends a bit more dramatically than the choral version. I decided to change the ending because the sheer volume of a wind ensemble can be quite powerful. After rewriting the ending, I thought it was more appropriate. When conducting it in concert, I couldn't have been more proud of that moment. (There's just something special about conducting my own music and realizing how far I've come.)
The choral version of this piece is dedicated to Dr. Joe Moore III for all the support and help he has given to me.
The wind symphony version is dedicated to Prof. Albert Lo for helping me realize my potential as a composer and conductor. I conducted the premiere of the wind symphony version with the UT - Rio Grande Valley Wind Symphony in concert on April 4, 2016.
Floating in blackness
Silence and weightless abyss
Ramille Law (2015)
Choral Version: SATB Chorus + Whirlies (F4), 4 Percussion Parts (vibraphone, chimes, tuned whirly (C5), tuned gong (F4), large tam-tam, suspended cymbal, marimba (Low A), small chamber bass drum (like a surdo) or a slightly-muffled concert bass drum), crotales, glockenspiel, high and low triangles, medium tam-tam, suspended cymbal, djembe, kick drum, vibraphone (not shared with percussion 1)
Wind Symphony Version: Piccolo, 2 Flutes, Oboe, English Horn, 2 Bassoons, E-flat clarinet, 2 B-flat clarinets, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, 2 trumpets in B-flat, 2 horns, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, euphonium, tuba, double bass, harp + tuned whirly (F5), piano + tuned whirly (F5)
Timpani + Vibraphone (not shared),
Percussion 1: vibraphone (shared between Perc. 1 and 5), chimes
Percussion 2: crotales, glockenspiel,
Percussion 3: 2 triangles, medium tam-tam, crash cymbals, snare drum, bass drum, suspended cymbal (not shared)
Percussion 4: tuned whirly (F5), suspended cymbal, triangle, djembe, kick drum, vibraphone, bass drum, low tom
Percussion 5: tuned gong (F), large tam-tam, bass drum, medium woodblock, china cymbal, marimba, suspended cymbal, hi-hat