Our experience of everyday society can seem dream-like and fragmentary; numerous commercial entities are vying for our attention; we’re inundated with disturbing news channeled directly into our homes and cell phones; very serious news is coupled with extremely banal news about celebrities or the hottest new movie. We are forced to stitch together these contradictory encounters into some sensible experience. Often it’s impossible to find meaning in it all. I wrote CVS as a reflection and response to this societal incoherence, but instead of trying to make an overt statement about society, I chose to create a surreal work that would produce an ambiguous meaning or, at best, a deeply personal reflection for the listener. The work’s core text is a multiplicity of contradictory cultural encounters that we might experience on a given day:
There’s been a terrorist attack.
I chose these three subjects because, for me, they capture the most fundamentally extreme poles of our daily lives. To include a line on terrorism is, obviously, halting, but it’s included because I cannot deny the reality that pharmacies, cool graphics, and extreme acts of violence have become equally common threads in the fabric of our contemporary existence. Even the way I’ve written for the singer—who states “CVS” with various kinds of vocal inflection and word distortion—captures the same disjointed means of delivery that is so pervasive in media: “Bob Ross voice calm, very welcoming and polite”, “Like a weather announcement”, “Serious and direct”. While the piece may seem dark, my aim is to not to create a space for despair, nor a soothing place for escape. Instead, I aim to create a truthful place to accept; a musical space for personal thinking and reflection about the reality of our current time, and how to live within it.
Commissioned by loadbang
February 26, 2020
The Hebrew Tabernacle
New York, New York