Composer and clarinetist Brendan McMullen‘s orchestral work Unquestioned, which is given its premiere performance by Seattle Collaborative Orchestra, is inspired by the music and thought of American composer Charles Ives. Brendan writes:
The theme of this concert is “Question and Answers.” As a composer, I am constantly asking myself the question “Who I am I as a composer?” Music is often categorized as classical, pop, rock etc. and there are many subcategories, but as composers we ask ourselves questions like, “Which genres do I want my music to fit into and to what degree?” “What genres do I want to react against?” and “Do I even care how my music is categorized?” Charles Ives was not afraid to blur the line between genres. One characteristic of Ives’s music I find intriguing is how he uses groups of instruments as characters that interact with each other in surprising ways. His The Unanswered Question is a great example of this. The winds, strings, and solo trumpet each represent their own characters and each unapologetically stick to their character as the other characters interrupt. The trumpet is the question; it asks the question of existence and the winds try to answer. In my composition, Unquestioned, this idea of juxtaposed characters appears in the first movement. There is a rhythmically active syncopated idea occasionally interrupted by a schmaltzy triple meter dance. The second movement is inspired by Ives’s harmonic language and transcendentalist ideas.
About the composer
Composer and clarinetist Brendan McMullen (b.1994) holds a BM degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music where his primary teachers where Anthony Brandt, Karim Al-Zand, Richard Lavenda, and Shih-Hui Chen. Brendan is an alumnus of Roosevelt High School and the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra. He studied for three years in the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop of the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Composer in Residence Samuel Jones. He was a New Music Workshop Fellow at the 2013 Norfolk New Music Workshop with Martin Bresnick. In 2014, Brendan studied with Steven Stucky, George Tsontakis, and Sydney Hodkinson as a Composition Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School. He has attended the HighSCORE Contemporary Music Festival in Pavia, Italy twice, and Music Composition at FUBiS in Berlin with Samuel Adler. Upon graduating Rice, Brendan was awarded the Farb Family Award for Outstanding Achievement. He has presented in master classes with John Adams, Gabrielle Lena Frank, Brett Dean, and John Corigliano. His music has been performed in the United States, Germany, Luxembourg, and Italy.
Find out more about Brendan McMullen at brendanmcmullencomposer.com