Katie Young on Master of Disguises

Nina Dante: You chose a very intriguing text for this piece- dark yet playful. Can you share with us why you chose this text, and how you used it to shape the piece?

Katherine Young: The text is from Kelly Link’s short story “The Girl Detective” from the collection Stranger Things Happened. I have been returning and re-returning to Links’ work ever since 2005, when I first came read her writing, and her words find there way into many of my titles and pieces, actually.

The excerpt I used for this piece hones in on one of the story’s themes: loss and looking for something you don’t necessarily expect to find. Stemming from this text, Master of Disguises explores process, searching, elusiveness and instability.

ND: To fit with the theme of our concert "singing instruments", you gave the singers tape recorders to "play". Why did you chose this electronic device as a musical instrument, and what role does it play in the piece?

KY: The singers play the cassette players much like they would a percussion instrument. The clicks and clacks of the buttons create rhythmic motives and little grooves. There are also a lot of meanings people can read into the anachronistic (if I can say that, Parlour Tapes+ cassette players that could add richness of the music.

ND: Have you written for the voice before? If so, how does this piece compare to other works you have written with voice? Has there been an evolution in style, and what sparked it? If you haven't, how did you develop this particular style of writing for the voice? Is it inspired by any outside elements/materials? And did your voice writing influence how you wrote for the clarinet and saxophone?

KY: I had written for voice just a little before starting this piece - mostly song form. For Master, I had a lot of fun finding sounds that created links between the physically very different sound sources of the voice, the cassette players, and the reeds. Some of the vocal sounds came from work Nina and I did early on. I asked her to read/sing some of the text in a way that imitated some reed extended techniques I’d worked out with Emily and Will. And then some sounds began with the tape players and infected the voice and instrumental materials. So once I found my materials, the process was not about “writing for the voice” versus “writing for winds,” but more about building a sound world that explored the poetics of the sounds and the text.