Shawn Lucas – Rhinoceros

For one reason or another, the title my my new work (The Rhinoceros) reminds me of a movement from the Bartók Sonatina called “Bear Dance”. It comes from a reoccurring dream I had around four years ago, which was marked by the sudden emergence of a giant rhinoceros. In my piece, the rhinoceros is not transmitted by any vivid sonic representation, but exists more as a psychological realization which fueled a desire to compose. It lives as a shadow, existing but never tangible.

Initially I wrote very freely with a lot of improvisation and experimenting with extreme guitar scordaturas. I was completely liberated from any structural or “pre-composed” restraints. For me, the most arduous task of creating a piece of music is coming to terms with a structural hierarchy. My initial stages of writing do move toward certain goals, such as achieving specific timbral effects or defining a system of pitches for a scordatura, but these are nonetheless short term ideas and not yet integrated in a larger vision. The incredible volume of sounds and ideas at my disposal can make me feel like a kid exploring an endless jungle gym filled with any variation of structures in which to climb, which, at certain times, threaten to become a field littered with traps and landmines, leaving me with only instinctual methods to detect the danger ahead.

Understanding why I make certain creative choices has become just as important to my compositional abilities as analyzing The Well Tempered Clavier for my early studies of counterpoint. My frustration, in hindsight, has provided magnificent perspective and cleared a path which may have been otherwise impossible to navigate.