Skip to page content

NCI 2020: Bethany Younge's At Midnight I Walked into the Middle of the Desert

Watch & Listen

In the LA Phil’s National Composers Intensive, new music composers and performers guide a group of emerging U.S. composers through the process of creating new work, from genesis to performance.

Note from the composer

Originally written for TAK ensemble (soprano, flute, bass clarinet, violin, and percussion), At Midnight I Walked into the Middle of the Desert uses text written by ensemble members Marina Kifferstein, Charlotte Mundy, and Laura Cocks. I originally sent members of TAK a fictional world from which a sonic landscape would eventually emerge. I then asked them to imagine themselves in this world and then send me two memories that surface, one false, one true, without telling me which one is which. I chose one of each of their memories and used them as the primary text for the piece. From there, I then made an audio mockup for how I imagined the recorded text being spoken. Mundy, the soprano, reinvisioned my mockup with her own unique intonation.

In this version for solo percussionist, the recorded voices are not embedded within the sound world of an instrumental ensemble, but are rather a structural framework within which the percussionist conveys a feral and tempestuous energy. The percussionist remains close to the instruments with very few opportunities for the mallets to act as a distancing and objectifying force. The hands of the performer as well as the beans, marbles, and crotales invite the three drums to speak, blurring the lines between subject (the percussionist) and object (the materials). The body here only conjures sound—never dictates it—to then eventually dance itself into oblivion.