Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Michael Torke Being (Ecstatic Records)
Michael Torke loves to work. That's what he's discovered about himself during the global pandemic. He's completed one new recording, titled, Being, and he has a second all composed and ready to go. What's really charging Torke's creative batteries is embracing a style of music he's unfamiliar with. Last year it was bluegrass.
"And this year it's a branch of EDM, (Electronic Dance Music), called Melodic Progressive — I knew nothing about it, studied it, and then tried to absorb it, imposing my own structural and stylistic concerns on it.
And I kind of came away with both of those experiences thinking that it's in the misunderstanding of the form that I'm studying. Where. How do you say it? The art happens. The magic happens, or some kind of weird unintended result happens.
I misunderstand these things, but it sparks something kind of like dusting the cobwebs away of the imagination and and to ... through that misunderstanding, something else happens.
The challenge was, could you write a 43 minute piece of music all in one tempo, and if you did that, how would you keep ... How would you sustain interest? And so that was the basic challenge. In fact, when you look at the C.D., there are nine tracks because I call it nine parts, but it's a seamless experience. And I had even thought about releasing it as all one track. So it would force the listener to have to go from beginning to end if they were ever going to embrace that. I thought, well, maybe that was too much.
When I studied melodic progressive, I would go to YouTube and hear these mixes that would last for two hours. I got the feeling that, you know, this is your 14 -year-old son who's socially ill at ease with himself, pimples on his face, doing his homework. That kind of image of using music as kind of background to other activities.
Of course, seems counterintuitive for a classical composer to say that when we want to throttle and get the listener's attention front and center. I like the idea of music having a kind of use value beside any kind of artistic claims it might think it has."
Tell me about the title. Where did the title Being come from?
"I feel that this music is meant to bring some kind of lifting of the spirit. I thought that if it does lift our spirits in the way that my idea of existentialism gives meaning to my life, I thought about the two most important pieces in the literature, Heidegger's Being and Time and Sartre's Being and Nothingness. And if you can track those two titles, you get 'being.' So that was going to be my inside joke. But now I've shared it with your listeners.
One tradition of being creative is to bring out your personal feelings about things. The other idea is when I'm in my car trying to get out of the house during COVID-19 and I'm driving into the desert and I'd put on Bach and I suddenly feel better. It's like I took medicine. And I've always admired that. And I thought, 'could I write some music that would just lift the spirit?' Again, I can't make any claims, but to the extent that Bach, you know, can lift the spirit, that is the far away goal that I'm aiming for."
Losing yourself in some uplifting music, with the help of Michael Torke, on his new recording — Being.
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.