percussion duo, string quartet, and narrator

Memoir is a 75-minute music/theatrical work for narrator, string quartet and percussion duo based on the unpublished memoir written by my mother — Elaine Mackey.

Elaine bore witness to the tumultuous 20th Century – The Great Depression, WWII, while battling endemic personal challenges like social anxiety, divorce, and alcoholism. It is an extraordinary story of an ordinary life, and she speaks with disarming candor about her experiences.

The narrator speaks my mother’s words and at times inhabits the character as an actor in a play would. However, as director Mark DeChiazza points out, “the narrator is also like the other musicians with whom she shares the stage. The memoir’s text is her orchestral part, the narration another instrument in the mix, its rhythms and tones, energies and emotions weaving into the aggregate whole that comprises Mackey’s reckoning with his mother’s story. The text of Elaine’s memoir, and its photos and memorabilia too, provide Mackey his point of entry—a portal through which he conducts a musical conversation with his mother, his engagement with the document she left him imaginative perspectives on her, their relationship, and ultimately himself. “

The challenge for me as a composer was to provide a musical language that would be sympathetic to my mother’s guileless reflections while being true to my current musical preoccupations and aspirations – something lyrical and expressively direct but still quirky and with surprises. I was particularly interested in playing with the counterpoint between diegetic sounds – train whistles, mimeograph machines, etc. – and the more abstract music tracing an internal psychological and emotional arc. Weaved into this dialogue are references to some of the music she loved to sing, particularly Night and Day.