Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
James O. Welsch
Visual and Performing Arts
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Composition | Music | Other Music
The purpose of the project was to create a piece of music that transcended musical genres and told the story of my coming of age in the first decade of the 21st century. The work featured both original text and original music and culminates in a live performance of the work.
I wanted to tell a story. More specifically, I wanted to tell my story. The story of coming of age in the 21st century. I was 11 in the year 2000, I was 21 in 2010. My formative years correlate directly with the formative years of the 21st century. In this time, we’ve seen world first teeming with hope and optimism at the turn of the century. This optimism was quickly overcome by fear in September 2001. Since then we’ve seen a world marred by terrorism, wars, Hurricane Katrina, and other disasters, man-made and otherwise. Along with this, is my journey in understanding my own personal development, learning to deal with these issues and grappling with personal issues, including religion and personal relationships.
The central theme of the project became “How do we find beauty in a broken world?” This question became the focal point for the entire work. Throughout the twelve movements of the work, I explored my own experiences with the previous decade using a loose narrative structure. I reflected on very specific events, 9/11, my trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and watching war on television and counter them with abstract reflections. As the text progresses we move from questioning the world around me “I need to find a place of quiet contemplation/to stop the darker parts of my imagination” to an understanding, “we are the beauty we’ve been looking for”. To create the text, I worked closely with poet Linda Loomis, who helped me focus my thoughts and create a working framework for the project.
The music also represents a coming together of two sides of my musical personality. While at Syracuse University, I’ve studied the art of classical composition, writing music for string quartet, art songs, and various other chamber ensembles. This work has been strictly in the classical domain. Additionally, I’ve lived a secret double life as a singer/songwriter, a hobby of mine since my teenage years. This work allowed me to unify these split sides of my musical life, creating a work that challenges definition and moves beyond the limitations of genre. By moving beyond these predefined genres, I’ve pushed myself as a composer, forcing myself to think outside the predefined boxes of “classical” and “folk” and instead create a music that is true to myself and my influences. My advisor, James Welsch, was instrumental in helping me move beyond preconceived notions of what I thought the music “should” sound like and find a more unique style.
The final aspect of this project that really pushed my boundaries was the act of performing it myself. Since I began studying classical music, I’ve stopped performing. This project forced me to become a performer again, approaching music from a completely different angle than I had become used to. As part of this, I studied with voice professor, Jon English, who provided me with lessons to help build my vocal technique.
Writing New Horizons has pushed my limits as a composer, performer, and all around musician. It has forced me to think outside of the box musically and helped me redefine what I think I can and can’t do as an artist. Between collaboration with poets, professors, and fellow musicians, New Horizons has broadened my sensibilities as an artist, has introduced me to phenomenal artists in the Central New York area and has been an incredible learning experience.
Cresswell, Chris, "New Horizons: A Folk Song Cycle" (2011). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 201.
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