for brass quintet (2013)

Score and Parts

by Jeremy Howard Beck


SKU: JHB-CM004 Category: Tags: , , , ,




4 min


Commissioned by Gaudete Brass in celebration of JOHN CORIGLIANO's 75th birthday


Program Notes

This is the first piece in which I have specifically set out to capture the common autistic experience of being overstimulated—i.e. sensory overload. I was riding the Long Island Rail Road into and out of Manhattan a lot, and the people on the (often standing room-only) trains were making a lot of noise. I was tired and under a lot of stress, and I couldn’t tune it out; every sound, no matter how loud or quiet or close or far away, was part of an equal, uniform, monolithic foreground. (Phil Spector’s idea of a “wall of sound” actually isn’t far off the mark.)

In an effort to drown it all out—to distract myself and prevent the involuntary, unpleasant withdrawal that autistic adults call “shutdowns,” I took to soundtracking my train rides with the loudest, most attention-grabbing music I could find. That turned out to be Squarepusher: insanely fast, hyperactive drum-and-bass electronic music. That music’s frenetic activity, pitted against the sonic chaos outside my headphones, was the inspiration for this piece, along with an eerily relevant quote from George Eliot’s (a.k.a Mary Anne Evans) Middlemarch that gave me the title:

“If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.”

–Jeremy Howard Beck