beautiful // fragment (2007)


beautiful // fragment is about the Challenger disaster of 1986, but it is also about how this event became, for many people, enfolded into other, more personal memories,
especially those of a confusing or unresolved nature. Most of the stories meditated upon here are shattered fragments, glittering and intense, beautiful and terrifying. In many cases, we cannot tell which of these memories are fiction, which are real, and which are a bizarre combination of both.

Most of us experienced this disaster through the strange and vivid temporalities of the television. The just-destroyed shuttle would reappear like new, only to be destroyed all over again. The flashes of light and debris, repeated over and over again, would re-comprise and re-cohere, like a resplendent and dazzling fireworks show. Images of the teacher in space would flash and disappear, then reappear again as we flipped through the channels, her kind smile tricking us into believing she still existed, that she hadn’t fallen apart.

In a way, this piece was composed by a child. I put it together using the same techniques I employed as an overly emotional kid in the suburbs, sitting alone in my room with my Casio keyboard and my cassette tape recorder, creating collages of my experiences, building a swirling yet entirely solitary musical space in which to stash memories and emotions for which I had no words.

Many thanks to Janet McKay, and to those who shared their stories with me.

October 23, 2007 (premiere): Janet McKay, Sydney Conservatory of Music, Sydney, Australia
December 11, 2007: Janet McKay, Sydney Conservatory of Music, Australia
May 18, 2008: Jessica Schmitz, Roulette, New York City
May 20, 2008: Jessica Schmitz, The Flea Theatre, New York City
March 26, 2009: Janet McKay, Meridian Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
March 29, 2009: Janet McKay, Dougherty Arts Center, Austin, TX
April 5, 2009: Janet McKay, Heaven Gallery, Chicago, IL
April 8, 2009: Janet McKay, The Tank, New York City
November 8, 2012: Janet McKay, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

Finalist, 2008 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards