Improvised Choral Music

In 2004 a close friend, Mary Porcari, passed away of ovarian cancer. In my grief I contemplated writing a requiem for her, but as I sat before pages of empty staves I found my mind devoid of music. Instead, I opened a simple mixing program on my computer and, with the Latin text in front of me, improvised the full mass at one sitting. I later transcribed the piece, which received its world premiere performance in Mary’s honor at Grace Church in Amherst, Massachusetts on November 5 of the following year. I have since continued to compose choral music in this same way, letting each text guide me where it will. Because this music is straight from the heart, it inevitably has drawn from much of what I listen to daily. In this regard the music of Arvo Pärt and the performance style of the Hilliard Ensemble have been undoubtable inspirations. I have recently created a MySpace page where one can hear my music, unrefined as it is. Seeing as it would not exist without ECM’s vital presence in my listening life, I felt it appropriate to post here.

Incidentally, Grady Harp has been kind enough to share the following thoughts on my music:

It seems close to impossible to believe that the music of Tyran Grillo is limited to his MySpace blog site.  Happening onto this music was almost an accidental discovery.  This is music that travels direct from one man’s heart and soul into the manipulation of sound and space that weds to some of the most exquisite, ethereal otherness this listener has experienced.  Apparently Grillo’s only instrument is his voice and he records directly into the computer without first writing notes on a staff of music paper or recreating the sounds in a way that other musicians can perform them.  According to the composer these ‘melodies’ came out of an experience of loss of a loved one, and if that is the fact then we have in our midst a man who has an incredible future should he decide to transform his vocal manipulations of his own voice (a voice that comfortably rings through a wide range) into performable format.

To this point there are ten compositions at his site: Magnificat, Stabat Mater I, II, and III, Rorate Coeli, Kyrie eleison, Officium, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Lacrimosa.  If pushed to the book of category these works are related to chants, but not the medieval chants that have lasted through the centuries and are heard at high holy days. No, these harmonies are very informed by Eastern music: some of these sound like mystical choirs hovering in the past of Egypt or Greece.  The lines do not repeat but instead hang in the air like vaporous transient clouds, like the afterburn of incense.  They are holy, they are sacred, they are from somewhere we have not been – except inside our souls.

This is important music, not a compilation of distant memories from other times, but very original murmurs of the heart.  I can only urge listeners to become acquainted with this work.  Hopefully someone will fund the production of this music on CDs so that more people can be transformed by this magic.