Swarm Collecting (world premiere, LA Phil commission with generous support from the Deborah Borda Women in the Arts Initiative)
“The collection of swarms is an important part of beekeeping. A significant number of non-beekeepers is frightened of insects and in particular a mass of several thousand of them. In 50 years of beekeeping, I have only ever come across about three swarms that have been aggressive; in general, they are very docile and easy to deal with.”
— David A. Cushman, beekeeper
As I began composing Swarm Collecting, I imagined blatty, low, slippery, and slightly amorphous yet rhythmically recognizable chorales; sound objects being passed by one group of instruments to another like a dance hastily taught. This image of instruments passing a message through a jerky dance reminded me of a book I read as a child at my grandparents’ cabin in northern Minnesota. It was a National Geographic kids book about bees and it described the “waggle dance” that bees perform to communicate the location of flowers to the rest of the hive. Like the bees, the instruments in my piece pass a message that changes in translation until the individuals and groups morph, merge, and congeal into one big, unwieldy swarm of sound.
— Sky Macklay