Duration c. 17 minutes Comissioned by Brianna Matzke for The Response Project. Premiered by Brianna Matzke, November 15, 2018, Woodward Theater, Cincinnati, OH.
(Performer: Brianna Matzke)
Junkyard Angel was composed for pianist Brianna Matzke’s Response Project “Something Is Happening Here,” in which several composers were asked to respond to a song from Bob Dylan’s epochal album “Highway 61 Revisited.” I chose the song “From a Buick 6,” a 12-bar blues I singled out for its punchy, unvarnished, relentless quality. After researching the genesis of the tune (loosely based on Sleepy John Estes’ “Milk Cow Blues,” recorded in 1930), I decided to write a set of variations on an original chord progression derived from standard blues progressions, albeit highly disguised and a bit quirky. The “Junkyard Angel” of the title refers not only to a line in the original song, but also to the idea of human experience being simultaneously corrosive and transcendent, a trope found in a great deal of the Beat literature which informed so much of Dylan’s own work. The headlong drive and raw aggression that fuel the bulk of Junkyard Angel may eventually give way to a more pristine music that ascends towards the ether, but not without a reminder of its initial grounding. Junkyard Angel was supported by a commission from The Response Project and a residency from The MacDowell Colony.