Senior composition recital lends sound to setting, literal and literary


By Katrina Staaf /// Arts Editor

Last Friday night, David Salkowski (’14) watched over a diverse array of fellow student musicians (and a few faculty members) as they performed his compositions in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel. This piece—featuring Salkowski on euphonium—conveyed his interpretations of three literary figures from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The fatally seductive Joelle van Dyne was characterized by haunting harmonization of viola and violin. Unredeemable Randy Lenz came to life from ominous, dynamic interplay between bassoon, flute and saxophone.

As the saxophone suddenly boomed, this paradoxically melodic cacophony became a dissonant duel between tubas and euphoniums. The noisy transition corresponded to a climactic moment of the novel, in which a crazed individual angrily confronts Don Gately. Salkowski recognized, but also challenged the limitations of transforming more than 1,000 pages of writing into a few minutes of music. “Though it is impossible to compress the plot or ideas of the novel into such a brief suite, this is my attempt to sketch a few of its rich characters,” Salkowski explained.

“Ennet House Sketches” was one of four pieces that comprised Salkowski’s eclectic recital. “Where One Starts” aptly began the performance, seeking to recalibrate T.S. Eliot’s “East Coker.” “Two Streets From the Capitals” musicalized one street in Moscow and another in St. Petersburg, as experienced by Salkowski during his travels abroad. An element of literary influence returned on “Three Songs of the Sky,” which ended the night by unexpectedly linking a Biblical psalm to two poems.

Salkowski’s recital—appropriately titled Let Us Compare Mythologies—was the first of this month’s senior composition performances. Alex Koehler presented his pieces on April 6, and Brandon Becker’s showcase is set for April 13.

Katrina Staaf enjoys writing about various forms of artistic expression. She is editor-in-chief of The Umbrella and contributes diverse content to the website of Lewis & Clark College.

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