How do you feel when you hear the word clinic?
That word claims the title of John Reed’s poem, which I’ve set to music here. To me, clinics are a fascinating juxtaposition of order and chaos—they seem to function as if all goes according to plan, all the time, but below the surface is a team of professionals and patients alike struggling to cope with frequently life-altering circumstances. Whether you’re going in for a physical, a mental health appointment, or surgery, like Reed’s poem alludes to, clinics are severe and sterile and often a little unsettling.
As I wrote all in a row. I worked to evoke that feeling of never quite being settled. Motives that are introduced early on rework themselves until they appear completely altered and almost incomprehensible. For the most part, I left Reed’s text untouched, save the variations on “square white cells, all in a row” that run throughout the piece. It is my hope that performances of all in a row. leave listeners slightly disoriented and just a little bit concerned.
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Listen to this recording of all in a row. as recorded at CalArts on May 7, 2018 (Fahad Siadat, conductor):