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Behind the Wallpaper: For Voice, String Quartet & Electronics

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Behind the Wallpaper was written for Julia Holter and Spektral Quartet in 2014–15, expanding on a four-song cycle of the same name from 2013. It was premiered on February 23, 2015 at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul, MN, as part of the Liquid Music Series. The piece tells the story of someone undergoing a mysterious transformation and ultimately finding a home in another world, superimposed on our own but invisible to the uninitiated. Many of the dreamlike images in the songs were inspired by my experience with gender transition, but my hope is that the story will feel familiar to anyone who has ever felt alienated from the broader culture. I wrote Behind the Wallpaper with the specific qualities of Julia Holter’svoice in mind. Her singing is quiet, meant for amplification, and largely vibratoless. She also pronounces words the way they’re pronounced in everyday speech, rather than attempting to formalize or “purify” the English language. If another singer performs the piece, it’s essential that the songs retain this informal, speech-like character. This score is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license. This means that other composers may quote the piece or create derivative works, as long as they credit Alex Temple for the original work, do not use their new creations commercially, and license them under identical terms.

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  • 02/02/2018
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