conspiracy theory was commissioned by & written for Joseph Swift.
conspiracy theory (noun): a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators
While its definition seems innocuous, the reality of living in a world in which truth and fiction, facts and lies, coexist within the beliefs of society as a whole is problematic. Most conspiracy theories are easily debunked, yet their implausible and unprovable ideas circulate wildly, amplified by social media algorithms, imprinting themselves on the belief systems of countless individuals. While some conspiracy theories are relatively harmless, others have recently proven to be quite dangerous when acted upon, both to those who believe them and to those who are standing in their way.
This piece is about the propagation of conspiracy theories and the obsession that many hold towards them. The music starts plainly, with a searching lyrical melody in the bassoon supported by calm repeated chords in the piano. Suddenly, a very pointed and dissonant gesture rings out from the piano, interrupting the serenity of the opening. Moments later, this same gesture infects the bassoon part, interrupting its plaintive melody. Unable to forget about this new idea, the music becomes increasingly desperate to return to the opening melody, but instead surges forward, doubling in speed and becoming aggressive and rhythmic. As the two instruments continue to trade ideas, the aggression builds without an end in sight.
Another characteristic of conspiracy theory belief becomes apparent as the piece goes on - obsession. Small musical ideas keep on repeating and getting bigger, blown way out of proportion. Frequently, the music seems to get stuck on one of these ideas. Eventually, the chords from the opening force their way back into the piece, as an attempt to rejoin reality. Fragments of the lyrical melody return as well, but are now intermixed with the quicker and more aggressive musical ideas. Unable to return to reality, the music suddenly becomes expansive, with repeated chords in the piano obsessively ringing out, as all of the previous melodies and gestures take turns emerging and then being swallowed up again.
conspiracy theory is available for bassoon and piano, bass clarinet and piano, tenor saxophone and piano, and baritone saxophone and piano, and may be purchased at the bottom of this page.