In the fall of 2012, I started thinking about something broader in terms of compositional expression. After spending over 4 years writing a biopic screenplay about German mathematician Georg Cantor, and struggling (to this day) to get it produced, I was ready to transition back to music, so it wasnâ€™t surprising that the scope of my intentions was still grandiose.
However, more than once I fell flat on my face, and I seriously considered abandoning this project. A symphony was too imposing, too overwhelming to write and I was placing unrealistic expectations on myself, letting it define my identity. So I let it go, leaving that seed on dry ground. I walked away but it wasnâ€™t long before God watered that barren soil, and something organic began to sprout: this time, it wasnâ€™t up to me. I could only take a step at a time in His stepsâ€¦so I did.
For the next 9 months, I disciplined myself to compose a little every day, before I went into my graveyard-shift job, only to stumble home at 7am to sleep, and then awake in the early afternoon and start all over again. The silver lining was that I was only working 3 or 4 days a week, and that extra day or two not only assisted my tired body, but provided rest for my cloudy brain.
Along the journey, I would consult my mother Laura and my wife Lindy about which way to follow the melody. From mom, I gained insight into structure and pacing, and from Lindy, a general overview from an audienceâ€™s perspective. These women were so patient with me as I edited and editedâ€¦and edited. In fact, there is enough material from what I edited out for an entire second symphony!
Somewhere around the end of spring 2013, when I had reached the peak of The Summit, I started the second leg of the expedition, which was to get critiques and find an orchestrator. So I emailed a few people I knew, and their comments were encouraging and wise. Then, the wonderful Tom Jennings at Redeemer suggested three people to connect with, one of whom was Andrés Soto, the arranger and orchestrator of The Summit.
Andrés and I took a walk around Madison Square Park on a cold day in the fall of 2013 and I felt a new excitement at this collaboration. Heâ€™s not only a talented composer with a masterâ€™s degree in composition from NYU, but he shares a similar compositional sentiment and was able to accurately interpret my vision for the piece, making it ever stronger via his edits and minor changes.
For over a year, we collaborated on the arrangement and articulations of the score, meeting occasionally to attend a concert or opera. Iâ€™m thankful for this slow burn, as it gave him time to live with the piece and solve all of its riddles, many of which are likely due to my childish whims and fancies, which perpetually need reigning in.
During this time, I was also in talks with my friend, the brilliant conductor Harrison Hollingsworth, who was finally hired to conduct the recording session. I cannot express my gratitude that the baton was under his hand, for the result was more than I could have hoped for. I was also insanely fortunate to work with the session musicians, notably harpist Bridget Kibbey, concertmaster Jiwon Kim, flautist Julietta Curenton, and percussionist Michael Truesdell. I could go on listing names!
The final step, and a very important one, was the addition of producer and orchestrator Mitchell McCarthy. He went back to my originals and tried to find a balance between that and the version Andrés and I had hashed out. The result was a score that made sense for a 54- piece orchestra and retained the spirit of my original virtual mock-up. Iâ€™m very pleased with the realization of this effort, and Iâ€™m excited to continue to grow as a composer.
Iâ€™m currently writing an opera about Gudrid ThorbjarnardÃ³ttir, the amazing Norse woman whose life inspires me on a profound level. I also recently completed the score for the 4th feature film collaboration with my brother Eric, entitled Theosis, due in theatres late 2016.
A final word of thanks to our mixer Myles Rodenhouse, of Douglass Street Records. Thank you for making The Summit sound like my dreams!
Jeffrey Leiser, September 2015, New York City