Me Hollywood consists of songs composed by Leith over the course of four years. After composing these pieces, Leith then gave the Explore Ensemble the task of executing and actualizing his pieces; in his own words, "...my music [was] in their fingers..."
Leith, when discussing his process, notes the importance of 'something.' What this 'something' refers to is just as indeterminate as one would expect. When constructing a piece, Leith continues to play and tinker with it until he feels 'something.' A sequence, note, or track, possesses this 'something' insofar as it can be listened to perpetually and does not become tiresome. The importance of this 'something' is evidenced by the fact that it even figures into the song titles themselves. Leith's titles reflect the images that pop into Leith's head concurrently as that sensation of 'something' is felt. Here we come to Me Hollywood. Regarding the composition, Leith imagines a willing Trueman. That is, someone who regards their life as being deserving of a film. So, they pay for a score of their life to be produced. As the album progresses, however, one begins to wonder what sort of person this patron is. We'll come back to this.
The eponymous track "Me Hollywood" commences the album. Speaking further on the 'something' that engendered Me Hollywood, Leith said that they imagined a patron who "...is hoping, or knows even, that the music will elevate each banal gesture." In accordance with this, the beginning of "Me Hollywood" is marked by the sounds of pouring and the resonance of several glasses; the patron is hosting some unremarkable event. Keys and strings slowly emerge and begin to enhance these banal sounds. Strings morph from staccato assertions to elongated and prolonged arguments whilst being underscored by adroitly placed chords. This musical milieu, however, does not last. Distorted murmurs and pining strings ooze into the fore, whilst atonal keys occasionally splutter in the distance. This then leads to some saccharine sounding keys and strings, which all come together to form a sickly-sweet sonic soup, maybe to distract us from the sonic quagmire that just preceded it. The track then traipses toward a cathartic apotheosis, where shrieking strings underpin layers of virulent keys spurting polyrhythmic sequences. Did I forget to mention that all this clamor is simply to score the patron's shower? This is the first clue that the tone of this score, and perhaps the character of the patron, is not as sincere as one first thought.
We then have "Grinding bust turning," which provides a brief moment of sonic reprieve. Harmonic strings escort us in, whilst jubilant keys provide a playful yet sturdy musical framework. The two sonic modalities converse and elide for minutes, consistently striking up moments of rapport.
Then "664 love songs guaranteed to cure heartache" follows, which consists of three movements. The first movement is typified by monolithic orchestral swells, which are concluded by discordant string crescendos noising their truth. In the second movement, we hear individual instruments break out into their mutated calls, like birdsong from some dystopian world. Pusillanimous instrumentation and fractious scales dart in and out of ear shot. The final sequence continues this sense of sonic disquiet: haunting drones are attuned by the occasional fasciculations of woodwind instrumentation. Dissonant swells envelop the mix like a primordial miasma. Again, at this point one begins to question precisely who and what this patron is. Are they someone whose troubled life is being accurately reflected in the score? Or are they some self-aggrandizing individual who wants to overstate and overplay the importance and difficulty of their life?
The final track, "Balloon," is also formed of three discrete movements. Much like before, the first two movements play with the dissonance / harmony binary. "Balloon" treads the line between harmony and acrimony, dipping its toes into these notions only for brief moments at a time. Strings modulate between flourishing movements and souring scales as the tempo gradually slows to total silence. The third movement marks a moment of total cohesion, with movements that are tokens of sonic serenity. This conclusion is a puzzling one when we entertain the questions regarding the character of the patron once again.
My hunch is that the patron is a bit like Damon Albarn's "charmless man." As Leith said, the patron thinks that "[F]ilms will eventually be made about him, so he's just making it happen now, his life is filmic, it just needs a score, he drinks, he sings, he plays the piano, he cares for his guinea pigs." The score belies the actual character of the patron, who is dull and unremarkable. Unlike the patron, however, the music is charismatic and captivating. The Explore Ensemble plays with a consummate ease, providing an appropriate stage for Leith's pieces to be realized. Me Hollywood represents a fantastic intersection between vision and technique, ideas and deeds. I certainly felt 'something.'
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