In late 2009, weighing just over 30 stone, I remember watching plaintively an episode of Mad Men, wondering why I didn’t look like John Ham. How had it come to be that I had eaten myself outside of the human race? Sitting alone in my tiny flat, an agoraphobic surrounded by chocolate wrappers and overflowing ashtrays – I had let myself become a monster.
I resolved finally to do something about it – I combed my hair, I wore cologne, I grew a full beard and I started to diet.
That’s what this piece was to be about – a heroic journey to redemption; but as I set about writing, I could not ignore that while presently my life is getting and better and better, in a global political, economic and ecological context, events seem to be spiralling ever downwards.
It seems the world cannot shake itself from being in the thrall of the charismatic bully. Toxic masculinity unfettered, making a virtue of cruelty. And so, the piece follows a narrative that depicts my journey whilst mindful of my responsibility that as I recover I should do all I can to practice kindness and to not let the bullies win.
Monster is in six movements and lasts approx. 30 minutes – Below are titles and thoughts that connect me to the music.
1) Thank you, Mad Men!
I lost 8 stone in the first year! (put some back again, then lost some again – it is a journey)
2) Gradus ad Parnassum
If I stick by this and get thin, life will be fixed – what would a happy life be like?
3) March of the Trumphant
Here they come, those mediocre men made terrifying, still, they won’t win will they?
4) I can dance now!
Here I am at Sleazy’s making some moves in my smaller body – what happens if I ask a girl to dance?
5) When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall
As I surprisingly manage to reach my 40s, the generation above me take the ladder with them.
6) They’re Still Winning.
Trumps still in power and Brexit is still happening, and I am still fat -but I am thinner, and the opposition is growing.
This piece is written for the amazing Ensemble Klang, musicians and friends I have known since my days as a student in The Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, back at the turn of the millennium. It has been a wonderful opportunity to work with them again, and I am in awe of their commitment and excellence as pioneers of new music.
Tonight marks my last year as composer in residence at Sound festival which has been an absolutely fantastic opportunity for me. To have had the last couple of years to be able to focus continually on working on significant pieces for exceptional performers, combined with working with the young talent in the north east has been a profound and life changing experience for me and now I move on from my role with new confidence and inspiration as a composer living in and being part of Scotland’s cultural life.
- 3 Nov 2018
- 3 Nov 2018, sound Festival, Aberdeen (UK)
John de Simone
John De Simone (1974, Aylesbury, England) is a Glasgow based composer, educator and researcher. He studied postgraduate composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Conservatoire The Hague where he graduated with distinction. He gained his PhD from the University of St Andrews and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2010, where he is currently the Research and Knowledge Exchange Development Officer.
He has enjoyed regular commissions throughout his career and has written for numerous groups including the BBC SSO, The Edinburgh Quartet, Red Note Ensemble, Aurelia Sax Quartet, the Mondriaan String Quartet, Percussion Group The Hague, Ensemble Klang and the New Juilliard Ensemble. His music has been performed in several major festivals including, Verona Risuona, FUSELeeds, BBC Tectonics, Spitalfields, Gaudeamus and Gothenberg GAS festival.
He also enjoys interdisciplinary collaboration and his work with Fish and Game on Alma Mater received international acclaim and coverage as the world’s first piece of iPad theatre, and it went on to tour internationally from London to Melbourne.
He is currently director of Ensemble Thing, which he founded in 2004 which has become one of the most unique leading new music groups in Scotland, having performed internationally, commissioned a great deal of new work and received wide critical acclaim.