Exceprts from an interview with Emily Mendel. Her review of “Octet” is here.
On the human voice:
“I was the stereotypical music nerd in my Lakewood, Ohio high School. I was in the marching band, the barbershop quartet, the jazz band. I was in so many vocal groups—- the chamber choir, the symphonic choir, jazz choir and barbershop quartet. I was immersing myself in music.”
“I love writing for the human voice. It’s my favorite instrument. Because of my high school experience, I was exposed to so many kinds of singing. When I started “Octet” in a church basement, about a 12-step meeting like an AA meeting, of course there couldn’t be a band in the corner there. These eight people are coming together to share their stories and to be vulnerable with each other. One of the things about the group is that they are anonymous. The music had to come from these eight people coming together. When I realized that, I thought ‘This is great.’ It was such fun for me as a composer to indulge in different vocal styles that I’ve loved over the years.”
On the toxicity of the internet:
“I realized that I was spending too much time on my phone. A lot of people were talking about that ‘I’m feeling like I’m mindlessly looking at screens and scrolling all the time and playing video games.’ The doorway into it for me was I got involved in following intelligent design debates online for some reason — I got obsessed looking at science forums — watching arguments between creationists and scientists. The way that the discourse unraveled online and I found that fascinating. There is a piece of “Octet” that takes that as a starting place. From there I went off into how damaging and toxic discourse online can be for people in general.”
“I became a big video game addict. During COVID time, I played “World of Warcraft” socially with friends. I had a “Candy Crush: addiction. I’m a junkie for the Saturday New York Times puzzle, “Wordle,” and the “Spelling Bee.” So fun.
“Crosswords are OK. They are complete-able. One per day and you’re done. “Candy Crush” and “Cookie Clicker” have no end and you can play them for the rest of your life. The mindless repetitive activities are dangerous.”
“I’m not a luddite and think we should all get offline. The show tries hard not to be prescriptive, but just make people aware of the harm it could be doing.”