Compositional and performance music majors at Southern Oregon University must hold a senior recital as part of their final project, but Tye Austin wanted to offer more to the audience than just pretty music.
As a result, Austin's recital is a dark, emotional, six-piece program that includes a movement dedicated to the family of David Michael Grubbs, who was murdered on the Central Ashland Bike Path on Nov. 19, 2011.
"I decided to dedicate the piece to offer some kind of sense of comfort," said Austin, "for not only his family but also for David, wherever he is. I don't know if he can hear it or not, but just so he knows we haven't forgotten about him and people aren't just going back to work like business as usual."
The piece dedicated to Grubbs is called Song Cycle No. 2 in A Minor, Opus 27 Movement 1 ("Into Your Hands We Commend His Spirit"). The recital will begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the SOU Recital Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd. The concert is free.
Austin, who has been composing for a year, started studying music three years ago. Organizing 33 musicians to play in the recital hasn't been easy, he said.
The orchestra will play four of Austin's compositions before performing the piece written for Grubbs.
"It's been probably the most exciting and discouraging project I've worked on," said Austin. "I always dreamed that the hardest part would be composing the music, but it's actually arranging the components."
The Grubbs piece was commissioned by Ashland resident Daniel Murphy, a supporter of Austin's music who was deeply touched by the murder.
"Dan is a community member who was strongly affected," said Austin. "He actually put a compilation of letters and condolences together and put them in a basket he delivered to the Grubbses."
Around that time, Murphy developed the poem that is sung in the recital, which was adapted from a Bible verse in the book of Isaiah.
"The lyrics are meant to depict the crucifixion of Christ in parallel to Grubbs' death," said Austin. "It's kind of an intimate, interpersonal connection intended for the family."
The main motivation for composing the piece was to offer condolences and empathy to the family, Austin said, but while doing some research about David Grubbs, he learned Grubbs was a musician himself, which inspired Austin even more.
"Once I learned he was a musician, it struck me on a more personal note," said Austin. "I felt it was my duty to compose a requiem. I'm somewhat of a classicist, and it is a very respectful and honorable act for a musician to write a piece in commemoration of another's life."
The sound is a little dark, said Austin. It starts in A minor, which Austin calls "the darkest of all keys," then a soprano who is meant to represent Grubbs' mother sings, "My God, why have you forsaken him? Why have you allowed this to happen?"
Later in the composition, bass vocals are coupled with upright bass instrumentation, which is meant to represent Grubbs and his father. Austin uses the bass to represent Grubbs, because Grubbs played double bass with the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon.
Before the performance, Austin said, he reached out to the Grubbses and asked for their permission.
"They were really touched and really moved," said Austin. "They said they would send it out to their family members and get all of David's close friends to attend the event.
"For me as a musician, I would really appreciate it if one of my contemporaries in music composed a piece for me," said Austin. "So this was my muse."
Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at email@example.com.