Going to high school in New York City in the late '90s, hip-hop pervaded my life. The first hip-hop album I remember owning was Wycleaf Jean's The Carnival. At the time, I was drawn as much to the skits and to the burnished string arrangements as I was to Clef's rhymes and the album's eclectic beats. As I grew up, I mapped an erratic trajectory through the history of the genre, internalizing Lauryn Hill, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Biggie, Busta Rhymes, Dead Prez, Blackstar, Tribe Called Quest, Common, CL Smooth and Pete Rock, Old Dirty Bastard, Souls of Mischief, and many more. All this time, the hip-hop I was listening to rarely made it into the music I was writing.
As I set out to compose Cut Teeth, I made a conscious decision to use hip-hop as a springboard. Instead of attempting surface imitation or homage, I decided instead to isolate a handful of technical characteristics that define hip-hop as a genre, and zoom in extremely close on them. The main formal element that I chose to borrow is the beat - a rhythmic ordering of elements within a temporal box, which is repeated and altered. On top of the beat structure, I applied a concept of scratching borrowed from hip-hop turntablism, jump-cutting around the underlying beat structure as if it were a physical medium. This is not hip-hop, nor should it be; all I have done is open a window onto my creative process, letting in a light source that had been burning there all along.
Cut Teeth was premiered by loadbang (Jeff Gavett, Andy Kozar, Carlos Cordeiro, and Will Lang) at the National Opera Center in New York on March 13th, 2016