Words by Alexander Thomson
Composition student Bolden Hicks (19) will premiere his new piece, Symphony No. 1: The Universe, this Saturday, 8 pm, at Ruby Diamond Concert Hall. According to Hicks, The Universe contains within its three movements “Everything about the universe that there is to know” and will attempt to address some of mankind’s most profound questions, such as, “Where did we come from?” “What is the meaning of life?” and “What is consciousness?” The three-hour-long work is scored for concert band—the only ensemble capable of handling such cerebral, philosophical material. This ambitious project is the third major work that Hicks has produced this year, coming hot on the heels of his earlier reflection, Variations on Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
Hicks’s inspiration for the piece is ostensibly derived from his experience of pain and injustice in the world, such as when “Steve Carell left The Office” and how “Apple keeps changing the size of its MacBook charger.” According to Hicks, these experiences deeply troubled him as a young man living in a posh, suburban household, so they very naturally and ultimately led to his seeking refuge in the dark, brooding corner of adolescent artistry. Bolden’s mother provides a different explanation: “At the root of little Bolden’s character has always been an insecure need to be profound and to attract attention, and art—composition—provides him that opportunity. He really is a sweet boy, though, if you can get past all the noise.”
Investigative reporter Ryan Smith, while sitting in on rehearsal last week, reports that “Hicks delves so deeply into the idea of the subconscious that during the third movement, I found myself slipping into a semiconscious state.” Smith also reports, “I must admit, I expected my ears to be assaulted by an onslaught of mind-numbingly-repetitive ostinatos and by an indiscriminate usage of fortissimo; what I didn’t expect, however, was for Hicks to employ these artistic flourishes with such nuanced purpose. What better way to convey the infinite expanse and incomprehensibility of the universe than through music that seems to never end and that exceeds the very human capacity for understanding? The piece starts with a Big Bang, and by the end, if you manage to salvage your sanity, you will never again feel as fortunate to be alive.”
About the composer: Hicks is a current undergraduate composition student at Florida State University where he uniquely aspires to be the next Eric Whitacre. He is reported to have already begun work on his next piece entitled Fire and Ice (because elemental subject matters are certainly not seen coming from literally every composition student everywhere). He hopes to change the world through music and one day bring about world peace—but not for selfish reasons, of course.