A Young Composer Inspired by the 2017 One Book, One Philadelphia Selection

Feb 12, 2017

This year’s One Book, One Philadelphia features the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. There’s a musical analog to this imaginative tale; Curtis Institute of Music Post-Bacc composition student and Rhodes Scholar Nick DiBerardino read the book and conjured a piece for percussion. His composition "Homunculus" premiered on January 25th at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Parkway Central Library.

The Free Library of Philadelphia’s One Book, One Philadelphia reading project began Wednesday, January 25th, and again, a Curtis student has composed music for it. Prime numbers play a role in the music and the novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston has more.

Radio script:

Meridee Duddleston: A powerful image in the book triggered a composition for solo percussion by Nick DiBerardino.

[MUSIC: "Homunculus" by Nick DiBerardino]

Nick DiBerardino: Christopher, the main character, finds himself in a public place, and completely overwhelmed by the commotion and the noise and all of the other people, because he doesn’t really like to interact with people very much. It confuses him. And in order to kind of calm himself down, he decides to count through prime numbers.

MD: Christopher is a teenager who loves animals, recoils from human touch, and is gifted at math. DiBerardino used a slew of percussive instruments—gongs, blocks, triangles, a kick drum—to play off the prime numbers so important to this main character. His piece is called “Homunculus,” Latin for “little man,” but it also evokes a picture of how the brain moves parts of the body.

ND: That relates both to the book and my experience of reading the book as an experience of mind, and the limitations of mind, and getting into someone else’s mind, and also to the idea of this piece as a one-man band piece where there’s kind of a homunculus, the “little man” behind the machine operating all the different instruments.

MD: He wants audiences to experience a 21st-century version of the classical canon.

ND….where they won’t say ‘Oh, well that was kind of like Mozart, but not as good.’ I see our project as composers as trying move those style boundaries forward.