'Snikt, bub!' (2013) for piano quartet
‘Snikt, bub!’ is a nickname used by fans for the Marvel superhero Wolverine and this work is a sort-of- portrait of him. The piece was commissioned and premiered by Ensemble Made in Canada, so a logical subject for me was my favorite comic-book hero made in Canada. I’ve been a fan of the X-men and Wolverine since I was in middle school and, of course, Wolverine has since become one of the most recognizable and popular of all comic heros. One of the most enduring things about the character is the ever-present inner conflict between violent animal instinct and his humanity. We relate on some level to the traumatic damage in his past and dream of being able to heal and live on, seemingly forever, despite the specter of pain and loss that accompanies the fact of being alive. We envy his self-sure take-no-crap-from-anyone attitude and recognize all too well the sense of loneliness, hurt and ongoing search for his identity.(Who is he really?)
The piece, begins with a hunter stalking prey. The music pounds an incessant backbeat (an idea that came to me while listening to AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’.) Along the way moments of great violence lash out and our subject (in some ways personified by the cello) is thrown out of sort momentarily only to bounce back driving ever-more relentlessly forward. After inspired particularly from images in the Weapon X storyline from 1991 written by Barry Windsor-Smith. This story essentially revealed a huge aspect of Wolverine’s up- to-then mysterious past and this work recalls that in its own use of flashback. After a particularly violent climax there is a hazy memory of the World War I song ‘The Bells of Hell Go Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling’ which I read Wolverine singing once in a comic. This disoriented man-out-of-time quality is shortly recovered from and the hunt resumes.
For more information, see a keynote about the genesis of the piece here.
Concert by Ensemble Made in Canada including 'Snikt, Bub!'. Performance of this work begins at 18:00.