By Alyssa Pry
Michael Markowski is a newly-christened Brooklynnite. “I’ve gotta relearn how to live here,” he joked in a recent phone interview. But while he may be a newcomer to the neighborhood, Brooklyn is already playing a big part in his newest project—recording his wind band music with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. The group will also be performing his work at their November 1st concert, A Night with Michael Markowski.
“It kind of all comes back to Brooklyn in a way,” Markowski said about the recording project, a one-day session that will be recorded at the Grand Street High School Campus. “The project is just my music; collaborating with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. It’s sort of as simple as that.”
He may have the borough and the band, but those are just two parts of the ambitious project Markowski is taking on. Currently on hiatus from composing original music, Markowski is finding himself knee-deep in the logistics of recording ten years’ worth of his work.
“It’s actually quite overwhelming to put this whole thing together,” he said. “There’s so much more to think about.”
From the process of choosing which pieces to record; to working with a sound engineer on the audio production; to the most minute details of schedules and ordering lunch, Markowski is leaving his mark on every piece of the puzzle. But one piece that has always fit is his collaboration with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, a group he feels a close connection to.
“I can’t imagine a better ensemble to collaborate with,” he said. “Some of these people were my first friends when I moved to New York, so I feel very intimately connected to the group.”
This is not the first time Markowski has had his music recorded, but this time he’s doing it completely on his terms, producing and funding the project himself.
“I’ve had college ensembles record my music and they’re always fantastic recordings, but I’m never really part of the process,” Markowski said. “By the time I get a final recording, I don’t really have input into the interpretation. And this collaboration [with BKWS], I have that.”
Markowski has been attending weekly rehearsals and working closely with conductors Jeff Ball and Brian Worsdale, who will both be conducting on the recording.
“I have two amazing collaborators to be the eyes and ears,” Markowski said of Ball and Worsdale. “It’s such a big project; if I was the only ears, it would just be overwhelming. So I’m depending on them to do most of the work for me,” he said with a laugh.
Looking over a decade’s worth of work meant choosing pieces Markowski hoped would highlight his range of composing styles.
“I think what you’ll hear in my music is that every piece is so completely different, stylistically, it’s kind of hard to wrap it up in a nice bow with some kind of theme,” he said.
He’s including pieces that struck him as “no-brainers,” like City Trees, the first piece he composed after moving to New York City from Arizona.
“It’s a very New York Piece,” Markowski said. “It’s the first piece that I wrote [after moving] here so it’s particularly special to me.”
He’ll also be recording joyRIDE, his first published piece. Markowski composed it in high school, and based it on Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. For him, it’s a reminder of the originality that comes from a young composer.
“I wish I had as good of ideas now as I did back then,” Markowski laughed.
Markowski acknowledged the pressure of creating original ideas; his hiatus and this project have been a welcome respite from a process he says can be “lonely.”
“There is a lot of pressure to come up with a decent idea for a piece,” he said. “It’s important to try to say something new and surprise yourself, and that’s a very difficult thing to keep doing day after day.”
The recording project has been an opportunity for Markowski to focus on other aspects of his career, a process he’s found to be a refreshing change.
“It’s been really fun and challenging to focus on music in a different way, that’s separate from the actual writing process,” he said. “[And] the part where you’re working with an ensemble, that’s the fun part. The human interaction portion of it all, that’s what makes you keep going and keep doing.”
In the end, he wants the project to highlight both his music and the Brooklyn Wind Symphony, with the character of the new borough he’s calling home.
“It’s going to be raw, it’s going to be Brooklyn, and I think it’s going to be one of the more intimately shaped recordings of my music out there.”