Cory Brodack (b. 1997) is a composer, orchestrator, arranger, and copyist from St. Louis. He is currently pursuing his masters studies in composition at Bowling Green State University with Christopher Dietz and Mikel Kuehn. Prior to Bowling Green, he earned his baccalaureate in music composition from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he studied composition with Kimberly Archer, and horn with James Wehrman.
Cory composes for both electronic and acoustic mediums, with an emphasis on timbre and the uncontrollable phenomena that arise in both human performance and electronic systems. His music is inspired by individual aspects of the human condition and the unique connection between performer, score, and audience.
Cory has won several awards, including the 2020 ASCAP Rudolf Nissim Prize. He has worked for the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis (The Muny) on projects such as the first staging of Jerome Robbins's Broadway since 1989, and a new orchestration of The Wiz during The Muny's historic centennial season. Recently, Nodus Tollens for orchestra was chosen as the winner of East Carolina University's New Music Initiative Orchestra Composition Competition. When not composing, Cory is also a horn performer and educator, as well as a tutor for music theory/aural skills and history.
noun. the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore—that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong in the same genre - which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure.
-John Koenig, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
The composition of Nodus Tollens was motivated by John Koenig's online work, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Our socioeconomic and political climate is deeply divisive and partisan today, and suffers immensely from criminal injustice and strife. One can simply go online or turn on a television and learn of countless stories of death, war, hunger, natural disaster, and any amount of unending turmoil. The continued self-imposed ignorance and lack of desperately needed change will eventually lead to disastrous consequences. We are all in the same car barreling down the highway at breakneck speeds, and it will only take one small bump to end in a fiery demise. If we cannot grasp onto what is important and work towards a common good, we will bury ourselves in the graves we have already begun to dig.
Nodus Tollens alternates between tense anger and frustration and introspective moments of clarity. It represents my confusion and struggle to find where my life's path is taking me. This struggle may define others' moments of insecurity as they progress through their lives. The work begins with a solo cello playing over a slowly growing background of rumbling low strings, icy harmonics, and winds echoing the cello's ideas. The cello's beginning melodic fragments comprise every piece of the ever shifting foreground and background of the piece. The rhythmic conversation of two against three is also used as a quasi-anchor, to which sections constantly return before new sections occur. Bits and fragments of ideas float intangibly past the listener, seemingly important at the moment, but appear after the fact to not be important at all. We may be meaningless creations of a dead world, but that does not take away from the importance of self-discovery, and documenting and cataloguing our journey.
This work is based upon my personal reactions and thoughts when I viewed a particular set of paintings by Gerhard Richter. These paintings were conceived after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989. They are named after the months they were painted during, namely November, December, and January. Richter painted this trio of diptychs using rubber spatulas to apply the paints, and in doing so, scraped off previous layers while adding new colors. In addition, these paintings are quite large: roughly 10’ x 13’. This gives these paintings a depth and scale which cannot be expressed in the pictures above.
Although the overarching mood after the fall of the Berlin Wall was that of celebration, these paintings are dark and multifaceted. They spoke to me in a personal transitioning period, which I believe is the reason I connected so much to these works. Rather than trying to evoke the emotions of Richter, which I could not begin to fathom, I attempted to convey my own feelings through the conceptualization and composition of this piece. The performer also plays a large role in the realization and interpretation of this piece. The lack of rigid meters, bar lines, and programmatic timeline intentionally suggest that the performer create their own vision and interpretation of the music. It intentionally forces many different views and translations of the concept of personal transformation.