Homage to a Barbadian symbol: Barbadian-American composer Trevor Weston’s musical piece, “Flying Fish” will be played by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on March 24.
Bill Cardoni

He is not Wagner but it is his flight of the flying fish.

A Barbadian-American composer’s musical piece will debut at “Orchestra Underground: Past Forward” at Carnegie Hall on March 24. New Jersey-raised Trevor Weston pays homage to one of Barbados’ most recognized fauna in his new symphony titled “Flying Fish,” which will be played by the American Composers Orchestra during the concert.

In a joint commision by the orchestra and Carnegie Hall about identity, Weston took a page from one of his most vivid adult memories as inspiration for his 15-minute arrangement. He recalled a stormy fishing trip in Barbados and witnessing the flying fish he heard about all his life for the first time, he said.

“I just heard all of these fish whizzing and then I saw them fly up,” he said. “I grew in New Jersey and I had eaten a lot of flying fish but I grew up without seeing them — and that magic and methodology combined gave me a lot of that understanding.”

Immediately he knew that the experience would influence his work in the future, said Weston.

“Even as an adult finally seeing them — I knew at some point I was going to have to use that in a piece and write something,” he said.

Flying fish are commonly found near Barbados, and the island is even nicknamed “land of the flying fish,” due to the volume of flying fish that are found near the region. It has become a national symbol to the island and is to Barbados as the bald eagle is to the United States, said Weston.

To interpret the flying fish and Barbados into his music Weston said he visualized instruments that reminded him of the fish and the Caribbean, brass instruments in particular as well the piano.

“Because their whizzing is high pitched and the fish themselves are silvery — I thought of steel instruments and steel drums, and the triangle, cymbals, and bells,” said Weston. “And we don’t think about it but the piano also has metallic sounds.”

In putting together the orchestration Weston says he looked for more inspiration by playing back some popular Caribbean tunes and finding a commonality for an authentic sound.

“The way I approach coming up with music is by listening to music examples, and I wrote down the common rhythms, and listened to some recordings of steel pan ensembles of Trinidad,” he said.

To get a precise sound for his score, he encompassed both the sounds of the islands and the flying fish.

“I used those rhythms not the exact same way but making sounds that emulated flight and leaping,” said Weston. “I reflect the buzzing with the bell, cymbals, and the triangle, and some there are scales that sound like leaping and sounds that are connected to Caribbean music.”

“Flying Fish” is an upbeat harmony with some slow movements, according to Weston. And even though he has spent most of life not living in Barbados, says composing the piece is a huge part of his identity.

“I couldn’t talk about Plainfield, New Jersey and there are a lot of people who don’t know I’m Caribbean or know being Barbadian is a big part of who I am,” he said.

“Orchestra Underground: Past Forward” at Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall [881 7th Ave between W. 56 and W. 57th streets in Manhattan, www.carnegiehall.org, (212) 247-7800]. March 24 at 7:30 pm. $43.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.
Weston has been composing music for years and has worked with the American Composers Orchestra. This will be the first time his music will be played by the orchestra.
Trevor Weston

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