By Noel S. Heath
Assistant A&E Editor
Inspired by a novel on his summer reading list, a music education major from Columbia composed a completely original concert music ensemble in just two days.
“Perils of the Pearl” has since been premiered by the MTSU Symphony Orchestra and was well received.
“It’s not every day that a sophomore in college gets their work performed by an orchestra,” Blair Boothe said. “I didn’t feel the sense of accomplishment until the performance.”
Boothe was inspired by Tori Murden McClure’s bestselling memoir “A Pearl in the Storm,” which chronicles her three-month solo journey across the Atlantic in a rowboat. Read during the summer before he came to the university as a freshman, the book brought him out of a composing slump and inspired him to write musical notes once again.
“As soon as I started reading the book, I thought it would be a good composition,” said Boothe, who was just 17 when he wrote the composition “Perils of the Pearl.” “It was the quickest I’ve ever finished a book, and the quickest I’ve ever written a piece.”
Featuring parts for a full orchestra as well as an organ, the piece gains momentum by including a portion of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which was directly inspired from a scene of McClure’s nonfiction work. During the storm, she caught sight of an American flag.
Although Boothe had a wealth of experience participating in school marching bands and playing in his free time, he hadn’t had any formal lessons in music theory when he wrote the composition. He wrote the ensemble out on his personal computer completely by ear. Today, he has composed more than seven large-scale works.
Boothe doesn’t necessarily follow a certain set of rules when composing. Instead, he seeks to relate into musical notes what he hears in his mind.
“There’s still a few things in my head. I don’t know what they are, and I have to experiment with it for a while,” he said. “They responded well [to “Perils of the Pearl”], so I was really happy.”
He had the unique opportunity to meet the author who inspired him when Sidney McPhee, university president, organized a luncheon where the two could be introduced. Boothe gave McClure a digital copy of his composition. He recalled that she was in awe and thanked him for the recognition.
In the future, Boothe plans to teach and direct to share his love of concert music with others.
“With my degree I want to start out directing high school programs and have my students put on concerts,” he said. Later on, the composer would move on to conduct college-level orchestras.
Though he is currently working on the final touches of a brass ensemble about Ancient Rome, he cannot comment on when exactly his next work will be finished.
“I had been planning on writing a piece about the end of the world,” Boothe said.
Considering his track record of writing compositions at an unbelievably fast rate, students will certainly enjoy his next marvelous work before the Apocalypse.