Meet the Composers of STRONG SAD: A.J. McCaffrey / by Jonah Sirota

Meet the Composers of STRONG SAD is an 8-part series looking at the artists who have contributed to my upcoming album. For more info about the project, and to pre-order the record:

STRONG SAD on Kickstarter


My friendship with A.J. McCaffrey started in college when we were roommates at Rice University.  Together, we D.J.-ed a radio show of classical new music on the Rice radio station, KTRU, at 7 AM on Saturday mornings (commitment!). A.J. became a close friend and someone with whom I could discuss all aspects of music. For my senior recital, I commissioned him and two other composers to write me new viola works. A.J.’s wonderful piece was called “Incorrect Memory” (or it might have been “Imperfect Memory,” I can’t quite recall…)

I am so excited to receive new music from him again, a full 20 years later. His viola and piano piece for the STRONG SAD project, “Here Come The Waterworks,” uses microtones--the sounds in between the notes on a piano—to express feelings about loss and healing that are hard to say with words. In his telling: “I came away wanting to write a piece that reflected some of my recent thoughts on the act of processing trauma. That is, I was not interested in depicting a traumatic or tragic event, but rather the rituals and gestures that one enacts in order to go through stressful or difficult emotions. I ended up thinking of the viola as a character that was trying to ‘re-learn’ speech or song.”

What I love about this piece (an excerpt of which is featured at the beginning of the Kickstarter project video for STRONG SAD), is that the microtones are used in exactly the place where they are needed, to recreate the feeling of being about to cry.  It is a stunning piece, and I feel honored to have recorded it for this record. Thank you, A.J.!

Here is an excerpt from A.J. McCaffrey’s orchestra piece “Motormouth,” played by the American Composer’s Orchestra at its Carnegie Hall premiere:

And for more about A.J.: