Chunky in Heat Yearbook: Aaron Siegel

EiO’s upcoming opera Chunky in Heat follows the emotional life of a teenage protagonist, Cheryl (aka Chunky), as she navigates the perils of her changing world.  We asked some of the artists involved in the premiere to share how their own experiences in high school informed their work on the opera.

Aaron Siegel is one of the six composers who contributed music to Chunky in Heat.

What I remember most about being in high school was a strange imbalance of social and intellectual growth.  On one hand, I was totally excited about learning and also felt that whatever strengths I found in the classroom (and the band room) were totally irrelevant when it came to my social life.  I often felt like I was raised to just be nice to people and was confused that this approach didn’t really carry any weight in the turbulent emotional world of High School.  On the home front, my parents pretty much lost all credibility for me during this period, as I realized that they were just flawed people who knew only marginally more than I did about how to be emotionally stable.

When I got my scenes for Chunky, I was struck immediately about trying to access the emotional space of teenage ambiguity.   On one hand, Chunky has this luxurious life by the pool, and on the other her parents are a mess, her brother has died, and the family is barely keeping it together.  Family trauma is hard, but when it happens just as someone is trying to figure out who and what they are, it is even harder.  I tried to capture this tension in the music, leaning on genre signifiers to denote some sense of normality (even bliss), and also to bring in dissonance and rhythmic turbulences as a way of upsetting the expectations.