Chunky in Heat Yearbook: Matthew Welch

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.

Matthew Welch is one of the six composers who contributed music to Chunky in Heat.

One aspect of the story that I was trying to capture in the music is the idea of body dysmorphia and also how that can relate to eating disorders. My take on the shapeshifter character, albeit inspiring a magical realist scenario, is that of personal projection on Chunky’s part. Here the shapeshifter externalizes and epitomizes the issues of diet and personal malleability; that one’s focus on their body image and the compulsion to change it are mixed up in an anxious stew, which for teenagers, is magnified by so many changes in body and personal identity.

Personally, I have struggled with binge eating and fluctuating weight, and the delusional idea that something “wrong” with one’s body can be “fixed.” I also was a bit of a loner in my teen years, but a keen observer of the concerns of more socialized and popular kids. No doubt my teenage socially awkward moments number in the millions, a general experience I tried to encapsulate here.

The music for my scenes uses sliding strings and surprise harmony as a metaphor for the changing of body shape, size and visage. Also, it builds off of a stewy mix of musical idioms that comes to represent the sound of LA; grinding skate-punk, bubbly surf-rock and Hollywood-esque soundscapes.