The Living Earth Show

Two New TLES EPs by composers Damon Waitkus and Quinn Collins


The Living Earth Show is excited to be releasing two EPs at the end of December 2020:

Stamp Him in a Stone Mortar till his Bones are Broken, by Quinn Collins, and The North American Garbage Patch by Damon Waitkus.

To mark their release, TLES will host a composer chat with both composers on December 28th at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST at

Stamp Him in a Stone Mortar till his Bones are Broken, by Quinn Collins

This piece has a very long and weird name.  The title comes from a recipe for cock ale, which can be found in The Compleat Housewife, a cookbook written by Eliza Smith and first published in London in 1727:

Take ten gallons of ale, and a large cock, the older the better; parboil the cock, flay him, and stamp him in a stone mortar till his bones are broken (you must craw and gut him when you flay him); then put the cock into two quarts of sack, and put it to three pounds of raisins of the sun stoned, some blades of mace, and a few cloves; put all these into a canvas bag, and a little before you find the ale has done working, put the ale and bag together into a vessel; in a week or nine days time bottle it up; fill the bottle but just above the neck, and give the same time to ripen as other ale.

Of course the whole recipe and the idea that a raw chicken would somehow enhance a beer’s flavor is pretty strange.  It was a custom in brewing for a long time to try things like this, like dumping rats in the vat with the belief that they would increase the product’s overall alcohol content.  For much of beer’s history from antiquity onward, it remained a mysterious liquid with magical significance.  It still seems that way sometimes.  However, the thing I found oddest about it is how it anthropomorphizes the ingredient in personal pronouns, which made the whole recipe seem all the more alien and savage.  With instructions to commit acts of violence on the carcass of a once-living creature, it almost comes across as an act of ritual sacrifice.  And it just sounds really metal.

The piece was built by fitting its material into a predetermined temporal cast like Brutalist architecture, where a rigid, overall structure is planned and constructed beforehand, and it takes form when concrete is poured into the mold.  It was written for The Living Earth Show and So Percussion in 2015.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch by Damon Waitkus

Around the time I was writing this piece in 2011, I read an article on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive deposit of human debris, mostly plastic, that has been accumulating for decades in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Bits of floating plastic are wreaking havoc on marine life—disturbing algae growth upon which whole food chains depend by blocking out light, leaching toxic chemicals into the water, and killing marine animals that accidentally ingest it. This, like so many other anthropocene-era threats to life as we know it on the Earth requires a level of international coordination that is so difficult to imagine actually happening, it is easy to fall into a dangerous sense of helplessness. There is little peace in this piece—it is largely an expression of anxiety, anger, and bewilderment at the scale of the problems before us.

As far as the music is concerned, my process here was intuitive and emotional. Although I’m at home working with rock instruments, this is the heaviest piece of music I’ve ever written, stylistically, by a wide margin. I’m not sure where that came from!

I was bowled over by The Living Earth Show’s virtuosity and musicality when I heard them play, and found, maybe for the first time as a composer, that I could write what I wanted to hear without compromise: Travis and Andy could pull off just about anything I came up with. Far from being written in a vacuum, however, the piece is the result of quite a bit of back and forth between myself and TLES—rehearsals were already well underway and I got to hear how things were sounding and make adjustments long before I had a complete piece on paper. I’m very proud of what came of this collaboration, and thrilled to finally be able to show it to the world.