On today’s date in 1994, Dennis Russell Davies conducted the Chicago Symphony in the premiere performance of a 23-minute orchestral work by the American composer Steven Mackey. The new piece was titled “Eating Greens,” after a painting of the same name that the composer purchased at an African art store in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Mackey’s “Eating Greens” is a colorful orchestral suite of seven movements. The fourth movement is only 46 seconds long and is playfully labeled “The Title is Almost as Long as The Piece Itself.” Other movements’ titles acknowledge the influence of the colorful and playful visual artist, Henri Matisse, and the quirky but brilliant jazz composer and pianist, Thelonious Monk.
In the liner notes for the recording of “Eating Greens,” conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, Steven Mackey writes, “On more than one occasion, Michael has used the word ‘wacky’ to describe my music. Composers usually blanch at such attributions—nobody wants to be captured in a single word—but I can live with ‘wacky.’ It is not a common adjective, does not end with ‘ism’ and clearly the rhyme with my last name personalizes it.”