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Composer Doug Detrick explores the account of Jonah (from Jonah 1-2 ) as it relates to the great American novel, Moby Dick, with his captivating work for jazz ensemble and narrator.

Jonah 1:1-2

Ishmael and the Whale


Douglas Detrick


Performers: Ren Jackson, Narrator; Anywhere Ensemble
Venue: Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village, NYC
Artist Location: Portland, Oregon

Curated by: 

Jonathon Roberts


Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

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I was reading Moby Dick for the first time in 2013. As a joke, I started “live tweeting” my reading of the book, pretending as if it was one of the mass audience events that people usually treat in this way. My Moby Dick tweets started out snarky. “Ok, fine, I’ll call you Ishmael,” I said. But, as I got further into the book, and I started to realize that I was actually processing this book, understanding the details of the writing and getting to know the characters much better than I’m usually able to, especially for such a long work.

In Chapter Nine, where Ishmael sits in a chapel on Nantucket and hears Melville’s retelling of the Jonah and the Whale story, I found the bringing together of these two stories really caused a profound collision of values. Jonah’s great humility makes Ahab’s hubris look all the more like naked aggression. Its an amazing foreshadowing of what’s to come in the novel.

When I wrote my text, I wanted to bring out the background of both stories, and talk about why they seem to oppose each other so completely using a blend of journalistic techniques and theatrical character development. The narrator walks a fine line between commenting on the story as an investigator, and as a character from the story. The music works almost like another character, sometimes supporting the narrator, sometimes contradicting him, always amplifying the speaker’s wonder at the depth of intersecting meanings in this collision of stories.

I want to offer sincere thanks to Spark and Echo for this opportunity, for their help in producing the premier performance, and for welcoming a non-Christian artist like me to participate in their project; to Ren Jackson for his great work with the text; to the musicians of AnyWhen Ensemble for their continued assistance in executing my diabolic plots; to Keith Biesack of ITGLOWSNYC for donating that amazing wine at the performance; and to Kirk Van der Swaagh of the Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village for offering the use of their wonderful space in Greenwich Village.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

Douglas Detrick is a Portland, Oregon-based composer, trumpet player, and arts consultant whose work in these diverse areas is distinguished by its quiet thoughtfulness and its embrace of good ideas from unconventional sources. He was awarded the 2011 Chamber Music America New Jazz Works and Presenting Jazz grants for his work with his chamber-jazz quintet Douglas Detrick’s AnyWhen Ensemble, and the commissioned work “The Bright and Rushing World” was premiered at New York’s Jazz Gallery in 2012 and performed throughout the United States. He is currently the Executive Director of the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, and performs in Oregon as well as touring nationally with AnyWhen Ensemble. As an arts consultant to individual artists and arts organizations, he helps to clarify goals and define strategies for achieving them through fundraising, program design, marketing, WordPress websites, and career coaching.

Douglas Detrick

About the Artist

Douglas Detrick

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