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Unexpected Journey

By, Zac Greenberg

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“Unexpected Journey” is a musical and visual study into an individual’s journey with cancer. To better understand our journey, the composition has been divided into four movements: Life, Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond. While this is a composed piece, there will be improvised sections. This means that the version of the composition that you experience live will be a different journey for the patient than a future performance. In between these movements, there will be no pauses. As with cancer, once it starts, there is very little time to digest what is happening. In order to better understand the transition between movements, each is paired in a live performance with different colors of lights.

The instrumentation chosen for this piece was chosen as a representation of a patient. Each instrument takes on a characteristic from the internal war of cancer.

Tenor Sax: consciousness

Bass and Drums: The Body

Guitars: Cancer

(It is not strictly this way throughout, but the basis for which the parts are written.)


Movement 1: Life

Movement one is a light, uplifting piece that moves along with very little conflict. Our future patient is going about his daily life, enjoying all that comes with it.  This movement is paired with variations of green and yellow light to represent the sun, nature, and the beauty of life.


Movement 2: Diagnosis

The second movement is broken into three “phases”.

Phase 1: The initial shock of the cancer diagnosis takes place. This will be represented with chaotic lighting. In this section each member of the band will be representing a separate stream of consciousness. While our patient’s mind struggles to find some kind of understanding, a small amount of purple surrounds the stage.


Phase 2: A baseline begins to emerge. The purple gets brighter and brighter. This is the phase of diagnosis where our patient confronts his problem. Our patient begins to have a conversation with the doctor concerning the options and the best course of action.


Phase 3: As the conversation comes to an end, our patient is again left to his own thoughts. The purple around the stage becomes darker and darker as our patient begins to accept his own mortality.


Movement 3: Treatment

Movement three is from the perspective of our patient receiving his first chemo treatment. The Guitars play an angular monotonous line as our patient sits in a chair, mindlessly staring into nothingness. As he tries to contemplate the situation he is in, the drums and bass pound representing the doctors moving quickly through the halls to attach the IV to begin the first round of chemo drip.  As our patient gazes at the neon bag attached to his veins, the doctors are overheard referring to this chemo as “the red devil”. The drip begins and so does our journey through treatment.


Movement 4: Beyond

In the final movement, our brave patient is in remission. The music explores his thoughts and emotions as he reflects on the journey through which he has gone.  He now contemplates where the path will lead. The previous movements have a strong storyline which provide a common theme for the audience to explore. This movement, however, is written unresolved and open. It requires a different level of interpretation from you the listener. The journey will end differently for each person. Everyone experiences cancer differently. At some point, either for the entire journey or just a moment, the path will be walked alone.

Meet the band behind Unexpected Journey.
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