"The Compactor" is an adaptation of my story idea concerning an art junk yard where unwanted sculptures go. Many art students and others come to look at the abandoned sculptures and to remove parts from them for their own projects. The protagonist is supervisor of the facility and runs the hydraulic compactor for smashing up the sculptures into cubes after they have been picked over for their parts. Since the protagonist is a disillusioned artist himself, he exorcises his own jaded nature by destroying the work of others. The piece makes use of an interesting scale that contains 2 augmented seconds.

The original accordion part was written with standard accordion bass in mind. But the only accordionist I could find who was up to the challenge of this music was John Torcello (who also recorded "The Door") and he plays a beautiful Giulietti "free bass" accordion, so I rewrote the score for that instrument. Singer Nils Frykdahl came as a suggestion from Carla Kihlstedt as both were in the rock band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and she felt he not only could read the score well but had considerable dramatic inflection. As a fan of the band myself, I wholeheartedly agreed and fortunately Nils consented to sing the part. Also thanks to composer John Bilotta for financial contribution to the recording.

The ultimate plan is to write 2 more songs to complete the story. In the second, a female art student discovers the junk yard right near closing time and is thrilled with a particular sculpture she wants to use parts from to build her first commission — a footbridge. In the third piece, the compactor operator and the art student have a dramatic duet as the sculpture she wants is due to be crushed.

(for Accordion and Baritone — 2009)

Free Bass Accordion:  John Torcello

Vocals:  Nils Frykdahl

Words & Music:  Steve Mobia

The Compactor (text)

The forms fuse
under the force
of the compactor

There's no muse
under the might
of the compactor

The carefully fashioned,
delicately balanced
are smashed together
to make a cube
freed of ambition

My greatest pleasure
is pulling the lever
The unique
made anonymous

Here they come
the destitute sculptors
humongous art in tow
from a lost studio
a canceled commission
Homeless now
scattered in piles
pillaged by others for spare parts

Some sculptures were banished
when a business vanished
the abstract bric-a-brac
unnoticed in the daily grind
had no buyers

But now scavengers come
with gleams of a giver
who see overlooked pleasures
their touch will deliver
in forms, destined for treasure

It's a resurrection
those who would release
from scrap, a masterpiece
to bend the world in its direction.

and yes, there was a time
when my own eyes were shining
at the prospect sublime
of breaking from bindings

But after all has been rummaged
heroic leftovers, bare in the sun
I am the one
who must crush
the bones of inspiration!