As a young graffiti artist the late, great Jean-Michel Basquiat would often write "BUILD A FORT, SET THAT ON FIRE" on New York City's streets and walls. I love this phrase because it describes perfectly what I'm trying to do with a lot of my music; I build a seemingly sturdy musical structure that quickly explodes, disintegrates, and blazes into something unexpected. I also think this phrase is a perfect instruction to all composers and performers; we must go through the paces and build the fort, but also have to be willing to let go of what we thought was essential in favor of the fire, the potentially dangerous and vibrant ideas that come out of nowhere.
Ensemble ACJW includes some of the best young players in the city, and when I started this piece I had the vague idea that it should be something challenging and virtuosic. That said, this is not a piece about showing off or playing faster than everyone else. It's a much more difficult virtuosity, a kind of performing that requires total concentration and an almost telepathic coordination between players. The musicians must build the fort together, note by note, but must also be confident enough to set the whole thing on fire when the time comes.
— Missy Mazzoli