David T Little (born 1978) is an extraordinarily prolific American composer whose work typically explores political themes and often displays an interest in the nexus between classical music and rock. With Agency, Little turns his attention to government agencies, control, the withholding of information and the tension between modern technological/information-based systems of governance and indigenous modes of understanding and knowledge. For Little, this contrast is embodied perfectly by the region of central Australia that houses both the top-secret US surveillance facility Pine Gap and, to the south-west, Uluru, long understood as a sacred locus of wisdom for Indigenous peoples.
Agency features some beautiful writing for strings performed with requisite intensity by ACME, Third Coast Percussion and Andrew McKenna Lee (electric guitar, bass) lending rock (and metal) elements. This is punctuated by a narrative delivered by Australia’s Julian Day around Dreamtime stories of battles, blood, and the sacredness of land, with electronic processing sometimes producing a stuttering effect as a metaphor for missing/censored words.
The narrative turns to surveillance and coercion, mirrored by equally ominous, increasingly abstract spatial tonalities with heavy orchestral intrusions. These disparate elements don’t always coalesce successfully, but this is perhaps exactly the point Little is making.