I have spent a large part of my life living in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City with a gritty past. After having written other works with references to apparitions and the underworld (Ghost Theater and Closet Full of Demons, for example), I realized that inspiration for yet a third work in this gruesome series existed right here in my own backyard.
Several competing legends attempt to explain how Hell’s Kitchen acquired its colorful name, but there’s no dispute as to why. From the mid-1800s to the 1980s, it was was known for its tenement buildings, streetwalkers and speakeasies, slaughterhouses, deeply violent gangs, gruesome murders, mysterious disappearances and even ghosts. Today, realtors and some non-natives call it Clinton or Midtown West, and it is known for its Off Broadway theaters, an abundance of chic restaurants, luxury condominium towers and even as the name of a reality TV cooking competition show. However, locals still steadfastly and proudly call it Hell’s Kitchen, and are proud that this neighborhood has become a veritable cultural and culinary melting pot.
In my Hell’s Kitchen, I use the imaginary sounds of a fast-paced restaurant kitchen in hell as a point of departure, complete with loud, grinding effects produced by the musical instruments and the sounds of kitchen tools and appliances. For example, the percussionist plays a metal grater like a güiro (an effect suggested to me by my son Dylan while walking down 9th Avenue and telling him my idea for the piece) and uses wooden spoons like mallets or drumsticks on pots and pans, while other players occasionally use electric kitchen gadgets for percussive effect.