Breaking Bolcom: Structural Similarities between William Bolcom and Breaking Bad

In actuality, William Bolcom – a prominent living postmodern composer – and the creative forces behind Breaking Bad – a critically acclaimed TV drama about a cancer-stricken former high school chemistry teacher who resorts to manufacturing meth – probably have very little in common.  Both are have been pampered with awards and praise for their respective works, and both have created art that responds to modern life in unique and fascinating ways.  Yet, I have no idea if Bolcom watches Breaking Bad, and there is a good chance that few (if any) of those in the show’s writers’ room have ever heard of Bolcom.  There is a good chance that very little inspiration passes from one side of this arbitrary connection to the other, and there is an even better chance there is none whatsoever. But art is funny like that.  Sometimes artists use similar abstract processes in their creations even when they achieve wildly different concrete results. Take, for example, “Scherzo Vitale” (the second movement from Bolcom’s Third Symphony) and “Shotgun” (the fifth episode from Breaking Bad’s fourth season, written by Thomas Schnauz and directed by Michelle MacLaren).  The former comes from a remarkable larger work, but this movement more »