In the Brink – New Work for Bergamot Quartet + Percussion
In 2018, I wrote a piece for ensemble (premiered by Alarm Will Sound) called The Thicket. This work was a reflection on the tangled web of the human mind and the bushwacking that’s necessary as we learn how to find others in the “thicket” of experience and personality that exists within and between us. The piece depicted this literally, as a dense landscape thick with flora and punctuated by utterances from solo instruments; notation was frequently in graphic form.
The proposed product of this project is a new work initiated as a companion piece to The Thicket, which I will compose for the Bergamot Quartet + percussionist Terry Sweeney. The working title is In the Brink, and while The Thicket is primarily from the perspective of an individual, In the Brink uses the same environmental metaphor to address communication between large entities of people, particularly in light of the intolerance and lack of consideration for marginalized populations that permeates the current sociopolitical climate of the United States of America and its government. The nature-images sonically depicted in The Thicket will correspond with current human-accelerated natural disaster: fire, flood, damage to ecosystems. The “brink” references an observation that I have heard many times since the 2016 presidential election: that we are on the brink of some tipping point in America, that perhaps it will either go up in flames or that the wave of positive activism that has been sparked will inspire further generations for real change. I interpret this brink as a no-man’s-land, a swamp that might dry up or become a lake; a state of being that we are very much in.
The Bergamot Quartet, a Baltimore-based string quartet of which I am a violinist, specializes in interpreting the works of living composers, especially women. For this work we are in collaboration with Terry Sweeney, a member of Sandbox Percussion. Bergamot has extensively performed George Crumb’s Black Angels and this new work will seek to augment the quartet+percussion using the members’ voices and auxiliary instruments in the way that Crumb’s masterpiece does. I plan to find or write a text which will be interpreted in theatrical/spoken parts for all players within the piece.
The completed work will last 10-20 minutes, and will be premiered at our residency at Towson University in October 2019, with Bergamot + Terry workshopping it together over the summer. We have had a full performance schedule for the duration of our time together as a professional ensemble and plan to perform the work many other times. I believe that the importance of creating new works such as these lies in the power of live music to encourage empathy in listeners, and our goal is to present In the Brink during a tour to venues and locations outside our usual stomping grounds in Baltimore/DC/NYC’s more liberal communities. Ideally, we would bring this piece as part of a longer program to the southern United States, where I and the other Bergamot violinist grew up.
Performed on November 9, 2018 at Griswold Hall (Peabody Institute) by Now Hear This/Alarm Will Sound
The thicket is a place to become dangerously lost in but also a place to retreat to, and occasionally we are lucky enough to stumble into someone else’s thicket and explore the flora there, keeping a close eye out for thorns. While words might provide only a meager drapery for an emotion too vast to see all the sides of, music does the opposite. A whole universe of forests and gardens is possible and a listener can populate that sonic space.
Start and End Dates
06/01/2019 — 10/23/2019