for symphonic wind ensemble
When we are young, many of us think that our parents will live forever. While children are exposed to the idea of death at various ages, the idea that it can happen to a parent seems foreign (at least until we watch Bambi). In fact, the idea of parental invincibility can last well past childhood.
This is the backdrop to my composition of infinity/interrupted. I began writing shortly after my mother was diagnosed with an uncommon and aggressive form of breast cancer. While I thought about the idea of infinity, one of the first musical ideas I decided on was the use of the number 8, first tonally with octatonic pitch collections, and then rhythmically in a variety of ways.
Although the “interruption” of the “infinity” of a parent’s life was the original inspiration while working on this piece, life dealt several more interruptions along the way. In September, my mom’s brother, who was a sheriff’s deputy in Florida, was shot and killed in the line of duty. While dealing with the effects and treatment of cancer is a long, trying, and arduous journey, the shock and immediacy of this kind of lost impacts you in a completely different way.
Around the time that my uncle was killed, I was reading Summerland by Michael Chabon, and got to this passage near the end:
“It was the kind of promise a father makes easily and sincerely, knowing at the same time that it will be impossible to keep. The truth of some promises is not as important as whether or not you can believe in them, with all your heart. A game of baseball can’t really make a summer day last forever. A home run can’t really heal all the broken places in our world, or in a single human heart. And there was no way that Mr. Feld could keep his promise never to leave Ethan again. All parents leave their children one day. Ethan knew that better now than he had ever known it before. But he was glad to have the promise nevertheless.”
This idea really resonated with me, and helped inform how I approached the remainder of the piece (as an aside, around this time my computer hard drive also failed, and I almost lost many things, including everything I had written for this up to that point. While in the scheme of everything, this was much less important, I did not miss the irony of being forcibly interrupted while working on a piece about interruptions. And I back up much more regularly now).
A few days after I finished writing infinity/interrupted in December 2015, my grandmother passed away after a long, eventful, and courageous life. And even though her passing was not altogether unexpected, the shock and loss associated with losing someone so close is still incredibly trying.
With this piece I am at least attempting to explore all of these ideas, the discord, the competing attentions, the mechanical routine, the solace – and in the end the point I try to get to is not closure and not acceptance, but at least in some sense, it is peace.