The world’s in a horrible state, and I get notice that this recording is now publicly posted and available. I don’t know how to process the idea of music–organized sounds with no literal message–having import at a moment like this. I post the music here, because it’s an honor to have had fabulous musicians–Eliot Heaton and Ran Cheng–apply their gifts and time to the order I’ve tried to create; and because I think ACA has done a great service to both composers and performers in generating this “Shelter Recordings” project.
I spoke with a dear friend yesterday, a gifted clarinetist with whom i’ve worked on many occasions, over many years. He asked me to write him something that’s responsive to this moment, and i said that if i did so, it would likely be noise. Literally, noise, and actions such as taking apart the instrument, perhaps breaking it under foot; it could be about nothing but destruction, fear, hopelessness.
I know there are so very many people who are marching in protest with hope on their minds, believing that their actions can constructively, incrementally, improve society. I’m not at that point, and i just don’t know how anyone is able to have such hope, after centuries of being beaten down, how does one maintain hope? After an eternity of watching humans’ inhumanity to ‘the other’ human, how does one maintain any sort of faith in humans’ needs to exert control?
I wrote something a few years ago that pondered a similar despair. The Line Between set two poems of E.E. Cummings, one of which spoke of our ability to destroy our world, the other with perhaps a glimmer of hope. I can only feel hope today in the miniscule world that surrounds me; the maintenance of a yard, plants, cooking, Pattie, the care of our immediate space.
It feels so difficult to feel hopeful about even those close to my heart who are physically absent. I only feel fear for family and dear friends who are not within sight. The video-calls I get from Joe, Cristin, & Jackson bring an exhale of relief, even as I know the struggles they deal with in their world. For the duration of such calls, I can see and hear them for a moment, I can cherish the smiles from the little guy who is so actively crawling around to explore, pulling himself up to get a better view, holding on to feel the security of his mom and dad.
Perhaps Emily Dickinson was right, and hope “perches in the soul,” “and never stops at all.” But this is a time when it’s more than challenging to have faith in hope; if hope never asks “a crumb of me,” then how is it fed, how does it survive “in extremity,” “in the chillest land,” “on the strangest Sea”? There must be an iota of nourishment, a single cell of positivity that might reproduce and grow into a well that can bolster resiliency from this sere landscape.
Put one foot in font of another, I suppose, just as we’re teaching Jackson. Put one foot in front of another and see what there is to see. The sun shines on the greenery, the birds sing regardless of the all-kinds-of-disease that we’ve made this place into. Put one note after another, and just honor the sounds that come out; not every day will bring anything worth highlighting, but it will bring the next day.