For the past several months I have spent every ounce of time I could squeeze from my busy teaching schedule into composing a new work for cello and electronics for new music cello guru Craig Hultgren. “The Anemone Fragments” was premiered October 31 at the Southeastern Louisian University. Craig put on an exceptional concert that was well received by students and faculty who took time out of their busy Halloween evening schedules to come hear some crazy new music.
“The Anemone Fragments” was a product of many ideas that I have been deeply engaged with over the course of the summer and into the fall. One of the main ideas, or I should say sounds that has been foremost in my mind has been the wind. Not the generic “wind” but the multitude of unique-to-the-moment wind sounds that can be experienced if one just breathes and listens. Like today for example, I have experienced some great wind sounds in Hammond, the hard steady wind through slowly drying oak leaves, and I felt the wind on my face and skin, always varying in its caress.
When the piece was just an unformed fragment of something “I was to write in the near future,” I spent a month (June) at the Brush Creek Center for the Performing Arts in Wyoming. I loved the wind sounds there, especially the wind through the aspen groves up in the foothills of the Medicine Bow National Forest (the wind on Medicine Bow Peak is an altogether different story). Throughout the summer, I kept coming into contact with more and more mystical wind experiences (dawn wind on Frosty Mountain off the AT in GA, sea wind at Buccaneer State Park in MS), so these sounds and the experience of these sounds was deeply imbedded in my mind before writing the piece.
Of course, the piece isn’t just built on wind sounds, there are many other conceptual ideas behind the piece, most of which are hard to explain.
Here is my official program note:
The Anemone Fragments, for cello and live electronics draws together several aspects of human experience and myth, most importantly, the emotions of solitude and passion. The experience of listening to the various qualities of wind also figures prominently in this piece, for example, the subtle contrasting sounds of a gentle breeze through aspen leaves, or the wind through an oak forest at dawn.
“Love shook my heart
Like the wind on the mountain
rushing over the oak trees.”
I have grown weary of the winds of heaven.
I will not be a reed to hold the sound
Of whatsoever breath the gods may blow,
Turning my torment into music for them.
They gave me life; the gift was bountiful,
I lived with the swift singing strength of fire,
Seeking for beauty as a flame for fuel —
Beauty in all things and in every hour.
The gods have given life — I gave them song;
The debt is paid and now I turn to go.
— Sara Teasdale, Rivers to the Sea, (1915), “Sappho (Rivers to the Sea)”