The Earth Outlived the Hands that Held It
For Violin, Clarinet, and Piano
Premiered by Francesca Anderegg (violin), Jorge Montilla (clarinet), and Matthew McCright (piano) at the Schubert Club Courtroom Concert Series in April 2018.
“Now and then he’d glance down to the gullies of indefinable green funneling toward slivers of water that marked te depth and decline of the land. Cloud cover dwarfed distant cities and villages. Invader and invaded held on to their fistfuls of earth, but in the end, the earth outlived the hands that held it.”
Anthony Marra “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena” (pg. 238)
The title of this piece is drawn from Anthony Marra’s novel “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.” This novel is a moving exploration of life under war. The characters in this story are not world leaders or “important” personalities,; they are the people caught in the edges of history: normal men and women trying to lead their normal lives. While this novel takes place in the midst of the Chechnyan War, its depiction of people trying to survive and hold on to their humanity inuring these extreme times reminded me of the current situation back home in my native Venezuela. To be clear, the two sets of circumstances are quite different, but the human toll is the same. People who have lost their connection to their humanity trying to remain whole as they make difficult decisions in a setting where morality and the law appear to have disappeared.
The music of this piece begins with a quiet, fragile motive that is present throughout the whole work. Out of this intimate texture emerges an echo of a tarantella-like passage: a faint reminder of brighter, simpler times. The music alternates between more atmospheric, liquid textures and a few memories of melodies and dances that materialize out of the textures. Particular among these is a broad, more romantic melody that appears several times throughout, never to truly assert itself on the narrative of the work. The goal of the piece is to create a sense of memories coming in and out of focus, trying to recreate the effort the characters make in the novel to remember their better times before the war, and how holding on to those moments can be the only available connection to their humanity during these times of crisis.