Will we survive our infancy as a species? It may depend on whether we can move beyond our nature.
With consciousness comes power, to create and to destroy. In the timeline of the piece, Part VI crosses through the present, looking backwards and forwards in human history. It imagines two ways of being – in harmony with the surrounding universe, and in opposition, an edifice against the system of which we are, in actuality, a part.
Astronaut Bruce McCandless, untethered against the expanse, February 7, 1984.
I spent a lot of time this year, amid news that painted a rather discouraging picture of the human condition, thinking about fear – my own, which is significant and entrenched, and as an evolutionary heritage. I’ve come to believe that fear is the human epidemic, passed from generation to generation: a vestigial organ that might have kept us alive in the Neolithic, but now mostly keeps us apart, and usually the source of what we misread as “evil.” My own fears are brought to the fore by the very process of writing and performing of this piece, so this is a rather personal movement for me. Part VI is an attempt to visualize what it would look like to release that pathology by walking straight towards, and through it, and to imagine what could be if the banishing of isolating fears became our shared pursuit as a human race. The title is inspired by the great poet John Berryman, who said, "we must travel in the direction of our fear."
The movement uses a Bulgarian folk tune as a mantra, stated initially in the horns, over which a solo cello sings a free and unbounded line. The folk tune’s asymmetry is initially treated as organicism, but as the piece progresses, becomes constrained by more and more imposed structure. This structure allows the construction of more complex musical systems, but at the cost of the melody’s initial freedom, a process that continues through a bass-driven solo section. The solo ends abruptly in a sort of disintegration, calling for an improvised fragmentation of the linked-triad motive (which, in movement V, mirrored the structure of compounds involved in the chemistry of life). During a short cadenza, the piano considers what to do with the broken pieces of the tune, and then reassembles them into a relentless groove that feels like a machine spinning out of control. In the midst of the ensuing build, the choir unexpectedly enters and sings an ancient lament from the book of Jeremiah. From the listener’s perspective, this commentary is presented in its own tempo and meter, separate from the machine-like build of the band:
Quomodo sedet sola civitas plena populo.
Facta est quasi vidua domina gentium;
princeps provinciarum facta est sub tributo.
How lonely she lies, the city that thronged with people.
Like a widow has she become, this great one among nations.
She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal.
At the peak of a rather dystopian crescendo, as the choir holds the word “tribulo,” the largest and loudest collapse of the hour occurs, roughly at the golden section of the nine-movement span. As noise becomes rubble and rubble becomes dust, the original tune reemerges, once again free, but this time sung by two solo voices with the following text in Nepali:
Hi’um parna thal yo rupa mahami matra bheta,
tara, tara ma hareka sam maya ma aba tapaim dekha.
We only met as snow began to fall,
but I see you now in every time.
The solo cello returns as this mantra repeats as a prelude to last group of three movements, which will deal with the future and the circularity of time.
Inspired by and dedicated to Giordano Bruno, Issac Newton, Bill Bruckel, and all who fight and have fought to “wrest the soul from darkness.”