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Respire (2021)

for chamber string orchestra

Approximate duration: 10 minutes

Premiere: Pending




In addition to not repeating myself from one work to another, I try to not mimic wider trends in compositional thought. Then again, given how huge the world of new music is, that in itself is hardly a marker of originality. Inevitably, consciously or otherwise, an event of such catastrophic effect as the Covid-19 pandemic is going to leave its mark on one’s psyche. Nevertheless as the artistic community responded to the trauma of this event unprecedented in our lifetimes, I obstinately maintained that I would not do the same. Which was not hard, since the chaos of the early era left me unable to write anything, timely or otherwise.

By April of 2021, after a year of nonstop turmoil in my own life domestically, work-wise, emotionally, psychologically - to say nothing of the turmoil in the greater world - I was in a very dark, exhausted state. I took the life-saving step of escaping to a beautifully tranquil wellness spa on the Mayan Riviera. My very first act on arrival, before unpacking, eating or purging my body in the Caribbean, was a two-hour massage.

It may sound painfully mundane, but in the tropical serenity of the Mexican seaside, with my body and mind slowly being unclenched from the preceding year’s unprecedented tumult and stress, I found myself breathing regularly and calmly for the first in a long time. Escaping my pandemic circumstances, releasing the tumult and respiring started my muse flowing. Without realizing it I found those first true deep breaths translating into music, even specific notes and timbres. And that’s exactly how the first 60 or so measures of the piece materialized: very little altered when I finally took the leap of cohering the work on paper.

A piece about exhalation seemed to call for a title like Breathe. As dozens of such pieces were being publicized by the week throughout the performing arts, I stuck to my original determination of not imitating the rest of that world too much.

Respire is an abstract expression of release, of exhalation, of relief, of catharsis, and the gratitude that can produce.  

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