About the Piece
Commissioned by a consortium of individuals: Michael Ballard, Matthew Bentley, Adele Carter, Claudia Dakkouri,
Margaret Flint, Michael and Shandelle Grosbach, Ashley Hoffman, MB and Tim Krueger, Micaela Larson Brown,
Kathleen Schmidt, and the Trinity United Methodist Church of Denver Music & Arts Ministry. Premiered by a choir comprised of various professional musicians from the Denver area under the direction of Michael Ballard on June 26th, 2020 at the St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Denver, CO.
After the end of my Graduate degree in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made writing music a difficult thing, and I all but stopped composing for the better part of a year. This piece was a return to my creative life, attempting to create closure on the creative difficulties I personally faced during the pandemic. It was written for a specific concert Michael Ballard and I put together of entirely my music, premiered on June 26, 2021.
I’ve had the great pleasure of collaborating with the poet of this text before. I knew Taylor would be the perfect person to reach out to for a modern poetic take on the pandemic, especially as it relates to the desire for communal or familial love. He wrote a few poems for this project, and I picked one titled “A New Lens.” You can find the poem in its entirety on the next page.
Throughout the first half of this piece, you’ll hear a theme repeated over and over using the words “I touch my fingers to the glass.” The repetitive and echoing nature of this theme represents the monotony of the pandemic, often experienced together through things like Zoom, where no one really ever lines up in real time.
The piece will build to a climactic point, where it seems that we just can’t take it anymore-- anxiety has grown beyond the point of simply ignoring it. Suddenly, a new key will burst forth from the lower voices, while the higher voices sing melodies about the silver linings the pandemic revealed to us as time went on. This takes us to the end of the piece, where after a brief pause-- and for the first time-- all the voices sing the same words, simultaneously, together.
The piece ends on a dissonant chord— not quite resolved— representing a certain discomfort in becoming comfortable with connecting to our friends and family through the glass chasm of a device screen or a window.
See the Score:
Adapted from F. Taylor Atkinson's "A New Lens"
I touch my fingers to the glass— thin and clear,
my hand opposite yours— cold and far away.
I’m stuck choosing between virtual
or in person—always through a glass chasm.
I hear the howling –
the banging of pots and pans –
as much a release
of pain as something to do together.
The kids look to me to know when this will end.
I feel helpless being asked questions I don’t have the answer to.
I look back to how you led us when I was young
but don’t find the guidance I hope for.
I laugh every time I open your old cookbook.
I didn’t have a plan for the memories and instructions it holds…
Who knew that painting pebbles
with the little ones could lead to emotions so big.
We risk brief walks around the park and leave
these gems behind – the seed of a smile.
Turning these small, stone canvases over and over
in my hands as we walk becomes a meditation…
It’s funny. As the weeks turn to months of these weekend visits,
by the time I’m done sharing my soul with you,
I’d swear that the glass starts to feel warm.
Order the Music: