Four Meditations

Commissioned by the Lake George Music Festival with support from the New York State Council for the Arts

Year
2018
Duration
20 minutes

Four Meditations is comprised of two elegies and two prayers, each a different examination of loss. Much of my recent music has been inspired by my work and travel around the world. The first movement was composed after a trip to Varanasi, a holy city on the banks of the Ganges River in India. In Varanasi you can walk along the river and at any point witness people washing themselves, doing yoga, brushing their teeth. During my visit, I once passed a group of children playing and splashing in the river, rounded a corner and came upon an enormous stack of wood. I looked around and realized that this was a “burning ghat”, where families bring their deceased loved ones to be cremated. Fires smoldered everywhere; it was as if time had stopped. This movement is elegiac and haunting, a reflection of this poignant and moving moment.

The second movement, Morning Prayer, depicts the searing morning sun in the Australian outback. The Anangu people living near Uluru consider this massive monolith to be sacred but the area is changing very rapidly. Walking around the rock in blinding sunlight, I was struck by the history of this ancient and mystical culture and the loss of much of it.

The third movement is a scene from America and is an elegy for a child. The first half of this movement is anguished and tortured. The second half imagines the stars on the child’s bedroom ceiling, his mother in the doorway looking at them and trying to absorb this unthinkable loss.

In the final movement, Evening Prayer, the musical material is connected to the second movement’s, but the memory I had in mind is a sunset I witnessed in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One evening a park ranger walked me through his village, which overlooks the massive smoldering active Nyiragongo volcano. I met some of his family and we walked to one of the ranger posts, where there were two cemeteries. One was for gorillas that had fallen victim to poaching, a problem with enormous consequences in the DRC. The other was for fallen rangers, just a few graves representing some of the 150 rangers that have been killed protecting the park and its wildlife. It’s difficult to describe—but looking out onto the plains there was so much beauty and magic and yet also the weight of almost a century of loss. This last movement is a simple song, a prayer that all of us deem places like this to be worth protecting.

This work was premiered by Roger Kalia and the Lake George Music Festival Orchestra in August 2018. The excerpt below is the final meditation, featuring a prominent cello solo.


Category
Orchestral Works
Instrumentation
2-2-2-2, 4-3-3-0, timp+3, hp, pno/cel, strings
view Other

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