for six amplified voices (2021). Written in winter 2020/21 in quarantine in Los Angeles for the inimitable singers of ekmeles. If you listen closely, you can hear the heartbeat of individual singers affecting their voice with a kind of flickering pulsation as they sing on the threshold of tone. This was an unintended but welcome surprise during the recording session.
animal on Score Follower.
Footage from the live premiere at DiMenna Center in New York, May 23, 2023.
Harmonic sketches and manuscript for animal.
The ethos of this work was partially inspired by Rilke's eighth Duino Elegy:
With all its eyes the creature gazes into the Open.
Only our eyes are as if they were reversed, and surround
plant, animal, child like barriers, against their freedom.
We know what is outside us from the animal’s
gaze alone; since we already turn the young child round
and make it look backwards at what is settled,
not at the Open that is so deep in the animal’s visage.
Free from death. We alone see that; the free creature
has its progress always behind it,
and God before it, and when it moves,
it moves in eternity, as streams do.
Never, not for a single day, do we have
before us that pure space into which flowers
endlessly open. Always there is world,
and never the Nowhere without the Not: the pure,
unseparated element which one breathes and
endlessly knows, without desire. As a child
loses itself sometimes, one with the stillness, and
is jolted back. Or someone dies and is it.
Since near to death one no longer sees death,
and stares ahead, perhaps with the vast gaze of the animal.
Lovers are close to it, in wonder, if
the Other were not always there closing off the view...
As if through an oversight it opens out
behind the other...But there is no
way past it, and it turns to the world again.
Always turned towards creation, we see
only a mirror of freedom,
dimmed by us. Or that an animal
mutely, calmly is looking through and through us.
This is what fate means: to be opposite,
and to be that and nothing else, opposite, forever.
If there was consciousness like ours
in the sure creature, that moves towards us
on a different track – it would drag us
round in its wake. But its own being
is boundless, unfathomable, and without a view
of its condition, pure as its outward gaze.
And where we see future it sees all time,
and itself in all time, and is healed for ever.
And yet in the warm waking animal
there lies the pain and burden of a great sadness.
For it too feels the presence of what often
overwhelms us – a memory, as if the element
we keep pressing toward was once
nearer, truer, and joined to us
with infinite tenderness. Here all is distance;
there it was breath. Compared to that first home
the second one seems ambiguous and uncertain.
O bliss of little creatures that stay
in the womb that carried them forever:
O joy of the gnat that can still leap within,
even when it is wed: since womb is all.
And see the half-assurance of the bird,
almost aware of both from its inception,
as if it were the soul of an Etruscan,
born of a dead man in a space
with his reclining figure as the lid.
And how dismayed anything is that has to fly,
and leave the womb. As if it were
terrified of itself, zig-zagging through the air, as a crack
runs through a cup.
So the bat rends the porcelain of evening.
And we: onlookers, always, everywhere,
always looking into, never out of, everything.
It fills us. We arrange it. It collapses.
We arrange it again, and collapse ourselves.
Who has twisted us round like this, so that,
whatever we do, we always have the aspect
of one who leaves? Just as they
will turn, stop, linger, for one last time,
on the last hill, that shows them all their valley–,
so we live, and are always taking leave.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, The Eighth Duino Elegy (1923)
(Trans. A.S. Kline)