...this mortal coil, Must give us pause...
for large orchestra (2018, 6 min.)
(3, 3, 2+bass, 2+contra; 4, 3, 2+bass, 1; timp, perc, hp, pno; 12/12/6/6/4)
Peabody Symphony Orchestra (reading)
Jisoo Kim, conductor
May 2, 2018
Roc Xu, recording engineer
“…this mortal coil, Must give us pause…” is a nod toward the infamous soliloquy of the third act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I’ve long been fascinated with both the metaphor of life existing as some sort of string, strand, or cord, along with the characters depicted across mythologies and literatures that weave, stitch, and sew these fibers of destiny.
The orchestral composition features the harp prominently, an instrument that (in my mind, at least) exists most directly as a visual and sonic representation of the coiled threads of life and death, along with the coiling and unraveling of musical textures across each family of the orchestra. Throughout the work, motives unfold, often canonically at minute intervals, diverging across independent modulatory processes.
These energetic and chaotic gestures are often intertwined with moments of stasis—brief but notable pauses of a markedly homogenous character; the periods of quiescence, albeit with a melancholic sheen, mark in our narrative the inevitable junctures of our lives. These unceasing coils oscillate between moments of indecision (or more accurately, the paralyzation from the onset of choice) and moments of inescapable development, cyclically returning to outgrowths of our earlier understandings and experiences, and culminating in bittersweet placidity.