The idea of Stations came after I was approached by Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra (RICCO) to write a 30 minute piece for soloists, choir and orchestra, for the ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Season.  

I was excited by a possibility to work on such a large piece with another artist, and looked for someone whose work inspired me. 

Two years before that, I took part in New York’s New Dramatists’ Composer & Librettist  Studio, and had a most profound collaborative experience working with Michael John Garces, one of the New Dramatists’ resident writers.  Our short piece written at that time, Canto Claro that deals with political violence in Colombia, and addresses the issues of knowledge and the responsibility of a knower, won the Friends and Enemies of New Music 2004 Award.

Around that time, Michael showed me a raw draft of his 14 poems inspired by Barnett Newman’s Stations, an early sketch of the piece, that deeply moved me.  I saw it as a great material for a subtle, delicate and challenging work for a large ensemble and vocalists, that at that point I was not able to commit to write. 

I was thrilled to have Michael’s consent to start working more on the text after the RICCO opportunity presented itself.  Both traveling a lot, our first phase of work happened through email exchange, where we discussed the text in terms of directionality and its role in the overall shape of the piece.  We worked on defining, as precisely as possible, the kind of emotion that drives us while dealing with the work, and the kind of emotion that we want to bring out in the work.  The ephemeral, the vulnerable bodyness of our existence, compassion, the beauty in weakness, the beauty of human mind, were some of the ideas that we found powerful to carry us through the creating of Stations.   

I have been inspired by the circle of arts that the work goes through, from Newman’s paintings, to poetry, to music.  The thing that all three have in common, and this is one of the goals to achieve in Stations, is high emotionality brought out through abstraction and starkness.  We both were incited by Newman’s paintings to write a piece that would be intensely emotional, stirring, by searching for the essence of that emotion, and clearing all unnecessary expression – something we found extremely challenging.

I treat fourteen paintings and poems as a sequence of interwoven events that relate to each other based on the underlying, unifying ideas such as – contrast, tension, emptiness, color, light, etc.  In purely musical terms, the piece is structured in fourteen movements, each dwelling harmonically around one of the fourteen partials of the harmonic series, in a backward succession from fourteen to one.  Therefore, the harmonic skeleton greatly influences the overall form, as the reoccurrence and development of musical material depends on the reoccurrence of the partials within the 14-partial sequence.   This, to say – organic, approach to harmony and structure enables a coherent, spiral-like unfolding of musical events in Stations.

The piece is dedicated to Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra, and Maestro Edward Markward.


Stations
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