philharmonie zuidnederland, Duncan Ward Livestream Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, 29 October 2020
My studio is on the top floor of my house. Through the windows I look out over other buildings in the city, but I mainly see the clouds moving through the sky every day.
I am always impressed by the constant and steady change of their shapes and colors. The heavy clouds are beautiful, far away and at the same time close, impressive and timeless—every time I look at them. Their silent floating in a motionless firmament seems to be a big part of their strength. To me they represent the passage of time and the unpredictability of the future.
Time passes differently for different beings and things. Like the clouds our lives are short and fleeting. The past months have made that clearer than ever.
Yet we always keep hope—as if we are looking at the sky, waiting for the redeeming rain.
On 26 February, philharmonie zuidnederland and conductor Mario Brunello will perform See the Sky About to Rain on Radio 4.
America has produced a number of writers, thinkers, and composers who consciously wanted to live their lives in isolation or exile. Henry David Thoreau, Conlon Nancarrow and John Luther Adams are just a few examples of these American hermits.
What I think is special about the American poet Emily Dickinson is that she spent her whole life secluded in her childhood home in Amherst, Massachusetts — hidden in plain sight. Her poems also remained hidden until after her death: a chest full, which her sister did not destroy but published against Emily’s wishes.
In 2020 we will all have become hermit-like. We keep our distance from each other, work from our own homes where possible and look forward to the time when we can reunite in larger numbers in concert halls, theaters, cinemas and festivals.
I composed Emily for a series of concerts dealing with themes around Covid-19. Her poems about death, isolation and immortality are more relevant than ever.
Emily was premiered by soprano Marene Elgershuizen and Matangi Quartet, for NTR Radio 4 in Muziekhaven, Zaandam. Matangi Quartet also performed my first string quartet I Dreamed in the Cities at Night. You can listen to the entire program here.
In December, Marene and I were interviewed about the project for newspaper Trouw.