Vital Sines

Duration: 16′
Concerto for Eighth Blackbird with Wind Band
Commissioned for Eighth Blackbird through the generous support of The U.S. Navy Band

It would be difficult to overstate just how important the wind ensemble has been in my life. Band was where I found community and identity during a time in my youth when I feared that there was nothing out there for me. In fact, it was one of the only places during those teenage years where I felt confident in who I was. And it was ultimately this confidence that gave me the nerve to believe that I could one day make it as a composer. But my life in the wind ensemble world almost never was. I very nearly gave up my musical pursuits in a fit of childhood frustration at the age of 11. My father, though he had no musical ability himself, saw in it something important. Always one to look after my creativity, he steadied me and encouraged me to give it more time. It was not long before he was proven right, and music had become something vital to me.

I find myself thinking of that crucial moment more and more since my father’s passing last year, and how music was and remains my vital connection to him. In the last weeks of his life—spent in the disorienting whir of the ICU—I often struggled to speak. But when I could not, I would play him the pieces of mine that I knew were his favorites, hoping that the sounds, the sine waves, could find their way to his consciousness. Since his death, I have come to understand that my love for music is inseparable from the love I have for him. I still catch myself wanting to call him and play him my latest efforts.

This one, Vital Sines, is dedicated to my father’s memory as the guardian of my musical life, as well as the many moments during my life when I found sanctuary in music. The creation of this particular piece, though challenging, was a way of finding solace when I needed it most. Throughout the piece, I employ several musical sequences and chaconne forms, all of which use repetition as a means of development. The overarching structure of the piece thus bears a resemblance to the visual depiction of the sine wave, rising and falling like the tracing of breaths and heartbeats. There is of course comfort in the familiarly of continued repetition. But I also followed memories back to my teenage years in Band, when that community had the extraordinary ability to not just bring me comfort but heal my heart. What I then realized was that all the other musical communities I have become a part of since then, Band or not, hold this same healing power.

With this concerto for the Eighth Blackbird and the US Navy Band, I am tremendously honored to bring together the Wind Band and New Music communities, both vital to me and so many others. Thank you to Eighth Blackbird and the US Navy Band for giving me an opportunity that I dreamed of for many years, as well as for your patience as I navigated this time in my life. Finally, thank you to my father for helping me find my way all those years ago. This one’s for you.