Length: c. 17 minutes
Orchestration: fixed media and strings
About this Piece
I believe generating empathy through art can be a strong mechanism to develop our understanding of one another. As a path to understanding the broad spectrum of the human experience, exercising empathy can give us a more accurate discernment of our limitations and our place in the infinite universe of perceptions and interpretations. In this work, I explore the concept of death as an intrinsic part of that experience and as an exercise of empathy and compassion for the suffering of others. Furthermore, a practice of relinquishment and detachment as we face the reality of our finite existence and reevaluate the meaning and value of all the things, relationships, and the power of decision we have in our hands daily throughout our lives. I imagine time expanding in all directions then; I feel connected to all the things and people, regardless of how distant we may have seen. The full version of Ausencias/Ausências/Absences is 30-minute long and written for string quartet, fixed media electronics, dance, and interactive video. It also exists in an abridged version (17-minute), with different combinations of the extra-musical media. The artistic impetus of this work was taken from the last works of three South American poets who took their own lives: Violeta Parra (1917–1967) of Chile, Alfonsina Storni (1892–1938) of Argentina, and Ana Cristina Cesar (1952–1983) of Brazil. The three main movements of the piece each focus on one poet and are inspired by the song “Gracias a la vida” (1966) by Parra, and the poems “Me voy a dormir” (1938) by Storni and “Samba canção” (1982) by Cesar. The audio and video portions of the work include images and recordings taken during my research trips to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina in 2015, including the cuatro venezolano (small guitar with four strings) that belonged to Violeta Parra. In the intermedia version of the work, the dance floor is illuminated by images projected from two overhead projectors. The full work, with dance, premiered on March 24, 2017, at the Duderstadt Video Studio at the University of Michigan. The original music-only version was premiered by JACK Quartet in March 2016, commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard university.