25 November 2018
Peggy Pearson, oboe
Rane Moore, bass clarinet
Gabriela Díaz, violin
Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello
They bury their dead with great ululations was commissioned by Winsor Music. It was composed in Cambridge, Massachusetts and completed in October of 2018.
They bury their dead with great ululations refers to the ancient custom of hiring women to cry loudly and pull their hair at funerals. The main purpose of this custom is to inspire people to cry and outwardly mourn for loved ones, to forgo the perceived embarrassment of crying in public. Art provides the same service. It allows us to connect to a feeling that is already there but that we struggle to express. Art can serve as a conscience for the ills of society, but its existence also proves that there is hope for a better world.
Ululation is a cry of mourning and it is also a cry of joy. That the same sound can express such contradicting states is indicative of our strong emotional affinity to sound itself and to its ability to purge us of overwhelming emotions and to provide cathartic relief. In my piece I use sound in a similar way – the sheer joy of Sound is to me an expression of deep grief and deep exhilaration, and the piece is meant to evoke both, or to keep the listener wondering whether it is expressing one or the other. Can it express both at once? Can art inspire in us the courage to cry out in times of injustice and ignorance?