My grandmother had advanced Parkinson’s disease. Despite its surface manifestations, her sickness was not muscular. Her body worked, her brain worked, but the method of passing messages between the two malfunctioned. She knew how she wanted to move, but she couldn’t make her muscles move. She knew what her emotions were, but she could not grasp their cause. She lived inside a radical disassociation, a gap between intention and execution so extreme that the simplest of actions required inordinate effort. This sense of disassociation pervades Therfore I Was. You’ll see it in the limbs of the cellist as they wrench away from the ordered movements required to sound stable pitches. You’ll hear it as the players strain towards a unified breath around which to coalesce. The music repels between two aesthetic poles: one pulling the instruments towards stillness; the other anchoring their gestures to an anxious, aggressive ground. This movement mirrors the crisis I watched my grandmother endure. The life to which she fiercely clung was brutal and unforgiving. At such times the will to live can seem irrational, even inhumane. And yet, somehow, astonishing, and unabashedly human.
Therefore I Was was commissioned by the Alice and Harry Eiler Foundation on receipt of the 2010 Jezek Prize. It was premiered by Talea Ensemble on March 4th, 2012.