towers, beautiful, mourning, Tuesday (2013)
Instrumentation: solo viola (or cello), delay pedal, pre-recorded soundtrack
Commissioned by Australian violist Glen Donnelly
towers, beautiful, mourning,Tuesday was commissioned by Australian Violist Glen Donnelly and recorded at the Royal Academy of Music on 22 May, 2013. Based on the 5th movement from Messiaen’s Quartet of End of Time, (Louange a l’Éternité de Jésus), it is also a solemn and haunting memorial piece of September 11, 2001. It calls for solo viola, delay pedal, and pre-recorded sound design, with a performance duration of 12-13 minutes. The world premiere had taken place at the London Contemporary Music Festival on 4 August, 2013, performed by Stephen Upshaw.
I have always desired to write a 9/11 composition in some form, yet never found the right opportunity. Since Glen asked me to write a delay pedal piece, I thought of this movement from Messiaen’s work, since I felt it would be appropriate to experiment with the delay pedal with the composer’s material. I had also written another solo composition with delay pedal, Fantasia on a Lament for solo oboe, which was also a quotation piece based on an earlier well known composition. In effect, it was also a stepping-stone for towers, beautiful, mourning, Tuesday. Since his tempo marking is indicated as “infiniment lent, extatique” (infinitely slow, ecstatic), the piece unraveled into a frozen sense of meditated time, which correlates to the title of Messiaen’s work. I had chosen this peculiar title due to the shocking and numb events that transpired in lower Manhattan on that beautiful Tuesday morning.
Originally written for cello and piano, I was able to combine the texture of both instruments, since the viola has a wide range of acoustic and sonorous capability. Much of the texture is explored with various compositional techniques and performance abilities, bringing the piece into a pure transcendent landscape. In addition to the hypnotic and colorful effects of the delay pedal, subtle sound sources and news broadcasts from that actual day in New York City were included in this piece to heighten the sound mass of the textural environment.
Furthermore, the message of John 1:1 in Louange a l’Éternité de Jesus,“the eternity of the word whose time never runs out,” is a mournful dedication and an unending search for the fate of all the brave souls who died on that tragic day.