Instrumentationclarinet and alto saxophone
between us was written in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been one of the strangest and more difficult times in my life, as I am sure it has been for many others. Collectively, we have shared many of the same challenges, but I also know that each person’s experience of this time has been quite different. Some have struggled with fear, anxiety, loneliness, and loss. Some have had to face the challenges of life and work without access to many important social structures. And some have confronted the pandemic more directly. It has also been a particularly tumultuous time socially and politically. Technology has allowed us to connect with each other in really powerful and positive ways, but it has also siloed us into more homogeneous spaces, allowing us to construct vastly different perceptions of reality. Over time, it has diminished our ability to communicate with empathy and understanding, especially with those who are different from us.
Each movement of between us meditates on a different meaning of this phrase. One of my favorite things about chamber music is the vulnerability and trust that lie at the center of it—it is an imperative—and this is especially true with a duo. It is both a challenge and an opportunity.
The first movement—What is?—poses this question at a time when the fracturing of our social fabric has divided families and severed relationships. In the past year it has felt like there are so many things between us, so many things separating us from each other. The clarinet and saxophone spend much of this movement in an absurd, dissonant hocket, wildly trading back and forth—talking past each other.
Movement two is inspired by the French phrase entre nous, which articulates a more private, intimate connotative meaning of the phrase between us. Much of the music in this movement is soft, searching, close, and melancholic—individual lines weaving in and out of each other with fleeting moments of coming together.
The final movement is entitled Metaxy, which is a Greek word defined as the “in-between” or “middle ground.” Metaxy originates from Plato’s Symposium and plays a central role in the work of the modern political philosopher Eric Voegelin. As an idea, it is rich in meanings and transcends brief description, but it can be thought of as the polar tension or the connector between time and eternity, between the origin of being (Apeiron)—the material realm—and what lies beyond being (epekeina). This music is a dance, bristling with playful, exuberant energy and filled with interplay and echoes—reverberant reflections of time and space.
*Duo Entre Nous and the commissioning consortium retain exclusive performance rights through January 20, 2022.