InstrumentationSoprano & Fl, Cl/Bs Cl, Vln, Vc, 2 Perc., Pno
in a field of stars grew out of conversations with my friend and poet Robert Fanning. Robert and I had been talking about the extraordinary emotional affect of poetry even (or maybe especially) when its “meaning” is ambiguous or unclear, and drawing connections to music, where communication and meaning is often similarly slippery yet no less powerful—where meaning exists in a space beyond words. His poem Infinity Room leans into this expressive space and serves as the text for this piece. It was inspired by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s “infinity rooms” and Radiohead’s music video Daydreaming. Kusama’s incredible, immersive installations use mirrors and repeating patterns to create spaces that seem like an alternate, infinite reality. In Daydreaming, Thom Yorke traverses an almost endless series of doors, each one leading to a seemingly disparate space, a sequence of rooms connected only by his memory. Similarly, Robert weaves a small lyrical fragment of Daydreaming into a poetic structure that can be read horizontally or vertically—or even as meditative, self-contained mantras—creating seemingly infinite loops and interpretations.
in a field of stars, like all my work, is a snapshot of who I am and what I am thinking and feeling at a particular moment in time, but the context for this piece seems especially strange. A pandemic and enormous social and political anxiety and unrest have framed my recent experiences in ways that have deeply changed me. This strange and difficult time has reminded me that it takes time to process feelings, and, in the context of something this immense, I will be discovering the ways it has changed me and the world around me for a very long time. I think this piece is a part of that process.
Physical spaces help mark events in our memory—the smell, the feel, the look of a place is as integral to our memory as the thing we are trying to remember. It has been so peculiar to occupy the same physical spaces for such long periods of time—working, cooking, cleaning, playing, sleeping, creating in the same few rooms for months. As a result, in some ways, I feel like my memory of this time is jumbled, an endless series of experiences in self-similar rooms, and I cannot quite grasp its architecture.
The piece is divided into seven movements, each ruminating on a few lines from the poem that have been rearranged to explore different possible meanings. There are numerous connections between the movements—both lyrical and musical—and, like Robert’s poem, my hope is that the piece creates its own strange, infinite world, bending a linear perception of time into the more mysterious space of memories and feeling. Feeling requires vulnerability, so I want to share a few small pieces of my own web of meanings for this piece, although I hope that ultimately it leads you to explore your own world of meaning.
Did that happen last year or two years ago? What has happened in the past month? When was the last time? Have I done this before? Have I been here before?
There are so many. So many.
I tore my ACL. My sons said that I had “snapped the rubber band in my knee.” For months I had nightmares where the injury would occur over and over again.
In this room I got lost in the infinity of my mind.
The song Never Meant by the band American Football reminds me of college.
Multiverse—an infinite realm of being or potential of being of which the universe is regarded as a part or instance.
I cannot understand how they feel. I cannot see how they experience the world. But I want to try. I want to listen.