Dust (2017)

for violin, alto saxophone, electric guitar,
percussion, piano and live electronics

I didn’t work off a grid. Or prime the surface
if I could get off without it. I made
simple music
out of sticks and string. On side B of me,
experimental guitar, night repairs and suppers
such as this.
C.D. Wright, “Our Dust” (1988)


Dust is inspired by the poetry of C.D. Wright, a great poet and artist who served on the faculty of Brown University from 1983 until her untimely death in 2016. Her 1988 poem, Our Dust, is a particular inspiration, exhibiting many of the qualities of the extraordinary voice that defined her entire oeuvre. Shuttling between the formal and the vernacular, the experimental and the lyrical, the common and the prophetic, it exposes the complexity of a woman born in the Ozark mountains who would become one of the great experimental poets of our time, while presenting that contrapuntal vision as a beacon of hope and truth. Wright’s poetry serves as both a temporal and spectral framework for my piece Dust. Spectral analysis of Wright’s voice (from a reading of Our Dust), along with additional spectral material derived from a well-known Arkansas folk song recording, forms the source material. The spectral apparitions represent both a point of departure for the composition (in Wright’s words, “simple music out of sticks and string”) and a point of poignant arrival for the audience.