The Violin was inspired by my dear friends and wonderful violinists, Neil Dufallo and Amy Kauffman based in New York City, and another dear friend and violin maker, Bruno Guastalla, based in Oxford, England. Shortly after my mother passed away in 2008, I found a violin in Oxfam, a charity shop in Oxford. It was in a dusty old case leaning up against a pile of vinyl records in the basement. Priced at £5.99 (approx. $9), the European baroque-style violin dating from the late 1800s, with a hand-carved lion’s head scroll was a bargain. It needed some work, so I took it to Bruno’s shop and he restored the violin in exchange for composition lessons. Back in Brooklyn, with a beautifully restored fiddle in stow, I made another barter with Neil and Amy – a violin duet in exchange for violin lessons. I subsequently composed Blue Hour, a violin duet with a pre-recorded track, which they premiered at John Zorn’s New York City performance space, The Stone, in 2009, and I began my violin lessons. The following Summer, we recorded the suite at our friend, Jody Elff’s home studio on his apple orchard in Upstate New York.
One of my favourite pieces of music for solo violin is the Presto from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001. On the anniversary of my mother’s death, I composed six more pieces to make a suite alongside Blue Hour, which became the opening movement for The Violin – composing one piece an evening, finishing with Lavender Rain on the day of her anniversary. The Bach is quoted in Rest These Hands and Tea Leaves and these same two movements, along with The Violin, take their titles from three poems my mother wrote in the last year of her life.
Shortly after completing the music, I came across the work of New York-based artist Josh Dorman, through a program on PBS, which showed his extraordinary work with a Chicago-based organization that combines art and music in their work with people with Alzheimer’s. Through his art, he captured individual life stories through a collage of images that were recalled in their conversations. His art was deeply moving, and I felt an immediate connection. We met shortly thereafter at a café in New York City, following which, I sent him the recordings for The Violin. Over subsequent years, Josh created seven stop-motion animations to accompany each of the seven movements.
II. Rest These Hands
IV.Ship of Stars
VI.Resting In the Green
VII. Lavender Rain