The Song Company premiered a new work of mine last night "Out of the deep" which I've dedicated to my partner Dean Walsh, as we are able to support each other through fundamentally dark times.
The event was quite full on for me - I'd not sat down to that much Bach in a long long time. It was a 2 hour program (with interval). Pretty epic sing (lots and lots of dots!), and a beautiful program, full of the melismatic imitation one can expect from such repertoire. I have to say, the acoustic of the venue was incredibly suitable for the ensemble as well. There's a basement below the main floor the singers were on and the sound (I think) resonated in that space and created a perfect reverberation for the event.
I'll reproduce the program note for my work, "Out of the Deep", here.
I've used excerpts from the first verse of Martin Luther's "Out of the Deep I Cry to Thee". This work was written at a time for the world where, in Chechnya, gay men are right now being rounded up and killed in concentration camps. Refugees are turned away and put in concentration camps where they become suicidal on Nauru and Manus Island. Where the powers of the USA and North Korea are aggravating each other with words and threats of using nuclear weapons against each other. Where there is such distrust of foreigners that Pauline Hanson, Brexit and Trump exist. Where there is such denial of truth and science that the Great Barrier Reef is getting damaged beyond the possibility of revitalisation. When the psychological health of children in danger has become a political ball-game. I don't believe in religion, but the lyrics I read in this hymn resonated with me given the times we live in, and my personal context of having experienced such depths that I've attempted suicide and turned to drugs to alleviate pain. A cry from such depths isn't consistent or powerful... it is fragile, unsure, desperate, exhausted, frantic, delusionally energetic beyond exhaustion.
So that's what my work is about.
The lyrics I've used are;
Out of the deep I cry to Thee; O Lord God, hear my crying; Incline Thy gracious ear to me, With prayer to Thee applying. Out of the deep I...
... I don't go through a lot of text... I've explored the text for its relevance in the contemporary context, and made the work very personal. Danny Yeadon on cello has scored improv moments where he becomes the expanse of the universe, the "god" to which I'm crying (and in my case the universe answered with an introduction to Dean!), and the four vocal parts take different expressions of "crying"; which can be fragile, unsure, desperate (and therefore loud), exhausted, frantic, delusionally energetic beyond exhaustion.... because hey, when I really need help, the plea isn't delivered in a measured, calculated calm way... or if it is at least the feelings behind the mask certainly aren't like that - there is a tumultuous chaotic storm in my mind when I'm in trouble (in any way).
But those alarm bells need to be felt by everyone, not just for themselves.... it's one thing to sweat about not being able to afford a house because smashed avocado (/intergenerational theft?), but another thing entirely to sweat about the fact that Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement (which was an international agreement to mitigate further environmental damage to the planet). The Whole Planet is in jeopardy. It won't matter if I can't afford a shoebox in Sydney in a couple of decades. It won't matter if the latest iPhone is coming out. It won't matter if another film about environmental destruction, or gender equality, or healing society comes out. The antarctic is literally splitting in two Right Now.
I just want to live in a world where all these cities aren't going underwater and where everyone loves each other.
That world, it seems to me, will not exist. So what do we do?
Out of the deep, I cry to... ? Thee? An invisible god?
Out of the deep, I cry to thee... You. Me. Us. I define humanity as god. On this planet we have agency. We manifest the love in our hearts into actions. "Thoughts and Prayers" are worth nothing; actions, investment, agreements, contracts are what we have to work with right now. If myopia, greed and narcism is stronger than love and wisdom then we are doomed.
I don't know what the actual solutions are... but I do know that arts have the power to reach audiences with an invitation to think beyond themselves - without the hindrance of some ancient mis-understood text or selfish financial motivation. So my work invites you to reflect on your depths as well as the depths the world is currently facing, and perhaps that reflection will lead to some catharsis, some exquisite thought, and some action.