for viola solo (2019)

World Premiere: Melia Watras, viola; June 15, 2019, Seattle, WA

Duration: 4:02

Program Notes:
I wrote Black wing, brown wing after reading Joan Didion’s play, The Year of Magical Thinking. Didion experienced the tragic deaths of her husband in 2003 and her daughter in 2005. One facet that her play explores is what she describes as the vortex effect—paralyzing memories set off by everyday occurrences—that she painfully experienced in the aftermath of her husband’s death and during her daughter’s illness. In my piece, I use my own musical memories, quotes from my Folk Style Project, as a way to evoke the vortex effect that Didion described. I also make motivic use of some of the author’s symbolism involving eyes and waves.

The title of my piece comes from a line in T. S. Eliot’s poem New Hampshire (from Landscapes). The poem held great meaning for Didion and her daughter Quintana, and Didion chose to read it at Quintana’s funeral. I was very moved by the flow of Eliot’s poem, which I reflect on by using a parlando theme, where the solo violist plays in a reciting manner.

Black wing, brown wing is dedicated to my cherished friend, theater director Sheila Daniels.

—Melia Watras