The Irrational Quest For Beauty – Even More Beauty

This was my second CD. There are copies out there of this CD, that do not have the “Even More Beauty” part of the title attached. That original album was about 40 minutes or so long, and features some of the very best pieces I have ever created. I chose a couple of years later to add three of my favorite musical portraits to it, giving you almost a full hour of music. This CD is, in my opinion, if I had to pick one, my best of the instrumental CDs, mainly because of the breadth of the material on it. I have to say, I love them all, and there are huge advantages that each has, so that is just what I think about it, and I can explain why, as we look at each of the tracks.

The CD opens with “Abode of Compassion”. This is a musical portrait for a man in Massachusetts who I met at a concert on Cape Cod. It was commissioned by his lady friend, who also attended. It took me some time to complete. I took a different approach with this piece. I wanted the strings to really drive the feeling of it. This man had gained a very great benefit through working with a great Biddhist teacher in Boston, and he exudes the charm of someone who has found a certain kind of piece in the midst of some very great personal difficulty. So the title handed itself to me. This a very favorite musical portrait of mine. It is not one I perform much.

“My Mysterious Friend” was the very first musical portrait I created. It was commissioned by a mysterious friend, whose encouragement and support is the main reason I even came to create musical portraits in the first place. There is tragedy in this piece, in the composing of it, in what happened after that. Still, it stands on it's own. This is one of the only pieces that I played live in her living room, as the starting point, and then added piano and two other cello parts to later on in the studio. To me, it is mesmerizing and fills me with both gratitude and sadness.

“Burning Green Ember” is a piece purely composed in the studio. It is lush, and romantic. This is a piece I would love to play live, but I think it loses a lot from playing with backup tracks. Some day it will be notated and performed by a small string ensemble.

“Children, Putting On Their Vestments of Stars” came from the Park, pure and simple. The natural pattern of things in the Park is that I play and before long, children and fathers and mothers gather. And the children dance. This piece came as much in response to the dancing children as anything else. And you may remember from childhood what it was like to put on vestments of stars. One time, my mysterious friend and I were looking at a book of Neruda poetry and just picking out lines that took our breath away. I am pretty sure “putting on their vestments of stars” came from that hunting expedition. The book is called the Sea and the Bells. Small, exquisite poems. The title seemed apt for the magic that always comes when I play for children in the Park.

“Lydia and the Trees” is probably the third musical portrait I created. It was commissioned by a woman in Nashville, TN, who attended one of my performances and wanted a piece to honor herself. She is a big supporter of the arts in Nashville. It was the first instance of my creating music for someone I did not know well, so the process took a few turns. But it was her sharing of the inheritance of a tree farm in a remote part of Tennessee, and her relationship to that, that was the inspiration for this piece. Once I heard her speak about that, what it meant to her, the music pretty much wrote itself. Whenever this piece gets transcribed, so it can be performed “live”, it will be a stunning experience.

“Symphony of the Sea of Lost Wishes” is the result of a collaboration I had with a woman who was creating a dance production around the process of transformation that is evoked by the evolution of a caterpillar into a butterfly. This particular benefactor was responsible for the gift of the duplication of 1000 “Cello Man Dreams” CDs. This was a huge blessing. She then commissioned me to work on the music for this dance piece over the winter of 2009. It was to a great extent her support that made it possible for me to survive that winter, along with the support of my mysterious friend. The dance piece never happened. But when I began to put together the pieces for “Irrational Quest”, I knew I had to make something of that material. It turned into a kind of symphonic work, that contains a lot of the themes we were working on. It is certainly not like anything else I have ever done and would take a great deal of work to reproduce for orchestra, but if that ever is done, it will be stunning.

“Kisses and Volcanoes” is a title that originated again from my exploration of Neruda poems. I am pretty sure this line comes from a book of his love sonnets. He describes being in love and how it leaves him so bereft of his senses, and then imagines he is the land of “kisses and volcanoes”. This piece came out of that feeling and has been a standard in my performance repertoire for the last four years. It is simple, but ravishing.

“Man Under The Night Sky” was my second musical portrait to be commissioned. Actually it was a trade for some Pilates work. But that worked for me! And the process of creating it was very dear, because it was the first time I had the experience of interviewing the friends of the man this was to be performed for, as a surprise, at a birthday party, as gift from his wife. And it was the first time I realized that all of our friends know us very differently. Some of his friends thought of him in one way. Others knew him in a completely different way. In the end, I realized there was a very particular aspect of his life that needed most to be evoked, and that is how the piece came out. At first, it actually had words, and I had my daughter, Ali Sperry, sing that vocal. But after playing it for the woman who was commissioning it, the man under the night sky's wife, we agreed that purely instrumental was best.

“Fishing For Fallen Light” was another improvisation that was birthed in the Park. I still play it regularly, and the title again comes from a Neruda poem.

 

If each day falls

inside each night,]

there exists a well

where clarity is imprisoned.

 

We need to sit on the rim

of that well of darkness

and fish for fallen light

with patience.

More arpeggios on this one...

“Right Here In A Larger World” is a musical portrait commissioned by a friend of mine for one of his best friends, a buddy named Bill, who had passed away the year before after a bout with hepatitis. This is one of now three musical portraits that were commissioned to commemorate lives that are no longer with us on the earth. It was extremely moving to hear his friends, and his widow, talk about him. He was loved, greatly, an independent, very compassionate soul, who was a blessing to many. The piece features a moment where the cello goes high on one note. To me, this is both what this piece is all about, and what Bill was all about. Holding on to the one high, beautiful note that we feel can carry us right through this world and into the next.

The last piece on this CD is “ Deep Inside, and Over the Moonbow”, and although I am fond of saying about different pieces I have written, “this is my favorite”, and you will stop believing me, perhaps, if I say it again, nevertheless, this piece has to rank right up there close to the top. That is why I included it when I was adding more pieces to “The Irrational Quest For Beauty” and calling the CD, “Even More Beauty”.

 This is a musical portrait that was commissioned by a lovely woman who came to a concert in Charlotte, NC, who literally smiled a radiant smile the entire concert. When she commissioned her portrait, it was a puzzling, quixotic process that left me wondering where she really was, or who she really was. But at a certain point, from things her friends told me, I realized how deeply connected with the moon she was and how I needed to proceed, in creating some strength in the music, that would give some grounding for her, and then allowing the moonlight to play through the piece.

In a way, I was amused by this moon connection in her, but it wasn't until the piece was finished, and I listened to it over and over, deeply moved, that I realized how much I share that moon-like quality with her. It was my piece, too. She received it in the middle of the night, on a full moon, and was very pleased. This is a piece I have been delighted to play over and over again in my performances, and I look forward to being able to perform it “live” with a full ensemble, at least three cellos and piano.