notes for Our Tears Are What We Carry Of The Oceans for Guitar trio

February 16, 2019

This piece was inspired by a quote from Solar Storms – one of Linda Hogan’s novels: “tears have a purpose, they are what we carry of the ocean, and perhaps we must become the sea, give ourselves to it, if we are to be transformed.” One of the greatest living poets, Hogan can in one phrase dissolve the barriers between animate and inanimate; past and future; or interior and exterior. I have written two song cycles using her poems: Truth of Matter and Rounding the Human Corners, * both of these are for low voice and guitar.

Originally a piece for solo guitar that was premiered in 2013 at GuitarFest West in Calgary, I have reconceived it as a trio to be part of a larger work titled Four Elements. This trio, being inspired by water, and the first, … As the Brick Remembers the Fire, comprise the set thus far and two more pieces will complete the cycle, being a The Oberon Guitar trio premiered … As the Brick in 2015 in Calgary also at GuitarFest West.

Our Tears opens with a series of figures that feature the descending minor second, a trope used throughout western music to denote tears falling. Guitars one and two play the opening figure in an inverted canon. A pulsing energy pushes the music toward the second section, which features flowing arpeggios – ocean music. I was listening to Colin McPhee’s piano duets [played with Benjamin Britten] the morning I started this trio, hence there is a flavour of Balinese Gamelan in the simple octave melodic figures that enter toward the end of the ocean music.

A lyrical third section reflects a Buddhist acceptance of the need for tears and our part in the universe. In a sense there is a wedding between people and nature, of sadness and acceptance. If we can give ourselves to it, accept it, we are made richer. In the heart of these thoughts we might find true compassion. The music ends poignantly with fragments from the tears section alternating with the lyrical fragments.