This Inconstant Stay (2014)

for soprano, guitar, violin, and cello

This Inconstant Stay was inspired by the idea of zooming in and out in time to explore timescapes on different levels. For example, the composer Gérard Grisey refers to the glacial “time of whales,” the familiar “time of humans,” and the compressed “time of insects” in his piece Vortex Temporum.This Inconstant Stay is one continuous process of zooming out, so that tiny and rapid fluctuations of pitch gradually expand into a melody and finally into the structure of an entire phrase. However, each level of musical information contains smaller levels within it, which gradually become audible as the music slows down, revealing patterns similar to those on the level above them. The text, from Shakespeare’s sonnets, speaks of the transitory nature of human life, which is constantly in flux, either in growth or in decay, driven along by the inexorable passage of time.

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and cheque’d even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
–William Shakespeare, Sonnet 15

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