From Time to Eternity - Program Notes

For death is no more than a turning over of us from time to eternity.
— William Penn

Last June, one of my elementary school classmates was killed in a building collapse downtown. Although we hadn't spoken in years, her death had a profound effect on me. In my memory, she was still the vibrant sixth grader who would let me join in on whatever bit of fun she was having.

Her death crystallized inside me for half a year. On her birthday, I saw friends and family from her life emerge on Facebook to celebrate her memory. In that moment, I had to map what I was feeling, and this drawing became the architecture of my piece.

 The horizontal axis is time. The vertical axis is intensity, loudness, and pitch.

The horizontal axis is time. The vertical axis is intensity, loudness, and pitch.

From Time to Eternity's instrumental sounds express the emotional reaction to sudden absence. Sections alternate between the dark sounds of fear and frustration and the warm sounds of memory and affection.

I chose not to use traditional tonality because a tonal center gives the listener a sense of comfort. It suggests the possibility of resolution, as though a solution could be found or an answer given, while death remains unknowable. Instead of the usual seven-tone major or minor scale, I constructed a nine-tone scale out of repeated symmetrical clusters. The scale is like a knot. Anywhere you start merely leads you back to that point in the pattern within three steps in either direction.

 This is also Messian's third  mode of limited transposition , which he arrived at through a much more intellectually rigorous process, I'm sure.

This is also Messian's third mode of limited transposition, which he arrived at through a much more intellectually rigorous process, I'm sure.

As my deadline approached, the ending of the piece remained elusive. The composition unpacks a single moment's worth of emotion, but to reach an artful ending, I would need to find closure. I found this in a quote by William Penn:

"For death is no more than a turning over of us from time to eternity."

William Penn spoke these words in a strictly Christian sense.  But when I read them, a different notion comes to mind: that of the arisen consciousness dispersing back into matter, back into the earth, and eventually, back to the greater universe. We briefly experience time as conscious beings and then return to a timeless state of eternity. Those words transformed how I heard my own piece and allowed me to reach an ending that was both open and meaningful.