February 26, 2004
Orchestra of St. Luke's
I could not hear music in my head for many weeks after September 11th, nor did I have any desire to. The images from that day have not faded, they've simply been replaced with images of life so that it would be possible to continue on, and the sounds, the crashes, the rain of fire, the smoke that I could see from my roof all the way up near the tip of Manhattan have since been crowded out to allow room for music again and the beautiful cries and babbling of our young twins.
I knew that it did not feel right for me to express my feelings through music as a response to what happened that day. I felt only numbness, as I'd felt when I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau in the early 90's. I remembered that unyielding sense of loss for people that I didn’t know, the loss of people just like those whom I love. I did not know what to feel then, nor do I now.
Sounds gradually returned to me, and, when empathy and emotion began to displace the lack of feeling a memory of the last elegy I'd written came to me, from my Second String Quartet of 1997 – music of intimate and private mourning for four solo instruments – dedicated in memory of Bette Snapp, who died during the composition of this second movement. She had been a friend and supporter to me and countless other composers. When I re-imagined this music for a larger mass of sound I could sense an important change in its meaning. Though the music in this new version is virtually the same as in the original, this version now feels more public in is sonic mass and scope, now a memorial to far too many victims. It still retains intimate use of solo strings alongside and in contrast to the expression of the larger body of strings.
The piece contains two different strands of slow, elegiac music – two sarabandes (my original quartet movement is called "Sarabande Double, Sarabande Simple"). The first is initially heard in the solo cello and later moves on through solo viola and violin. The second begins very quietly and distantly, with barely any motion. These two musics are divided from each other by contrastingly fast, intense music.
I mentioned my desire to make an expanded version of the 2nd movement to Linda Hoescher, the dedicatee of my entire 2nd Quartet and former President of the American Composers Forum, and she involved the Minnesota Commissioning Club in generously commissioning it. This commission is presented as a gift to the New York community from the American Composers Forum and the Minnesota Commissioning Club.
– Aaron Jay Kernis