When I was much younger, about 10 or 11, I thought I would like to be an archaeologist. Instead I became a composer, but the idea of composing as a form of aural archeology has stayed with me.
I recently finished music for tenor saxophone, electric guitar and cello, for the group Trio SAX_ELEC_VCL. The piece is called This is the wind and is in three movements, the first a reworking of ‘Shamal’, the opening movement of my 2018 piano trio, also called This is the wind. The final movement, ‘Palmyra’, was inspired by the destruction of the remains of that ancient city. The so-called Islamic State chose to demolish Palmyra as an iconoclastic attack on every civilisation that values the legacy of our shared humanity and in ‘Palmyra’ I am trying to imagine the recovery of shards of music.
As the music progresses we hear repeated attempts to piece together these fragments of phrases, as if the musicians are trying to rediscover what they might mean, to understand again how they might represent traces of lives lived.
Buried within the music are elements of Tallis’s Lamentations, so another sort of archeology and also a sort of recycling. It seems to me that this might be part of a more global way of being: all the ideas and materials we need to live well on this planet already exist, we just need to implement them better.