From mid-September–mid-October 2017 I was a resident fellow at the Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy. I lived in a beautiful mid-century home on the hillside overlooking the Ligurian Sea, and the music studio where I worked everyday was situated slightly further up the hill; from there, one had an unimpeded view of the sea, and the mountain to the east that jutted out from Camogli and hid the treasures of San Fruttuoso around its bend. I was there to compose, among other things, this new work for my good friend, clarinetist Chris Grymes.
From my very first day at Bogliasco, a phrase was running through my mind: “and everywhere the sea.” It comes from Allen Mandelbaumʼs translation of Virgilʼs Aeneid, a work appropriate to my environment. The whole passage reads:
But when the fleet had reached the open waters,
with land no longer to be seen—the sky
was everywhere and everywhere the sea—
a blue-black cloud ran overhead; it brought
the night and storm and breakers rough in darkness.
I decided to devote my time at Bogliasco to writing short musical “poems,” or bagatelles, that each reflected on some aspect of either the sky or the sea. Each movement was written in a single day, and I allowed the whole work to emerge organically, without a predetermined order or number of movements. It was a naturally developing process that mirrored my developing relationship with my stunning environment.
The sea seemed to pull everything toward it (#1), such that the many fruit trees on the steep hillside grew at a slant. Around 11:00 each clear morning, the sun would reflect off the sea so that it shimmered like so many diamonds (#2). At night, the sounds of the sea seemed to come in slow-motion (#3, a moto perpetuo for clarinet slowed way down). On Sundays, the church bells of SantʼIlario, Bogliasco, and Nostra Signora della Mercede e SantʼErasmo would fill the sky with their varied pealing (#4). The rain on the coast was always gentle (#5), but the clouds would take on various shapes, from wispy to hugely ponderous (#6). Near Villa dei Pini on the Bogliasco campus, the waves would playfully crash on the breakers (#7), and, viewed from above, the sea would sometimes reveal dark and variegated currents running near the shore (#8). As one ascended the hillside, the sea appeared to ramp up toward the horizon (#9), a hugely dramatic image. The many fruit trees, especially the fine leaves of olive trees, would create the most delicate shadows, particularly in the morning light (#10). The only movement whose composition I planned in advance coincided with the return of the full moon towards the end of my stay (#12). Its gentle reflection by the sea recalled in less brilliant but more poignant form the sparkling diamonds of mid-morning.
…and everywhere the sea was created with the support of a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship.