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end stages (2016)

Duration: ca. 20'
2 Fl./2 Ob./2 Cl. (second dbl. bass cl.)/2 Bn./2 Hrn./2 C Tpt./1 Perc./Strings
Commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Note by the Composer

The loss of loved ones to terminal illness is something that affects most of us at some point, those afflicted usually finding themselves in environments of deeply private and intimate suffering; each instance a world unto itself not often glimpsed by those other than family members and, perhaps, hospital staff. Like many composers, I have found solace in art forms other than music. I find the artwork of Kevin Tuttle one of these refuges. The tools he employs vary greatly. He will work as often with plaster and wood as he will with paint or graphite. He finds expression in many forms. One element which drew me powerfully to his work was the curious sculptural quality many of his drawings and paintings had. His art has the unique effect of creating a desire to both look upon and look away from it. In 2014 and 2015, Tuttle was the set designer for several productions of my monodrama, On the Threshold of Winter, which follows the final weeks of an individual’s struggle with cancer. It was only natural, then, that he and I would discuss the matters at hand. Among the results of these discussions were the drawings and music that follow.

— Michael Hersch

Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle Kevin Tuttle

Note by the Artist

While music is intensely visceral, it is possibly the most abstract of the arts. This makes it difficult to think of corresponding visual elements that can evoke the same visceral sensations. Potentially the more evocative an image is, the more it diverges from the possibilities music presents—though it may also be essential in order to make the least ambiguous statement. Finding the correct balance is a struggle without end.

It is worrisome to toss around the word authentic in contemporary times, where irony reigns as the leading component of our aesthetic. Yet this is what I think of Hersch’s music. There is something very real here. Taking the journey in Hersch’s music makes me feel better about being human by revealing the forgotten and forbidden depths, the “Other” of our human nature. The fundamental “Other” is death, and it resides in the core of our being, in the center of our hearts. Nothing can relieve us of its gift. In making the “Other” that resides in each of us present, we can feel at least a little free of its fear-inducing iron grip.

— Kevin Tuttle