My second cello concerto Black City sits in contrast in many ways to my first cello concerto Soar. My first concerto is in one long movement with rather conventional scoring and is about striving and our innate urge to overcome and grow.
My second concerto, in contrast, is first of all on a much larger scale or ‘bigger canvas’ than the first concerto being cast in five rather long movements, each with an internal intensity that links them and creates the narrative thread of the music. Much of this music is about degradation, erosion and loss. As with most of my music I mean these somewhat geological ideas as metaphors for internal psycho-emotional change that takes place within us. As we grow and change it is not always about gain and stability but can also be about loss, diminishment and structural change. The metaphor of a rich internal city slowly eroding gave rise to the title of the work. I was extremely fortunate to come across the amazing poetry of the young American poet Dave Lucas, whose take on the decaying Midwestern cities of the United States (where I was both born and now live) had in them many internal and external metaphors that seemed so appropriate to my work.
Each movement has an inscription taken from Mr. Lucas’s poems from the volume Weather, while each also has a different structure and character despite the narrative thread that links them.
Movement 1—Letter to a Friend—(Expressive)
Let us go singing, friend, toward the distance
Where all is ruins. Do the broken not make music?
Sing ruin then. Sing ruin that it be sweet.
Movement 2—River on Fire—(Scherzo)
Stranger, the way of the world is crooked
And anything can burn.
Movement 3—It Will Be Rain Tonight—(Passacaglia)
I am no longer counting
phases of the insomniac moon.
I make no promises in the dark.
I have left that sad city blinking behind.
Movement 4—You Asked What the Heart Can Carry—(Cadenza)
I said stones. You asked how long.
I said until the sand they come to.
Movement 5—Midst of a Burning Fiery Furnace—(Finale)
I have heard of that alchemy of steel—
I am familiar with the dying arts. Let them burn
the dark night livid, my poor republic
of ingot and slag. I am seething
in my depths, I too have come to forge.