Stabat Mater for solo violoncello and 6 prerecorded violoncellos (2019)

Duration: 14’

Written for Irene Han

Program Notes:
Stabat Mater for violoncello and tape explores the text of the Stabat Mater, particularly its use of perspective. The piece is divided into two movements, the first of which features only the solo violoncello and explores the first 24 lines of the text, which dramatically describe the scene of the Virgin Mary grieving the death of her son. Most of the movement is comprised of quiet, delicate techniques, creating a private sound world that, when heard in a live setting, can be felt as a similar experience to that of reading this first part of the text – we are onlookers to Mary’s suffering, not yet engaged. The remainder of the text begins to call out directly to Mary, pleading, “Make me feel the force of your grief, so that I may mourn with you,” now drawing the reader in to empathize with Mary in her experience. The second movement explores this aspect of the text with the emergence of the tape part, which consists of six spatialized, pre-recorded violoncellos. The pre-recorded violoncellos surround the audience and envelop them in the sound world that was previously at a distance, musically evoking this change of perspective. This piece is not a setting of the story of Mary’s grief, but a reflection on empathy, and an attempt to give empathy a kind of musical physicality.