May 29 – June 9 (2015) – for string orchestra and string quintet (12′)
The significance of this work’s title lies in the two specific dates and the short time in between these dates for Michael Shane Schafer and those close to him: on May 29, 2015 Michael was married to Jillian Paige Gottlieb, and on June 9, 2015, he passed away after an arduous battle with tongue cancer. The two moments are presented in reverse chronological order in the piece, book-ended by two instances of silence, with other blocks of silence interspersed throughout the work. Since each first chair player becomes an occasional soloist in the piece, there is a constant teetering between full ensemble and chamber ensemble, allowing for sudden bursts of intimacy between these five players amongst the power of the full group.
Many of the conversations and discussions between Michael and I focused on German lieder, specifically Schumann’s iconic cycle Dichterliebe; Michael, a dark, lyric tenor, was passionate about the German art song tradition. As I was drafting this work, I had a copy of Im wunderschönen Monat Mai on my piano, and I felt its influence on me throughout this work’s composition; many of the motives feel to me as blossoms out of Schumann’s short song full of so much depth. Eventually, the song’s melodic content is presented, but in the ether, floating, arrhythmically in the upper harmonics of the string quintet players, each sustaining their notes to create a lush sky of incidental harmony that sits atop the rest of the ensemble.