The wine-dark sea II (2011)
Hedi Viisma, kantele (live performance)
kantele (Finnish zither)
The Mediterranean looms large in my family history and genealogy. Learning the mythology of Greece and Turkey as a child through books and bedtime stories, I came to associate this body of water with mystery, no small amount of adventure and, despite my strong physical and psychological attachment to the North, a distant, muted sense of ultimate home. As I draw primarily on landscape for creative impetus, during a trip to the region in 2007, I expected to find in the lands of my ancestors a potent new source of ideas.
Although the vistas were arresting and beautiful, they did not resonate in me on a deep level. What I – a northerner by more than birth and temperament, it would seem – was allowed to carry away from that trip were merely fond recollections of a foreign place, profoundly “other” from my experience: the iconic, archetypal “Mother Sea” and its numberless shades of blue, the quality of the sunlight, the smell of flowers and herbs in the air. These are the impressions informing The wine-dark sea, a dreamlike postcard written after the fact, through a haze of memory. I could add to this a feeling of blissful honeymoon detachment, of relaxation after a long period of work.
As I worked on the first version of the piece, for a duo of Baroque guitar and theorbo, I found that the registers of the two instruments and the bell-like sonorities I was using closely matched the range and timbres of the Finnish kantele, and instrument I had written for previously, but never in a solo capacity. Wanting to contribute something to its repertoire, I decided to pursue this idea and make a new version for my wife and traveling companion, the kantele virtuoso Hedi Viisma. Having been with me on that trip, I knew she would understand the imagery in the music as nobody else could. The wine-dark sea II is warmly dedicated to her.