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.
This new version, made for my friend Risto-Matti Marin, in a way brings the piece full circle back to its roots in North American postminimalism. Previous incarnations, having made use of early instruments, or instruments with folk origins like
the Baltic kantele family, have carried a sense of the contemporary overlaying a deeper antiquity, a fundamentally Old World sound. Adapting it for piano, it suddenly dawned on me how New World the basic musical material was, and that, however great the temporal or geographical remove, one can never fully leave one’s origins behind.