memory boxes 1-8
for string quartet
performed by Pacifica Quartet
memory boxes 1-8 (2012)
box 1 (...to be, not here, but here...)
box 2 (...standin' at the crossroads...)
box 3 (...but now we float...)
box 4 (...put on your red shoes and dance the blues...)
box 5 (...there is a light that never goes out...)
box 6 (...half of what i say is meaningless...)
box 7 (...what might have been lost...)
box 8 (...with a palm full of stars...)
First came the title - "memory boxes" - inspired by visual artist Joseph Kornell's life-long fascination with boxes, which he filled with, one might say, reflections, dreams and memories, using concrete items. What might be a musical equivalent to this, especially if it focuses on the realm of memory, embracing its slippery nature and the impossibility of capturing it? Then came the google search: apparently, such thing as "memory boxes" does actually exist; most often given as a gift for special occasions, these boxes are meant to store mementos and memorabilia items - anything that at a later time can send one down abstract memory lane, with the sheer power of, say, an old photo and a medal placed in a wooden container. One of the websites selling such memory boxes even goes as far as stating that its products "capture moments in time, and turn them into lifelong memories".
This composition has little to do specifically with these arguably over-kitschy (and possibly falsely-advertised) merchandise. But it did grow out of a desire to explore the paradox at the very heart of any attempt to "box" memories; to have a concrete representation of the abstract; to hold in our hands, if only for a brief moment, some of that wondering, flowing sand. These attempts might be categorically bound to fail; but after all, perhaps that very failure is what we ultimately call "art"?
So here is a tiny, modest personal tribute to that ever-inspiring longing, to capture the uncapturable: eight miniatures in the shape of similarly-sized musical "boxes", each one lasting little more than a minute. Each box started off with an attempt to contain a memory in music, despite it being something with no present physicality, beginning or end. Inevitably, each box fails; hopefully, it does so in its own way.
The box titles in parenthesis are "borrowed" from lyrics of certain songs which for me are associated with meaningful memories. They were assigned after the piece was complete, and their relation to the boxes is purely by personal association; they do not, by any means, represent "what the boxes are about" - unless you want them to, of course. Any free associations by anyone (and memories, for that matter) related to the boxes or titles is encouraged.
The songs which kindly donated their excerpted lyrics for this purpose are:
1. "Beneath the Southern Cross" by Patti Smith
2. "Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson
3. "We Float" by Polly Jean Harvey
4. "Let's Dance" by David Bowie
5. "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" by Morrissey and Johnny Marr (The Smiths)
6. "Julia" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
7. "The Wolves (Act I and II)" by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver)
8. "Desired Constellation" by Björk