some favored gem

saxophone quartet and fixed media, 2018

      at first I liked how bright you shone, how smooth under my thumbs; i could call on you like a star, for some hopeful future. but all the sweat and sand and polish, whetstone and wishing... I can no longer touch you without bleeding.



This piece was inspired by, among other things, the work of vulnerability and shame researcher Brené Brown. A friend pointed me to her TED talks, where, among other things, she talks about the difference between guilt and shame; guilt is "I made a mistake," shame is "I am a mistake." At the time, I realized I felt what shame felt like - I had been living with it for some time, both in my daily life and in attempting to figure out what this piece ought to be.

I co-opted some of her language, the way she talks about the way we talk about shame. "I did this, therefore I deserve this." Language in this piece is tied to melodic fragments; one rarely appears without the other. The intent is to eventually make them feel like each other, to the point where some of the musical quotes induce the meaning of the phrases, if possibly without their emotional content.

After a hundred iterations of what I expected this piece would be, it eventually became what I most needed to express: self-loathing. The idea of the gem as being something of value, perhaps something you start to value more than yourself - anger and sadness as comforts you return to constantly, turning conversations over and over in your head to the point of scriptwriting, to a repetitious madness. Caring for this sharp, shining star, ignoring the way it carves you apart and makes you meaningless.