Finding the Soul of Physical Space

picc, ob, cl, tbn, perc, pf, vn, va, vc, kathak dancers

Performed by Sureela Ensemble and Nebula Ensemble
Choreography by Sureela Ensemble

I began composing Finding the Soul of Physical Space outdoors on a beautiful spring day with the intention of exploring the feeling of spaciousness, a feeling I had experienced in both my Kathak dance class and during Eucharistic adoration. Though these two activities differ greatly from one another, both involve rituals that bring a heightened awareness of how our spiritual existence plays out in physical space. As I worked on the piece, the rhythms and melodic characteristics of Kathak – a classical Indian dance form whose name means “the art of storytelling” – began to blend with bird songs, the sound of unpredictable spring winds, the story of The Visitation from the gospel of Luke, the rustling of new leaves, and even the exuberant meowing of a cat. During this same stage in the drafting process I asked the performers of Nebula Ensemble to respond to the word spaciousness, and Julia Emery’s response, “open heart and mind, and the vastness of the sky” gave me another vista to gaze at as I composed. All of these associations come together in a single soundscape which is not itself an attempt at storytelling, but rather a space in which a storytelling ritual might unfold. When I hear this piece, I fill that space with the image of a young woman spontaneously embarking on a long journey to care for her elderly cousin, motivated by pure joy. The endless dome of the sky surrounds her, and the earth is caressed by the feathery voices of the wind and of a thousand living, growing things.

– Sarah Perske

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