for cello and piano
Corona Bagatelles comprises a musical cryptogram of 1273 amino acids, which chained together create the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus. This protein enables the virus to bind to human cells and replicate itself, creating havoc in the human body. During the dark days of 2020, I took solace in contemplating the abstraction of this single cell, exerting a measure of control unavailable by any other means by “composing” it, imposing rhythms, melody, timbre, and form onto it. Each of the 5 movements is based on a subset of the entire amino acid chain, and its sounding motives suggested various characters or moments in my experience of the COVID quarantine (including an odd sequence where it quoted the opening notes of the Dies Irae, the mass for the dead), an experience all humanity now shares.
The final movement "Binding" celebrates the life of composer Wesley Fuller, who passed away as I was composing it. I had in mind one of my favorite compositions of his, Time into Pieces, and his joy in living expressed in his music, his poetry, and his love of family and friends. The final act of the coronavirus is to bind to our cells before it replicates itself. Binding to one another in shared purpose is perhaps our only way to survive. I also wanted to express this contradiction to close the set of bagatelles.
I offer my appreciation and thanks to the Duo des Alpes, Corrado Greco and Claude Hauri, for commissioning this piece; to Dr. Phyllis Robinson, who tutored me in biology while I composed it; and to our student Peter Bailer who as a biochemist and composer assisted with the translation into music.