Elegy No. 3 Program Notes
Elegy No. 3 is a tribute, a lament, or an expression of regret. There are many ways of loss, and the situations that inspired this piece were only some of them. All the Elegies allude to the same causes: death, relationship, lost of culture, innocence, homesickness, employment loss, disability or even children’s passing of age. All these things reflect the devastation we have when we realize we have literally idolized an experience, item or someone beyond reasonable measure. It goes far beyond mere absence. No. 3 is in sections that reflect the five stages of grieving: Shock/Denial, Bargaining/Guilt, Anger, Depression and Acceptance. The proponents of the stage theory point out that it is not necessarily in that order but vary from person to person. They also state that there are multiple types of losses and these coping mechanisms apply to each one in different ways depending upon the person lost and the one doing the grieving. Therefore, this composition may be in sections, but are not labeled and with the exception of the obvious centerpiece, may be interpreted in different ways and in different orders to the whim of the listener. There are several identifying motifs and themes throughout. One motif that has been consistent with my Elegies is the persistent harmonics in the strings. However, one interpretation may be as follows:
Shock/Denial – Once the loss is reported or made aware, there is an aura of disbelief, that it can’t happen as it slowly dawns upon us: it is perceived as the ultimate betrayal. The psychologists tell us that this happens even when the loss is expected. The themes are traded between winds, in order, overlapping or just hinted.
Bargaining/Guilt – Illogically, a person has the urge to do something to make things less painful. More dissonant, this reflects a questioning as the recipient bargains with whomever or whatever. This portion often asks the question, “Why am I left behind? Why did I survive and the other is gone? What could I have done? I should have been able to do something.” The loss is real, but not enough, it seems, as the focus is still inward. The tonality is more dissonant; motifs are jumbled and juxtaposed harmonically and rhythmically.
Anger – Like the stage, the Anger section is clear as rage lashes out against any authority and by extension to those around who might be sympathetic but not understanding. It is a way of acting out, of venting the rage and frustration from impotence. But one can only dwell in a state of anger for so long as we indulge emotion. One’s rage fades from sheer exhaustion as time passes. There is a sense of desolation, leading to…
Depression – The question remains: “Why?”. Time passage is immutable and we are left with the answer, “It just is, and it is for the best even though you may not see it now.” Our awareness of the Numinous is an eternal weight. Our emotions overwhelm our logical understanding of purpose.
Acceptance – Eventually, time wears down whatever sustainability our emotions have: no matter how intense, they can only last so long before they fade into a dull pain. Out of that fertile soil grows the awareness that we’ve always understood about things beyond our control. The piece ends with solo instruments playing the themes, accompanied by a string chorus. At the end, the flute plays the theme as the thing or person lost; the piano joining in as the other, in a sense of compromise until the flute dies away, leaving only the piano and strings until a solitary note in the piano shows the loneliness of the one left behind.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal…If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. CS Lewis.
The piece may be played by a chamber orchestra or full orchestra as scored. A consolidated score/parts is available.
For a memorial service, quiet mood or other reflective, somber purpose, measures 162-254 may be left out. The cut is seamless with the exception of the sustaining trumpets/horns, which may be taceted. This may be a more effective choice for a chamber orchestra version.