An Anthology of Joy
solo viola and winds
duration: 25 minutes
An Anthology of Joy was a joint commission between the University of Michigan (with support from the H. Robert Reynolds Commissioning Fund), the Oberlin Conservatory, and Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings. It was premiered by the University of Michigan Symphony Band on April 8, 2016 and by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings on April 17, 2016, both concerts featuring James Van Valkenburg, viola, and Michael Haithcock, conductor.
In the year before writing An Anthology of Joy, I composed a number of serious and weighty pieces. Working on these pieces felt rewarding and meaningful, but I sometimes wondered, as a relatively happy person, why there wasn’t more levity in my music. I had been listening to a lot of Bach cantatas at the time, and there is a buoyant, overwhelming sense of joy in some of the cantata choruses that I found so inspiring. I wondered if I would be able to capture something similar in my instrumental music. But as I began to write, I thought about how rare of a feeling pure joy was. Much more often, it seemed, joy came packaged with a complicated mix of emotions: for example, the wild excitement of childhood, a rushing sense of relief, a bittersweet pleasure, or a tender sense of caring. And my music seemed to resist the feeling of rapturous sunshine I had first set out to capture. Perhaps in a few moments here and there, I have managed to express a pure sense of joy, but the five movements of the piece ended up comprising a tour through a series of tangentially related emotions and memories: joy seen through different filters of worldly experience. And in the end, I think the piece embodies a search or struggle that seems much more human than simple happiness itself.
live recording of the premiere with the University of Michigan Symphony Band