An Estonian Diary
chorus and strings
duration: 7 minutes
An Estonian Diary was commissioned The Burlington Choral Society, Richard Riley, Artistic Director, and will be premiered on November 21, 2015 at the Elly-Long Music Center in Burlington, VT.
This piece arose out of a series of conversations I had with Richard Riley, director of the Burlington Choral Society. He had expressed an interest in commissioning a piece relating to Estonia, but without an Estonian text. In many ways, this was cultural mix was an appropriate challenge for me – I grew up in California, speaking Estonian with my mother and English with my father, and I was exposed to a hodge-podge of Estonian culture throughout my youth.
I knew that I wanted to this piece to be personal. And as I thought about my own experiences in Estonia, I realized that the memories that stuck in my head were, for the most part, about peculiarly mundane situations, that unexpectedly led to strong emotions. I settled on two moments from very different points in my life for this this sonic ‘diary.’ But perhaps it will be expanded in the future!
The first is the memory of a bus trip through the Estonian countryside at night. I was coming back from a musical performance of some sort. I was in college and this was my first experience traveling to Estonia by myself. The grant I had written said I would be doing fieldwork on choral and folk music performance traditions, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I remember feeling so lonely, late at night in the rain, in a country that was foreign, even though I thought of it as my own. Snippets of music floated around in the back of my mind.
The second memory goes farther back in time, to my first trip to Estonia, when I was two years old. This is pretty much the only thing I remember from that trip: I remember giant stones at the base of a medieval tower. We must have been in the old town of Tallinn, Estonia’s capitol. I remember an intense desire to climb up and up, but I was too young and small.
With this piece I wanted to explore the soft sounds a large choir can make, and the ways in which a sizable group of singers can communicate something intimate and personal. Though I did include specific quotes in this piece, I found as I was working that I recognized influences on my writing from different composers in the great tradition of Estonia choral music.