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Many Passes and Yearnings : quintet for SSMTB voices

by Connor D'Netto (2022)

Work Overview

Many Passes and Yearnings was commissioned by Luminescence Chamber Singers as part of "Drawing Breath", a project exploring first breaths, last breaths, and music as diverse as the vast compass of human life and feeling.

Luminescence writes:

Our breath is a base expression of our feelings - we let out an anxious or surprised gasp, or a sigh of relief. We take a deep breath when we brace ourselves, and hold our breath when we wait. We talk about our breath when we are awestruck, when we rest, when we sigh, or speak, or sing. In recent years, we have witnessed and experienced violent asphyxiation in many forms, from the thick smoke of bushfires to the spectre of respiratory infection. Meanwhile, the words "I can't breathe" resonate around the world as a harrowing reminder of the ongoing persecution of black communities both in the United States and here at home in Australia.

When Luminescence first told me their theme and ideas for this concert, I asked if I could commission a new text, knowing immediately I wanted to work with my friend Kevin Madison, an LA-based queer African-American poet/pianist/rapper/artist. I told him the brief, and within mere days I had this poem, fully-formed, sent in a DM to my Instagram.

His way with words is just so musical. To me it seems so full of longing and teased-out suspense yet quietly weighty and driven. And also, for some reason, it made me think of the turn of phrase "to waste one's breath" - "Don't waste your breath" or "I'm not going to waste my breath" etc. - that breath holds power and value, it equates to time, energy, care, attention, importance.

Without thinking on it too deeply, and without more than a heart emoji as response to Kevin, I began to write the music, feeling my way through my impressions of his words.

Just now, a couple of days before the premiere, I asked Kevin his reflections and what the poem meant to him.

This was his response:

I wrote many passes and yearnings during the pandemic, and during a highly transitional time of my life. For me, this time was one of my lowest points as I'm sure most can relate to, but somehow, distributed lightly throughout, were moments of great clarity and peace. No more barrels of emails to sift through. No places to be but home. I had a lot of time to think. And this poem came to me, practically in one fell swoop, swirling around this idea of generational passings ons and the impossible situations we find ourselves in when handed something out of the shadows. Our idea of ourselves morphing in symbiosis with the new information we gain as we grow, in turn altering the original moment of discovery. Our past, present and future aren't just connected, they are one. All of the love I am able to give is because of this fact. I want to emphasize that rest is what led me to these realizations, and that breath is our most efficient, trusted resting state as we put on the appearance of busyness at work and even in some of our relationships. Breath is the organic connector of time and pulses with our blood to broadcast ancient knowledge through us all the way to the end. The path we're given is for seeing this, and loving this, despite what our ego goes on about. This poem, many passes and yearnings, forgives you for how you've betrayed yourself before because really you never have.

Work Details

Year: 2022

Instrumentation: SSMTB voices.

Duration: 6 min.

Difficulty: Medium

Commission note: Commissioned by Luminescence Chamber Singers.

Performances of this work

15 Oct 22: St Andrew's Anglican Church, Braidwood, NSW. Featuring Luminescence Chamber Singers.

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