Thoughts on the Inner World
by Martin Perlich
Music originates in the “inner world” of the composer. Great music emanates from this private psychic space within the composer, and inspires us to explore our own inner worlds, if we let it.
What is this “inner world?” The world itself is demonstrably outside our selves and outside our bodies. So the expression “inner world” is a metaphor. But if we wish to describe what goes on within each of us at the psychic/emotional/spiritual level, the concept of an “inner world” helps us understand the deepness that we feel within us. Most of us intuit this confluence of unconsciousness, ‘hard-wired’ instinct, emotion, memory, ‘heart’ and mind-stream and that, among many other diverse activities, makes us who we are, and enables us to respond to music.
In the psychoanalytic sense, we develop an inner world when we, as adults, have correctly integrated and internalized those powerful external people and forces which make us who we are. For example, our mother becomes the “internal mother,” which makes us feel stable and competent, loved and loving. We likewise internalize our nationality and our culture: they contribute strongly to who we are and how we view others.
Successful artists share their inner worlds with us, and whether we realize it consciously or unconsciously, their art enables us to perceive glimmers of their inner worlds. And by absorption and reflection, our experience of this art enables us to experience parts of our own internal worlds.
As it is with poets, painters and sculptors, so it is for composers: their inner worlds erupt in an outpouring of what we call “art” to be shared by audiences, readers, gallery and museum-goers in so special a way that it can feel spiritual. For some of us this experience substitutes for religion. Sometimes this experience works successfully enough that we as listeners feel links with our own inner structures, our own inner worlds. We sense commonality with the artist in this link, and indeed experience a kind of communion.
This is an album of music, and music is a special case. Among the arts music has the advantage of a special, distinct aspect: its physical origin, mode of transmission and delivery system is air. Music generates sound waves which travel through air and make it vibrate. This is the same air that we breathe. But what is the source of this link? Think past the immediate answer: the ears and the lungs. Remember the inner world. Assuming you believe there is a world within us, as described above, what is the path to reach it? Over the centuries we have posed many suggested paths: the great religious traditions, psychotherapy, yoga, drugs. And music.
Neuroscientists and practitioners of Christianity, Hinduism, Sufi Islam, some forms of Judaism, and certainly Buddhism tend to agree that the surest route to deep introspection (and to an integration and understanding of the inner world) is meditation. And for most contemplative traditions, it is concentration on our breathing, the intake and exhalation of air which sustains human life, that takes us there. Breath, pneuma in Greek, also means spirit. Soul. Life force. Breath, spirit, inner world, soul, essence of being… all related.
So breath serves not only as the medium for the transmission of music, but as a rich metaphor for life itself and a metaphor for our individuality and our commonality. This breath, this pneuma, takes the composer inside where he or she contacts his or her inner world and shares, through breath and air, that inner world with us. When the composer successfully engages components of the inner world or creative/emotional “mind,” we say the composer is “inspired.” The word “inspired” derives from the Latin in + spirare, meaning “to breathe in,” or “infuse into the mind,” or “suggest by divine agency.” And there you have it. Once inspired the composer writes instructions for musicians to make the air vibrate, and the audience breathes it in – through every pore. I invite you to experience the rich inner world of my friend David Lefkowitz. May this music, this communion, also help us experience the nuances of our own inner worlds as we listen.
Music from the Inner World of David S. Lefkowitz
Except for program music, such as we experience in a film score, or in opera, or in Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, where the composer wishes us to understand specific musical links to a specific story line, it is usually difficult to determine a musician’s intent in his or her work. Indeed we need not understand the composer’s precise inspiration for the music to be meaningful to us. What we do wish to understand, or perhaps more accurately, what we wish to feel, is the composer’s rise and fall of tension, the composer’s intellectual design, and perhaps even the composer’s sense of humor as the music envelops us. When this works, the composer enables us to experience elements of our internal worlds as well.
Deep Dreams (tracks 1-3) incorporates several pairs of Sephardic songs. Sephardic Jews settled in Spain and the Iberian Peninsula two millennia ago. These Jewish communities thrived in Spain under the Moors, but in 1492, Queen Isabella forced them to convert to Christianity or leave after she drove the Islamic Moors from Spain. The surviving Sephardic communities then settled throughout the Mediterranean, outside of Spain. Some of the Sephardic melodies in Deep Dreams are more than five centuries old, yet they survive today as part of the rich oral and musical tradition of the Sephardic communities.
The first movement, War and Passion, incorporates "Lavava y Suspirava" ("Washing and Sighing"), which tells of a young woman who falls in love with a knight who has just returned from war, and "De las Mares Altas" ("From the High Seas"), which tells of the love a king has for a beautiful young woman who has come from across the sea, and of the queen's jealousy towards her. Both melodies make use of a distinctive Middle-Eastern mode.
Love and Peace, the second movement, starts with "Una Noche al Lunar" ("One Moonlit Night"), a love song which is melodically simple, but metrically intricate and unpredictable. The resulting dance-like feel continues in the next tune, a setting of a well-known Medieval liturgical poem "Shalom Aleichem" ("Peace be upon you, ministering angels"). Lefkowitz writes “All my life I have known one particular setting of this tune-used by the Ashkenazi (originating in Eastern Europe) community in the United States. So coming upon the Sephardic setting, with its metric vitality and energy, was a pleasant surprise.” Lefkowitz incorporates this Sephardic setting of "Shalom Aleichem" in the second movement, but also refers extensively to the Ashkenazi tune.
After this introduction to the Ashkenazi “Shalom Aleichem” in the second movement, Lefkowitz bases the third movement, Peace and Hope, almost entirely on the Askhenazi melody, which in this setting progresses from anxiety and passion, to an eventual welcoming and acceptance of peace. The composer includes quotations from two other tunes, "Elijah the Prophet" (which reflects the Jewish hope for ultimate peace at the end of time), and a reference to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. The piece ends with scales descending peacefully into eternity. Lefkowitz wrote Deep Dreams for a commission by Yarlung Artists, with support from Alice and Joe Coulombe, for Elinor Frey and David Fung.
Building Blocks of the Psyche (tracks 4-7) are four movements selected from With/Without [Con/Sol (-ation)], which the composer wrote as interludes between the larger components of Desire Under the Elms, his full-length dance work. This ballet score was commissioned by China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater in collaboration with the New York-based choreographer Yin Mei, and Beijing-based playwright, librettist, and dramaturg Xu Ying. Lefkowitz loosely based this score on Desire Under the Elms, the tragedy by Eugene O’Neill, and includes the old farmer, his adult son Eben, the old man's new young wife (the principal players in a competitive love triangle), the baby (the image of purity and innocence) and most importantly, desire itself, with which the music begins and which permeates the music throughout. The movements of Building Blocks of the Psyche do not tell a specific story (they are not program music) but rather they reveal elements of the composer’s inner world and reflect the nature of conception, meditation and introspection, conversation (dialogue between various parts of the self and between people), and integration of the various elements within that inner world. Lefkowitz built the trio in track 7 as a combination of the flute, harp and ‘cello voices, each of which stands alone as its own piece and additionally functions in any combination as a duet. Just as a powerful idea can stand on its own in our minds, it morphs into additional power and relevance when combined with other forces within our psyches. Similarly, each musical line finds fresh context when played with other lines, evolving each time into a further statement, with new energy.
David Lefkowitz wrote E Duo Unum, or "out of two, one" as a wedding present for violists Paul and Gina Coletti. This piece begins with two melody lines for two violas. These opening melodies begin in counterpoint, structured as a hocket, which is a dovetailing of notes and rests between two or more musical lines. A single melody carried by one viola emerges from this counterpoint, with “commentary” from the other viola, also in counterpoint, following soon thereafter. Out of this new counterpoint emerges a newborn melody line. By the end of the work, in the marriage of the contrapuntal lines, the melody coalesces into a single voice, in happy unison.
Inner Voices (Miniature I for solo viola, track 9 on our album) “is the first solo work I wrote at Eastman,” the composer writes, and “it follows a relatively straightforward arch form.” In his series of Miniatures, Lefkowitz explores the unique sonic capabilities of single instruments, usually performing on their own. To date, these Miniatures include:
Inner Voices (Miniature 1 for solo viola)
Sequestration (Miniature II for solo flute)
Ancient Rituals, Distant Landscapes for harp, voice and altered voice (incorporating Miniature III for solo harp)
…as the waves at twilight… (Miniature IV for solo violin)
All at One Point (Miniature V for solo marimba, or for marimba duo)
At Onement (Miniature VI for solo clarinet)
Per Semi-Saxo-Tonos (Minature VII for solo saxophone, for saxophone and tape, or for saxophone trio)
Unbearable Longing (Miniature VIII for solo violin and later rewritten as a duet for violin and viola for Serena McKinney and Katie Kadarauch)
Possible Worlds for solo violoncello, and
Suite for Piano.
For Inner Voices, Lefkowitz chose the unusual key of E-Flat Minor. This is the only work on this album written in a definite key, though the listener will discern obvious tonal references in the other compositions. Inner Voices often asks the violist to play two (and sometimes more) competing melodic lines or “voices,” in dialogue with one another. Sometimes these elements of the musical inner world sing in harmony, and at other times they war furiously. Again, a metaphor for the inner world of the human psyche.
In At Onement (Miniature VI for clarinet), Lefkowitz unites highly virtuosic influences from All at One Point, his woodwind sextet Kapporot, and additional inspiration from the traditional Yom Kippur prayer Kol Nidre, which seeks atonement and exuberant reunification with God. At Onement also represents a culmination of the previous five Miniatures. Ralph Williams played this work on an A clarinet for this recording.
Duet for Violin & Viola (Unbearable Longing, Miniature VIII) offers an internal dialogue, a conversation between two aspects of the self in the composer’s inner world. This duet stands in pleasant contrast to the gradual unification of two separate beings in E Duo Unum. The Duet For Violin and Viola explores the expressive power of long sustained notes and high harmonics. Lefkowitz wrote this version of his internal dialogue specifically for Serena McKinney (violin) and Katie Kadarauch (viola), and Yarlung Records released this work previously on the debut album for Janaki String Trio. Lefkowitz first wrote Unbearable Longing, Miniature VIII in 1994 as a violin solo.
Our final track, Within/Without for alto flute and marimba, offers another interlude Lefkowitz wrote for his dance work Desire Under the Elms, with all the internal conflict, tragedy and dynamic hope for transcendence that this ballet embodies. The work’s full name, Within/Without [In/Ex (or able)] refers to the way that the flute and marimba parts sometimes submerge within ("in") each other, and sometimes emerge without ("ex-") each other, and to the inexorable rhythmic quality of the music. In speaking with the composer about this work he explained “one instrument will often begin a section insistently repeating a single note, out of which the other instrument then emerges. The second instrument’s part begins within the first instrument’s part, but evolves beyond it, outside of the original confines erected by the first instrument… in other words “without.” Much as feelings or ideas take shape within the inner worlds of our psyches. These elements, linked primordially in some initial way, evolve swiftly into radically different concepts and emotional states. The “without” relationship also exists when, for example, one instrument keeps repeating a single note. The other instrument breaks free and will move beyond it, trying to emerge in a world “without” the other instrument. This creates a sharp dissonance. Often I resolve these dissonances in a series of chain suspensions, where the first instrument creates dissonance, the second instrument resolves it to a consonance, the first instrument creates a new dissonance, and the second instrument again resolves it into consonance. Such chain suspensions reflect the dependent-yet-independent relationship implied by the “within/without” title.”
We owe this album to David S. Lefkowitz for writing the music, Anne and Elon Spar and The Attiyeh Fund for New Music for underwriting this recording, Gearworks Pro Audio for providing the U-47 and AKG C-24 microphones, ODS Optical Disc Solutions for manufacturing this album, and Steve Hoffman, Kevin Gray and Acoustec Mastering for converting the high resolution files into CD Audio. Our musicians gave soul and sinew to this magnificent music, and we wish to thank Paul Coletti, Carter Dewberry, Silu Fei, Elinor Frey, David Fung, Katie Kadarauch, Julie Long, Serena McKinney, Andrea Thiele, Lynn Vartan and Ralph Williams for these extraordinary performances. Proceeds from album sales benefit Yarlung Artists, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to the support of select young concert musicians as they begin their international concert careers. I urge you to join me in supporting Yarlung Artists. More information available at www.yarlungartists.org
As I wrote above, music originates in the “inner world” of the composer. Great music emanates from this private psychic space within the composer, and inspires us to explore our own inner worlds, if we let it. Taking this journey with David S. Lefkowitz has enriched my inner world, as I hope it does yours. I look forward to the next concert celebrating David’s music, and to his next recording.