Threads: Songs of Diaspora
for soprano, clarinet, cello, and piano (45:00)
II. The Jungle in Calais
III. Can't Go Home
IV. "Safe" in France
V. "People are expected to disappear"
VI. "There's going to be a riot"
VII. Leave Behind
This piece, co-written with Līva Blūma for voice, clarinet, cello, and piano, draws on difficult themes such as trauma, loss, violence, and the maintenance of identity amidst the European migrant crisis. Although written by composers themselves, the texts were inspired by the graphic novel Threads from the Refugee Crisis by Kate Evans, a British artist and journalist. The piece reflects on several aspects of the migration experience – losing one’s home due to war and destruction, being forced to reside in unlivable conditions in a foreign country, not seeing one’s family for multiple years and not knowing whether they are alive, having one’s childhood cut short by war. These are also all things familiar to the ancestors of both composers. The composers felt a personal connection to the themes animating Threads, themes that informed their writing with perceptions of identity and the struggle to maintain it amidst a world of flux and uncertainty.
Working on this piece brought up traces of intergenerational trauma that is woven through my own biography. Although I myself grew up in a free sovereign country, my national identity has been informed by stories about life under the Soviet rule as well as accounts of my Latvian ancestors fleeing war and destruction brought about by that regime. One theme that oftentimes occurred throughout these stories was song and how singing folksongs helped sustain people’s spirits in times of starvation, oppression and decades of uncertainty. Song is the thread that has kept the different parts of one’s identity together. In my own life, voice and singing continue to be vital factors in my formation as a composer. Singing has always been central to my identity and even in instrumental writing, voice and song inform my art, as they do in this piece. – Līva
I was approached to take part in this project due to my own connection to the Asian diaspora. As an adoptee, my diaspora is felt very differently, at times silently, only manifesting through the resounding absences in my life. Home, as it applies to place and ethnic group, is erased by the adoption process, and this loss resonated the most with me when reading Kate Evans’ work. – Matthew