Ave was commissioned for the Quatuor Bozzini by the American Composers Forum Jerome Commissioning Program, with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. The Quatuor Bozzini is Clemens Merkel, violin; Nadia Francavilla, violin; Stephanie Bozzini, viola; and Isabelle Bozzini, cello.
I wrote Ave as a farewell to a close friend. The music was inspired by a polaroid transfer of a photograph taken close to a place where my friend and I had spent time in the summers. The image in the photograph is one of sylvan tranquility: a summer’s forest, with a wood-planked path leading into a dense expanse of trees, thin beams of late afternoon sun highlighting occasional branches and the space between leaves. The luxuriant green is deep and soothing, and the distant narrowing of the path invites in a way that is both otherworldly and familiar. But imposed upon the image is a melancholy, one that comes not from the subject of the work but rather the nature of its medium. As a polaroid transfer, the light-sensitive paper containing the image has been removed from the polaroid and mounted onto arches paper. The result is a transfer of the image not unlike that cast by a film projector onto a cotton sheet: hazy, grainy, ethereal. And because the thin film of the original photograph was peeled and lifted, the resulting image bears signs of distress: tears, holes, odd proportions, like a photograph that has survived a fire. It is these signs of damage, however, that make the image compelling to me, and I have often wondered why this is. Whether merely the irony of innocence juxtaposed with decay, or whether beauty generally exists most meaningfully for me in the company of contrast, the image and these questions resonated with me that much more when I lost my friend. This became the emotional substance I wanted to put into the quartet. In working through feelings of loss, I found myself drawn to ideas of corrupted beauty – nostalgia, but with an element of the strange and the homely, which often provides the intrigue in what I find beautiful. Ave is dedicated with admiration to Justin Dello Joio, a brilliant musical mind, teacher, and mentor, who offered me both challenges and guidance while I wrote the piece.