4 violin version premiered by Steve Miahky Quartet at Ohio University 8/1/2012.
8 violin version premiered by Contemporaneous 5/2/2012, Bard College
David Bloom, Conductor
This work is in two parts, the first, rhythmic, aggressive and propulsive while the second deals with waves of a complex, yet static, shimmering harmony ebbing and flowing from two dynamic extremes: very loud and barely audible.
Both movements deal with remembrance in two emotional states or two affects.
Last Skin has each violin player re-tuning their instrument so that the four instruments, playing open strings (not pushing strings down onto the finger board) can create a scale of 16 different pitches.
The Last Skin
Has anyone described the smell of wishbones drying
on the kitchen sill or the smell of glass, or the bucket of water
lifted from the well we go to when death takes the last thirst
from someone we love?
After my mother died, sometimes
I’d take the one piece of her clothing I’d kept
to bed and bury my face
in her flowered blouse to smell her last skin,
but even from the first it was futile.
What I got was the smell of goneness, the smell of screen
doors where moths have spent their wing powder
beating failingly to reach the light.
My massage therapist told me she felt grief
in my body like hard empty boxes.
I felt like I was always handling dough,
never wanting the kneading to be done, never wanting
to bake the bread that meant the end of something having to do
with a mother and daughter in a kitchen.
My mother has been gone for years, and I begin to see,
in the spots on the backs of my hands, in the shelf
my cheekbones make for my cheeks, in the way I hold
my mouth against gravity’s pull, that I carry her
with me, my skin, her skin,
her last skin.