LAST SKIN (for 4 or 8 retuned, amplified violins)

4 violin version premiered by Steve Miahky Quartet at Ohio University 8/1/2012.

Sample 1 [audio:Last Skin sample 1.mp3|titles=Last Skin part A|artists=Contemporaneous]

Sample 2 [audio:Last Skin sample 2.mp3|titles=Last Skin part A|artists=Contemporaneous]

8 violin version premiered by Contemporaneous 5/2/2012, Bard College


David Bloom, Conductor

PART A [audio:Last Skin Part A_ 8 violin version mp3.mp3|titles=Last Skin part A|artists=Contemporaneous]

PART B [audio:Last Skin Part B_ 8 violin version mp3.mp3|titles=Last Skin part B|artists=Contemporaneous]

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.

Last Skin was commissioned by Stephen Miahky and Christina McGann, and is in memory of Dr. Young Park.

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.

Barbara Ras