Saxophonist, James Barger commissioned me to write a composition for saxophone, piano, and percussion to honor those who lost loved ones in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The title. “Cycle of the Spheres”, reflects both the living earth upon which we live and the fortitude of humanity.
Mr. Barger suggested a three-movement composition with the first movement depicting serenity interrupted by bombastic resemblances of earthquakes and tsunamis. I recently attended a presentation on earthquakes and tsunamis and learned that Japan is situated directly above a subduction, where the earth’s crust underneath the sea is constantly recycled downward below a continental landmass. These areas are particularly prone to strong earthquakes and their resultant tsunamis. I decided to title this movement “The Living Earth” as our planet is still evolving by constantly building up pressure and releasing that pressure in the form of earthquakes and volcanoes. I remember reading Harold Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” and recall him saying that if we challenge natural forces, it can result in dire consequences. When our species builds civilizations on top of naturally occurring active faults, disaster is bound to occur.
Mr. Barger’s suggestion for the second movement was a hymn song for the souls of the dead. My title for this movement is “Ashes to Ashes” as it fits with the composition title by representing a different cycle, one of death and rebirth. The souls of the departed live on in the memories of the living.
A song of redemption and hope for the survivors was Mr. Barger’s request for the third and final movement. I decided to title this movement “Resiliency of the Spirit”. One of the things that impresses me the most about human beings is their ability to go on in spite of adversity. I see this constantly with my loved ones, friends, and my brothers and sisters throughout the world. I never cease to be amazed by the strength of the human spirit and it is the cycle of joy growing out of sorrow that creates another sphere that gives us all hope for the future.
I do not usually write descriptive notes for a composition before composing a piece, however this plan and its titles will hopefully enable me to write a composition worthy of the tragedy, sorrow, and idealism that has been felt throughout the world from this colossal event.