III from there to here
Nostos is the Greek word for “return”. Nostalgia combines nostos and algos (meaning pain).
This piece really began when I read Milan Kundera’s Ignorance a few years ago: he has a way of taking a tour through the etymology of certain words (nostalgia being one of them) in many languages to create multiple perspectives on one concept.
After meeting with the poet Bill Herbert we began discussing how we could work together on this concept. We threw ideas back and forth but what became gradually important was the notion of a sense of place. Not just of what or where the place is, but also different perceptions of the same place.
Kundera offers the reader a depiction of a character who has persistent daydreams and nightmares of the same place she longs, but also dreads, to return to. Although these ‘returns’ are fictional and in a way seem rather trivial - they are not odysseys back to the homeland - they are real and powerful none the less. And somehow a sense of stasis is forged by the nostalgic pulls to the same place, but with contrary emotions. It’s this two sides of the same coin approach that appealed to me.
Initially my idea was to place the three ensemble groups in different rooms, cut off from the singer and violinist – to encourage an audible pull. As the music developed, it became clear that the sounds would be too quiet and too discreet to enable this to work successfully. The solution was to place the ensemble groups around the soloists, still with some spatial separation, but in the same performance space.
And the music itself? I wanted to create and set up a difference, and at the same time a unity, between unvoiced, toneless sounds and voiced sounds. A commentary that can’t quite express itself, and the voice that tries to.