Here Come the Waterworks (2017) by A. J. McCaffrey
for viola and piano
2018 Earplay Donald Aird Composers Competition winner

Here Come the Waterworks was commissioned by Jonah Sirota for his Strong Sad commissioning and recording project. After talking with Jonah about our own perspectives on the traditional "elegiac" nature of his instrument, I came away wanting to write a piece that reflected some of my recent thoughts on the act of processing trauma. That is, I was not interested in depicting a traumatic or tragic event, but rather the rituals and gestures that we enact in order to go through stressful or difficult emotions. I ended up thinking of the viola as a character that was trying to "re-learn" speech or song, and this came out (as somewhat of a surprise to me) as microtones — inflections of notes on the viola that lie in between the notes on the piano. These "in-between notes" also emerge throughout as a kind of "keening" or sighing figure. As with most of my pieces, the mood changes throughout, as the material occasionally becomes distracted, lashes out in grief, anger, or catharsis, or retreats into contemplation.

— A. J. M.