the art of disappearing (2020) by Bruce Christian Bennett
for viola and harp
World premiere; Earplay commission

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
    — Naomi Shihab Nye

Have you ever sought anonymity in the crowded streets of the city? Tried to blend in with the wallpaper at a party? Thought about going out, but couldn't bear the thought of being seen? There is an art to remaining in the shadows, to fading from view, to disappearing completely.

This piece was composed for and is dedicated to Ellen Ruth Rose (viola) and Meredith Clark (harp). It is a very quiet piece. Throughout the piece, each instrument tries to hide behind the other. They take turns fading in and out of the texture. Occasionally, they blend into one another. The starting note takes on different shades and textures, before dissipating into trills and losing its focus. A little more than half way through the piece, a short, simple, sentimental passage is exposed, like a tender memory. The simple counterpoint of this passage actually underpins much of the piece as a whole, even though one is unlikely to hear it. While it does its best to hide itself throughout, in this moment it is starkly exposed. One might consider this an authentic moment that has done its utmost to elude exposure — not unlike how we shield our own authentic, most vulnerable selves from public perception in preliminary social engagements.

The piece trails off with a series of slow harp arpeggios and with the viola sustaining long single notes. It fades and eventually evaporates, leaving the first note of the piece lingering as a harmonic played by the viola.

— B. B.    

[from program for February 10, 2020 concert]