“I had some fun,” she wrote, “with intermingling and blurring the lines between those relationships.”
In Darian Donovan Thomas’s piece, “we don’t need to tend this garden. they’re wildflowers,” designed as a kind of onstage therapy session, I would finally speak about my dad for the first and only time in the program. Through a series of instructions, personal questions and tonal shifts, interspersed with family photos, the score probes the psychological terrain of my relationship with my father, and what it felt like to lose him. I feared at first that this all might be too literal for a program that I intended to be largely symbolic, but the result has become a necessary release for me, an emotional climax and an acknowledgment of the person and event that brought this whole program together.
Inheritances became a kind of sacred space, a gathering, a ritual. I might have been Venmo-ing away my inheritance, but these pieces felt like bereavement gifts sent from friends.
I don’t remember much from that Minneapolis premiere, aside from the feeling afterward of fulfillment — a rarity for me. The theater seats remained occupied long after the recital ended. People stayed and talked, to one another and to me. Different pieces touched different people in different ways.
The goal for Inheritances, from the start, had been to provide a vessel through which I could connect to my elusive father, process my grief and reconcile with my past. But I also hoped that writing these pieces would provide a similar vessel for the composers, and ultimately that this shared experience would extend to our listeners. When audiences responded so powerfully, in Minneapolis and then a Los Angeles performance co-presented by Liquid Music and the new-music collective Wild Up, I felt like the long road that had begun with a manila envelope in a Denny’s parking lot over two years earlier had all been worthwhile.
Now Inheritances is having its New York premiere at the 92nd Street Y in a co-presentation with Liquid Music. Many of the composers will hear their works live for the first time, and although I’ve performed in this city for over a decade, it feels like something of a debut: the most personal, and most important, program I’ve ever played. I like to think that my dad would be proud. I’d settle for a thumbs-up emoji.
Audio produced by Jack D’Isidoro.