I began the day inside the world trying to look at it, but it was lying on my face, making it hard to see.

A flickering image is projected on the back wall of a concert stage.

The title of this piece comes from Renee Gladman’s collection of short texts Calamities (Wave Books, 2016). Calamities presents a series of prose poems that move between crystalline geometric metaphors for our place in the world — “You were in a field, an unidentified country, and all the lines were illuminated and lifted out of the ground” — to meditations on corporeality in the ethereal world of written text — “…writing was the story of the body in thought” — to the kind of simultaneously insightful and humorous phrases represented by the line I borrow for my title. I am trying to think about proximity and distance to the world as mediated through the text and imagery I consume — perhaps excessively or even obsessively — every day. We can be brought close to the far away by news reports and photography, but as Gladman’s line suggests, proximity can paradoxically also make it hard to see.

The first version of I began the day inside the world trying to look at it, but it was lying on my face, making it hard to see. was commissioned by Philharmonie Luxembourg and received its first performance by ensemble mosaik at Rainy Days 2018. I am grateful for the knowing and unknowing contributions of James Bean, Renee Gladman, Clara Iannotta, Bettina Junge, Lydia Rilling, and Zeynep Toraman in realising this project.

Instrumentations for the versions performed so far are as follows:

  1. Amplified sextet with video & stereo audio playback — oboe (+ objects) / clarinet (+ flute) / violin (+ objects) / viola / cello / keyboard (+ objects) — for ensemble mosaik

  2. Spatialised ensemble with video & 4-channel audio playback — clarinet / trombone / trombone / tuba / percussion / violin / viola / cello / double bass — for wasteLAnd

  3. Spatialised quintet with video & multichannel audio — flute / oboe / clarinet / violin / keyboard — for ensemble mosaik

Musicians perform on a dark stage in front of an abstract video projection.

ensemble mosaik performing I began the day… at Rainy Days 2018. Photo © Alfonso Salgueiro.

A cloud of words projected in a dark room.

Installation view of video projected in Paine Hall, Harvard University.