Before and After

Cotton Piano


·  For Love, Before and After  ·


When we listen to another, we love, we give.


The piano was recorded at a low level and prepared with a thin layer of cotton that acts as a damper between the hammers and strings, imbuing a gentle textural quality to each note.

Composed during the time of the 2020 pandemic, I ponder on my before and after.

There are two ways I think of my living, two ways I experience being. The first is as a human through time, the second is where I feel no time at all.

In the first, as a human through time, I am sensory, I experience the memory of my before, and the anticipation of my after. My childhood, my growing up, my time with nature, and with those I have loved, love, and hope to love. I live my now through the prism of my before and the expectation of my after. Time is my reality of pleasure, change, and loss.

My second way of being outside of time is where I sense the qualities of kindness, beauty, compassion, and love, all unconstrained by the confines of my before and after, and where the spirit is free to wander as a bird through the sky, gliding effortlessly from any and all of my befores and afters.

Many consider the 'real world' of the first, their linear world, their only world. A life that travels from birth to a final day in a straight line. For me, the quality and action of greatest value, love, exists disentangled and free from the straight line of my before and after. There are many human manifestations of the need to connect with this second way of being that exists beyond the confines of time, most commonly: religion, the magical, the supernatural, and the spiritual. These contexts however are sometimes dismissed of as unconvincing as they can be easily tainted by dogma, superstition, and control. They are also characterised by belief and faith, and at times a lack of intellectual interrogation which further dislocates their likelihood for those who do not share these experiences. I prefer a simpler approach when recognizing the entirety of what I have come to know as life. I think of how art in all its forms has the potential to express and connect to both my ways of being without so easily triggering scepticism in others.

I think of the music 'Before and After' and ask myself whether my life was any different before hearing the piece as compared with after hearing it. I think of my now, the only moment of my hearing music, and how music does not exist in my before or after. In this, music has an affinity with love and those other qualities of the spirit. Although I may remember my feelings of music, and look forward to hearing it again, it exists only in my now, the two dimensional plane that lays between the meeting of my memory and hope that forms my before and after. Music, like love, is simple to experience, yet so difficult to explain...

In common with music, the quality of being I know as love (given and received) I also only experience in my now. The piece 'Before and After' encourages me to contemplate this.

I played this piece without the aid of a metronome or a process that aims to keep music at a steady rate in time during a performance. Many composers use digital tools to automatically eliminate rhythmic imprecisions and what may be thought of as imperfections, but I prefer to only use my body as this gives me more freedom to play spontaneously and better feel the shape of the music as it unfolds. I want to feel the before and after of sounds...

The piece increases in speed here and there, much like the heart when moving or in the presence of another I love, in person or thought.

The visual artwork is an expression of my before and after, my night and day.

The twelve spokes of the star is symbolic of the number of months over the course of a year, and the circles that surround the star remind me of clock faces divided into twelve units, each pointing to a different time. The yellow conjures up thoughts of sunlight, and the blue reminds me of moonlight, with the dark of night beyond. The sun and moon are presented together like the duality of my being, full with feeling and mystery.

A full size extract follows.