The profound images resulting from the destruction of the World Trade Towers are the basis of the sound world in Ashes. One scene that was presented often on different news programs showed individuals running toward a camera on a sunny New York street chased by a cloud of ashes and rubble. The cloud eventually envelops the street, the sky, and all in its way creating a haunting nuclear winter-like stillness. Sorrow itself overtakes our being leaving us frozen and still in disbelief. Ashes is, therefore, mostly static. The images of nomadic, picture-carrying mourners looking for evidence of their loved ones in the days after 9/11 were especially heart wrenching. These scenes are familiar in many areas of the world, but not in this country. The violence against innocents on that day connected the US to similar worldwide atrocities. In an attempt to represent a universal expression of human sorrow, Ashes opens with chant-like material because unaccompanied vocal music is common to all cultures. The semi-chorus represents the direct inner thoughts of isolation that are amplified by the larger chorus. Within the drama of this work, the chorus builds a “tall” chord consisting of two notes for each part, symbolically the two towers, and then dissolves them with individual expressions of sorrow.
I chose verses from Psalm 102 because they present in a very poignant way the loneliness and isolation associated with suffering that is common to all humans. These verses at the same time combat loneliness by connecting our human emotional experiences with animal and natural imagery. “Misery loves company” because sorrow is best dissipated when we no longer feel alone. Ashes was written to work as an empathetic musical response for those who suffered due to 9/11 and all other acts of senseless violence.