Several years in the making, our Wednesday 10 June concert is the premiere of Reciprocity, a work commissioned by Juliana Farha from the composer Daniel Patrick Cohen. She introduces the project.
Daniel’s task was huge and fraught: to develop a piece of music based on poetry written by my sister Darya Farha, who died of breast cancer. The question is, how do you compose music about someone who died of cancer without it being perceived as a ‘cancer piece’: a musical eulogy, or else a work aimed mostly at raising awareness of a health issue? Darya would have hated that, but I’m sure she would have loved what we’re doing instead: a wall of cellos, Alice Zawadzki’s mesmerising voice, percussion and piano, and Darya’s own words.
In fact, Daniel was the second composer I approached about this project, and he wasn’t what I was looking for at all. He’s male and in his 20s, and I was sure only a woman closer to my own age would get it. But from our first contact, it was clear that Daniel was acutely sensitive to Darya’s poetry, alive to its humanity, joy, dark humour and occasional despair. His ability to uncover the poetry embedded in urban life would have resonated with her, and adds a compelling dimension to the project.
When I put out my call for submissions, I included in the brief only one of Darya’s poems called ‘I am’ to give interested composers something to work with. Once I’d commissioned him, though, I left the choice of poetry to Daniel, and whilst ‘I am’ is among the six poems Daniel selected for this piece, the work’s title comes from another poem called ‘Reciprocity’. Although it started off as a working title – an easy short hand, really – over time Reciprocity has come to feel very apt, capturing as it does the way death fractures the reciprocal nature of relationships, leaving one of us behind talking to ourselves. In that sense, it’s an acknowledgment that Reciprocity is about me too, which is unavoidable I suppose.
I hope people who see Reciprocity performed live will be moved and engaged, and will want to hear it again and again. That’s how I feel about Daniel’s disc The Passenger, which he released earlier this year and which I’m listening to right now. In fact, I’ll know I achieved my goal with this project if in a few years’ time I discover listeners who came upon Reciprocity all by themselves, without knowing the first thing about me or Darya. That’s art, I think: work that finds its origins in the particular, and then transcends them.
Reciprocity premieres on Wednesday 10 June.