The Last Message Received was co-commissioned by Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music for the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, the Northwestern University Chorale, the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and Donald Nally and the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Symphony Orchestra.
Feb 2021 (TBD)
Yale Symphony Orchestra and Glee Club
William Boughton, conductor
Jeffrey Douma, choir master
May 2021 (TBD)
Northwestern University Bienen School of Music
Donald Nally, conductor
Contact me for a preview of a midi recording.
In 2016, I stumbled upon a blog entitled The Last Message Received. I was intrigued by its unique title and even more unique premise: a Tumblr, in its author’s words, “run by a 15-year-old containing submissions of the last messages people received from ex-friends or ex-significant others, as well as from deceased friends, significant others, and relatives.” Reading through hundreds of these posts, I was deeply moved by so many people’s willingness to share their heart-rending losses. I began conceiving of a piece where this collection of texts became a fabric for a musical composition. The idea went through many iterations, but finally found its current shape when Donald Nally asked me to compose a new work for choir and orchestra. I suggested “Last Message” as the source material and he eagerly agreed. It made musical sense for me to adapt these words, which came from a multitude of voices, into a work sung by a multitude of voices. I was delighted when the blog’s founder, Emily Trunko, was amenable to the idea.
It also dawned on me that my initial idea—take an enormous and disparate collection of texts and weave them into a libretto—was a job that was far above my paygrade; so I enlisted my friend and ongoing collaborator, Stephanie Fleischmann, to help me with the project. Together, we crafted a series of short, interconnected movements that centered around different six themes: a simple request (“I just need this time to myself”); a series a negative declarations (“You are not the one”); a series of surreal messages (“keep dreaming”); another more firm declaration (“We’re not going to back to the way we were”); a dark hope (“O I won’t die”); and finally a thanksong (“I don’t know why you love me but thank you.”). Stephanie’s own words intermingle seamlessly with the original posts on the website to create a tapestry of loss and hope.
I’m writing this note five months after the original planned premiere. I finished composing the work at the beginning of March 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The performance, scheduled for May 2020, was postponed; I hope the work comes to life in 2021. It’s not lost on me that such a piece feels eerily prescient of what many people now, tragically, have had to go through. But I hope that Last Message’s hopeful message both resonates with and heals people in this terrible after-space.
The Last Message Received was co-commissioned by Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music for the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, the Northwestern University Chorale, the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and Donald Nally and the Yale Glee Club and the Yale Symphony Orchestra. It is dedicated to Carrie Sun.