Wish You Were Here (2007)
for those who are in danger by reason of their labor or their travel
I’ve always suspected that cartoons and illustrations do a better job capturing the emotional content of the unknown than pictures and first-hand narration. I have a picture in my head of the illustrators of the 1940s and 1950, holed up in Belgium drawing the tribal peoples of the Congo, or in California articulating gorgeous Arabian landscapes for early animated films, participating along the way in all of the politically charged problems that arise from empires, colonies, and the abuses of political power. There is something inherently romantic about willfully ignoring the complexities of drawing on sources; artists who ignore political overtones go on to inspire the next generation who, in turn, worry about them too much, and so on and so forth in an unending cycle of guilt and influence. Wish You Were Here, written for the Boston Pops, pays homage to Colin McPhee, one of the first western musicologists to study Balinese gamelan, as well as to the great illustrators Carl Barks and Hergé (responsible for Donald Duck & Tintin, respectively). I tried to write a completely romantic and fanciful gamelan-influenced piece, attempting nothing but the most superficial authenticity. On top of this twittery and excited music, a long, lonesome melody unfolds. After a desolate interlude with severe, ship’s-horn brass, the energetic patterns start again, and the long line returns, this time with a triumphant, revelatory ending.