An Empty Garlic (2014)

About the Work

for bass flute and electronics
Duration: 19 mins

Commissioned by Project& Foundation
for Claire Chase, A Sarabande

First Performance: March 2014 at The Kitchen, NYC 
Part of Claire Chase’s Density 2036, part ii

You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You are joking with an old crone.
It makes me want to cry how she detains you,
stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down, tasteless fig,
fold over fold, empty
as dry-rotten garlic. 

She has you tight by the belt,
even though there’s no flower and no milk inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice. 

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love. 

—from Rumi 

Program Note

Over the years, I have written quite a few pieces for Claire, each of them reflects who we were at the time, as well as our evolving understanding of each other… 

As of late I have been going back to relearn the classical forms. Growing up, playing any Sarabandes from Bach’s Suites was one of my favorite things to do. The playing always accompanied a sense of meditation, grief, bereavement, and transcendence. 

Historically however, the Sarabande had a rather provocative and coquettish beginning. It was said to have received its name at Seville from a fiend in the form of a woman. The dance was a group dance mainly done by women and was considered wild in manner and a highly sexual pantomime in nature, with undulations of the body, massive hip movements, flirtations, indecent song lyrics and women using castanets. When it was introduced to France, the dance included men who would dance it as well. They would occasionally use the tambourine, which was considered effeminate in those days. People who sang it were arrested, lashed, and exiled in its younger days. 

In the piece, I also looked into the orthodox chant, sung on the 24th  of January: Xenia of Rome, and Her Two Female Slaves (from the 5th century). In the hinted scents of Bach’s Sarabande you would hear from the beginning and ever so present throughout the piece, is a story behold between Claire and our beloved friend who passed away. 

I often wonder about bereavement. When and how it pauses, recharges, morphs and restarts. Along the way, we possibly also hold bereavement reserved for ourselves too. 

I am so close to you I am distant, I am so mingled with you I am apart, I am so open I am hidden, I am so strong I totter. 

This is a fruit of life to me: intoxicating, in exile, and always at home.

In Memorium of Elise Mann.

–Du Yun