human kindness is overflowing
for clarinet, electric guitar, percussion, piano, cello, and double bass
2010 | 7"
Performed by EVAN ZIPORYN (clarinet), DANIEL REYES LLINAS (electric guitar), KARL LARSON (piano), OWEN WEAVER (percussion), NORA KRAHL (cello), LISA DOWLING (double bass), and TODD REYNOLDS (conductor)
clarinet in Bb
percussion (vibraphone, glockenspiel, triangle)
N.B. In larger venues, all instruments should be amplified. It is recommended that the level be set somewhat high, making the particular colors and emotional quality of pianissimo/piano/mezzo-piano playing comfortably audible and warmly resonant in the space. In smaller and more intimate venues, amplification is unnecessary (except, of course, for the electric guitar, who should always blend with the acoustic instruments).
View the score
On a warm Saturday night in early May, just as I was beginning work on what would eventually become this piece, my friend went out to a club alone. His drink was spiked, and he was robbed, raped, and left in an elevator—nearly blind without his glasses, which had either fallen off or been taken from him—more than three miles from where he started. My friend was foreign, here on an extended vacation, and so responsibility for his affairs—involving the police, the hospital, and the day-to-day need to care for him and not leave him alone—fell to me and to his one other friend in New York, A––.
A–– and I took shifts keeping him company, handling as much of the paperwork as we could so that he wouldn't have to, and just making sure he ate. Whenever I wasn't completing a final project or in an exam, I was with him. For one week, every decision I made was made around what was best for him. It is the closest I have come to feeling what, I imagine, a parent feels for a child.
Countless people were so kind to him: breaking through red tape to get him a free hotel room near his country's consulate; flying his older brother from overseas, and flying both of them home, first class; giving him box upon box of free contact lenses so he wouldn't have to pay for new glasses; even giving him the option of back-office duty at work until he felt up to dealing with clients again. If there was to be any comfort then, the incredible kindness of those strangers—and of A––, who was a saint—was it. And then he was taken home, and I had to stay here and write this piece.
What followed his departure was the worst depression I have ever experienced. I'd wanted to write a fast, loud, exuberant piece for the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, and I had written just such a piece, You Are Alive, during a similar depressive episode a few months earlier. But I knew I just didn't have another piece like that in me. I was exhausted.
And so I wrote this piece about that. I wanted to build a refuge where I could both mourn the horrors I had seen and praise the great kindnesses I had witnessed, without having to choose between the two. An allusion to Mahler toward the end of the piece is my expression of gratitude to the composer who, more than any other, has always guided me through difficult times.
I was also listening, on loop, to a great Randy Newman song whose refrain,
human kindness is overflowing
and I think it's going to rain today
tinged with ambivalence and even a little sarcasm, somehow said it all.