Breathing Light (2021) was written for Hub New Music and is inspired by the Peabody Essex Museum’s “Breath” exhibition by artist Zarah Hussain. Both this piece and “Breath” reflect on the significance of breathing in 2020 and 2021, from loss of breath due to COVID-19 to protecting one’s breath via the Black Lives Matter movement to learning to breathe mindfully in order to endure catastrophic events. In an interview with PEM, Hussain described the five-second breath as “the perfect breath.” Breathing in for five seconds and out for five seconds reinvigorates us, gives us the oxygen we need, and helps connect our mind and body. The artist remarked, “I see things mathematically, and so for me, these paintings were a visual interpretation of what it would look like to breathe in and breathe out.”
Breathing Light evokes this same translation, but to music. The piece opens by grounding the ensemble in the five-second breath, a series of five chords at 60 bpm (the tempo of seconds). Throughout the work, the ensemble navigates moments when their perfect breath is thrown off-course; they start “breathing light” (shallow breathing). Conversely, the title also references filling one’s lungs fully, allowing the body to feel enlivened, renewed, and restored.
Many thanks to Hub New Music for their friendship and tireless dedication to bringing new music to life.
Commissioned by Hub New Music and the Peabody Essex Museum
Available through Just a Theory Press.