What would the Either be?

What would the Either be? is a piece for live violin, electronically transformed violin sounds, and optional video.

The piece is inspired by a late Emily Dickinson poem, which she wrote in 1883 as she was trying to make sense of the death of her young nephew, Gib.

The Spirit lasts—but in what mode—
Below, the Body speaks,
But as the Spirit furnishes—
Apart, it never talks—
The Music in the Violin
Does not emerge alone
But Arm in Arm with Touch,
yet Touch Alone—is not a Tune—
The Spirit lurks within the Flesh
Like Tides within the Sea
That make the Water live, estranged
What would the Either be?
Does that know—now—or does it cease—
That which to this is done,
Resuming at a mutual date
With every future one?
Instinct pursues the Adamant,
Exacting this Reply—
Adversity if it may be, or
Wild Prosperity,
The Rumor’s Gate was shut so tight
Before my Mind was sown,
Not even a Prognostic’s Push
Could make a Dent thereon—

Emily Dickinson turns the hard dualism of body versus spirit slippery and mysterious. In response, I recorded David Felberg’s col legno playing so you can’t really know what is live and what pre-recorded. The video, shot in the summer of 2020 on Otter Creek in Vermont, blurs the binary of land versus water with abundant grass billowing in the current.

This is the second of a series of pieces I am making responding to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, who became my queer role model in lockdown. What would the Either be? was commissioned for David Felberg by the Taos Chamber Music Group, and received its premiere on 19 June 2021.

What would the Either be? is 27 July in my ongoing project A Book of Days, and you can hear David Felberg’s pre-release recording of the piece there.

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Here’s a performing score for the piece.

For the pre-recorded track (with or without video), please click the buy button below. The suggested price is $30, but you can choose your own price based on your situation, with my thanks for supporting this low-key way of publishing: