Eternity Will Be Velocity

Written for and premiered by the University of California, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra & David Milnes
Hertz Hall, Berkeley
April 5-6, 2019

Two Lengths has every Day—
Its absolute extent
And Area superior
By Hope or Horror lent—

Eternity will be
Velocity or Pause
At Fundamental Signals
From Fundamental Laws.

To die is not to go—
On Doom’s consummate Chart
No Territory new is staked—
Remain thou as thou art.
-Emily Dickinson

Speed and endurance have been singular preoccupations of mine now for years. In various parts of my life, at various times, I have often been forced to examine the price I must pay to live in a contemporary society – one which necessitates speed for thriving, if not survival. The desperate contradiction between the joys of being alive in a time of burgeoning futility and anxiety fuels many kinds of art – and in mine, it often takes the form of sound speeding towards stillness.

The stillness, or “Pause” in the lines above by Emily Dickinson allude to the afterlife. On its surface, the poem’s meaning may seem to point towards the continuation of the natural laws – the sun rises, falls, the Earth revolves once more. Not far from this meaning is another one, one more intimate yet more expansive – “Eternity,” that which is beyond us, that is after-life, will obviously continue – its expansion ever-rapid. Yet what of us? Will our “Eternity” be speed or stillness? I read Dickinson’s words as a nod to transcendence, perhaps even the Sublime, in awe of the terrifying unknown. Yet her confidence in the final stanza is my anxiety, my depression. And so, the music of Eternity Will Be Velocity, pushes, from the depths of the orchestra in its beginning to heights of the strings, ultimately a lone violin, at its end. Never ceasing, for fear of death or irrelevancy, always hurtling towards another threshold. In this process, marked by endurance and pain, I find expressivity and beauty.