Skin, stretched upon the frame

written for and premiered by David Milnes and the University of California, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
Hertz Concert Hall
March 16, 17, 18 2017

Dedicated to the memory of James Kaiser

…What is a man, / If his chief good and market of his time / Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
— Shakespeare, Hamlet 4.4.36-38

Tenderness / a things to be beaten / into.
— Ocean Vuong, Into the Breach

Skin is the site of contact. Of touch. Of violence. It is my contact with the world, the haptic connection to someone else. The very real breach between the inner and outer, between the flesh and the immaterial. It’s where I want to live, where possibilities are infinite, where the feeling is electric. Skin is the only thing separating me from you, the only thing preventing all of who I am from emptying out. Skin, encasing animal meat and animal desire, is what you see, it tells you and the world what to think of me. All I know and feel is the violence of living, the often quiet savagery that visits me as I wake every morning and when I pass away every night. All I know is desire and carnal potential, and skin makes me desperately aware of them. My bones are brittle, the frame upon which my brown skin is stretched, like a drum to be BEATEN, beaten until bloodied. And yet, maybe sick, I delight in it. My breath leaving my body when I exhale is the sound of time while the thud of my blasting heart echoes into the stillness of 4:48am. It’s quiet, I’m lying, I am listening, the silence like a siren’s song. But I want to continue lying here with you. And only death will stop me.