Everyone, I like to think, has those moments where they look across a room or an airport or at the person a few feet away and get a fleeting glimpse of what life is like for the mysterious other. Our individual senses of self can be so overpowering that we forget each human around us is experiencing the world in the first person. The reminder is often jarring. Though I have these moments occasionally in real life, it comes rushing back to me every time I look at the cover of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, a scribbled-on picture of a couple kissing, shot at a distance. The book itself brings up questions of fate and forgiveness, but there’s an underlying theme that you can’t judge a person’s motivations for an endeavor based solely on the formal wear they’re carrying with them.

As I crafted silhouettes, I tried to keep all this in mind—to create musical vignettes representing brief exchanges that could mean something entirely different to the performers and audience than they mean to me. Each movement has its own flavor, whether evoking nostalgia, tension, or a moment of reprieve, and the piece itself is formatted rather like a book: a prologue, an epilogue, and the traditional flow of tension and release, culminating in iv. run run run. Performers should approach this piece with an inquisitive mindset; just as no two observed interactions imply exactly the same meaning, no two performances should be identical.

silhouettes was commissioned by Willis Dotson and Jared Jarvis, to both of whom I’m incredibly grateful.

(Performance notes available in the full score.)

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Listen to the world premiere of silhouettes, as performed by Willis Dotson, Jared Jarvis, and Minhae Lee: