A Passage between Earth and Sky

November 6th, 2022

Maritime Museum of San Diego
Premiered by the Hausmann Quartet with the composer on viola

2 violins, 2 violas, & cello
Commissioned by Michael Hostetler and Erica Pascal

“Her melodies had an organic growth about them, progressing bit by bit rather than in a long continuous line.” –San Diego Union-Tribune

“In soulful themes such as the lyrical duet between Meyer and Hausmann’s violist Angela Choong that opens the work, the composer embraces familiar tonal conventions, yet her second movement presents a nocturnal soundscape, a deft but static texture of bird calls and insect chirps, that does not rely on tonal progressions.” – San Diego Story


Nature has always played a role in many of my significant memories so far. In fact, my first memory ever is posing for a photo when I was 3 years old standing next to the maple tree that served as the centerpiece of my backyard. I remember touching the bark, the super-70’s corduroy pants and homemade macramé poncho I was wearing, and even the dappled light coming through the leaves.

Fast forward to my late-in-life composition career where it has become a regular part of my practice to get into nature before starting any piece, and then it seems that nature and specific places in the world are a direct inspiration for a good portion of the material I come up with.  Therefore, after meeting Michael and Erica and finding out about the life and death of their Italian Umbrella Pine “Igor”, I had to find a way to write about it.

Igor was a glorious tree that provided shade and sanctuary for both humans and birds. One day PGE cut him down out of fear that he would somehow be uprooted from the soil and fly into the powerlines. I can’t understand how even a diseased tree could fly away like that, yet I am also constantly reminded of the many destructive things we humans do out of fear. In this piece, I wanted to weave together sounds that are evocative of a tree extending their roots into the earth, the birds who rest on his branches, the traumatic dismembering of Igor, and the fantasy of a supernatural force somehow allowing him to magically reassemble and fly up into the sky in order to find a new home.

“The Overstory” by Richard Powers was a book that Erica recommended I read to get into the mindset of how trees exist on the planet, how they grow, and how they can communicate with each other. Early on in the book, a quote immediately grabbed my attention – about how a tree can “be a passage between earth and sky”.

I cannot think of a better title for this piece.

My deep thanks to Michael Hostetler and Erica Pascal for commissioning this work for me to play with the Hausmann Quartet. I hope I have done your beloved tree justice.