Once to Find (2023)

String Trio
Recording Coming Soon

Duration: 15 minutes | Composed: 2023 | Commissioned by The Stradbroke Chamber Music Festival | World Premiere: North Stradbroke Island 2023 | Recording: Coming Soon.

(...lengthy, but if you want to understand the title in connection to the elements, it can be insightful).

I usually don’t have any difficulty deciding on the title for a piece. I’ll know it either before I start writing, or it will come to me within the first week of drafting. With this work however, I struggled the entire way, switching the title almost everyday for the entire time I was writing it. I honestly thought my inspiration was coming from sand – everything and anything sand. It began with investigations into microscopic images of sand taken from different places around the world (important side-note: I’m delighted to say it’s now my new hobby to collect sand samples from wherever I go, and to use my husband’s professional-grade microscope / camera set up to create similar images). And that evolved as I read more about sand and how it’s tied into technology and is becoming a diminishing resource.
Then I turned to literature, in particular, fiction: Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’ graphic novels; at least here I found myself closer to understanding what I was searching for and why I couldn’t settle on a title. There’s a moment just after we meet John Constantine (the current Constantine, from which many generations of supernatural experts are involved with the Sandman to some degree – the Netflix adaptation uses a Joanna here, instead), and he’s thinking about how he’s been meaning to investigate “this Sandman”. He alleviates this thought by making the following comment:

“One thing I’ve learned. You can know anything. It’s all there. You just have to find it”.

Naturally, in the next frame we see the Sandman knocking at Constantine’s door.
Gaiman, via Constantine, laid down his word and it was very much a palm-to-the-face moment for me. Right then, I not only realized I was not writing a piece about sand, but that the music had been screaming at me the whole time… in C (…sea). The answer had very much already been there.
This work is a dance suite. Each movement takes its inspiration from a traditional baroque dance style. Traditionally every piece in the suite is in the same key and I had written all five and a half movements mostly in C (that half movement actually exists in order to correct one of the earlier movements not ending in C). And the whole time I was thinking about Stradbroke Island, where the world premiere of this piece will be played. As a child, teenager, and young adult, I spent a lot of time on both South and North Stradbroke islands. I love sand. I love camping on the beach and ending up with a sleeping back full of gritty, immovable patches of it. The only thing I love more than sand though, is water. And in the back of my overly-complicated-creative brain I had been thinking about it the whole time – while very much connected to sand (even the deserts, as my dear husband reminded me, were once the bottoms of oceans), water actually creates it, moulds it, and files it down over time. The point is though, that water takes precedence - for both me and over the existence and purpose of sand. So, combining this revelation with those poignant words from Gaiman/Constantine: If looking without a clouded perspective, it can take just one moment to find what you’re looking for, because it’s already there.


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