Etz Chaim (1993)
Duration: 9 min.
Recording: Albany TROY1119
Premiere: 2007; D. Amato; Harvard Univ.
Etz Chaim is Hebrew for “the Tree of Life” and in most synagogues one sees an image of just this icon. Each temple is different, as are the artists whom they commission, but to me it is a tree of many branches of irregular shape and length. The very presence of it should give us tranquility—all lives are here under God and heaven, and each takes its shape and course and length under that guidance—yet there is an opposite mood implied as well: nothing is certain, nothing is truly in our control, we are all under the mercy of mortality at any moment. So I had the audacity to attempt a piece which, while still in principle in my naturally modal and harmonically consonant style, stretches the acoustical sonorities of that style as far as I ever have, along with cross-rhythms, changes of timing and overlapping textures. I wanted to leave the hearer (and the player for that matter) with a sense of ineffable peace. I hope I have at least partially succeeded. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)