Garden of Exile

Garden of Exile

Garden of Exile

for symphonic band

Program Notes

  1. Garden of Exile
  2. Fallen Leaves in the Memory Void

Garden of Exile was inspired by a visit to the Berlin Jewish Museum in early 2005. The museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind, has gotten perhaps as much attention for its unique and symbolic architecture as for its displays. While certainly the museum is about much more than just the Holocaust, any museum devoted to the history of Jews in Germany must of necessity devote a great deal of attention to that huge historical tragedy.

There are a line of Voids, empty, unadorned rooms running lengthwise through the building, expressing the emptiness in Europe after the deportation and murder of so much of its Jewish population. There are also three axes, underground passageways, one of which leads to the Garden of Exile. This is a surreal-appearing outdoor space. There are 49 pillars, each six meters tall (a little less than 20 feet). These are set at an angle, and growing out of the top of each pillar are olive trees, the traditional Jewish symbol of peace and hope. Despite this symbolism, the effect is very unsettling, due perhaps to the weird angle of the pillars, and to the unreachable distance of the trees. To me, the energy of the Garden was bleak and somehow almost violent. This effect was perhaps amplified by the fact that we visited on a very gray and cold winter day.

In one of the Voids, named the Memory Void, there was a temporary display by sculptor Menashe Kadishman, called Fallen Leaves. Over 10,000 heavy iron leaves, with rough human faces cut in to them, covered the floor. Visitors had to walk over them to explore the area, which created a distinct clinking sound in the echoing space of the void. It was extremely disconcerting to walk over these amalgams of leaves and human faces, many of which appeared to be screaming.

My music for the two movements expresses the violent energy I perceived in the Garden of Exile, and the more contemplative, but still very disturbing, emotions engendered by Fallen Leaves. In the latter, in particular, metallic percussion instruments imitate the sounds of the metal leaves as they were walked upon.

Garden of Exile was written for the University of Louisville Wind Ensemble, Frederick Speck, conductor.

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