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the crystalline architecture of loss (2003)

i.       molto adagio-agitato-piu mosso-molto adagio                                               

ii.     allegro agitato-presto

iii.    andante ma molto espressivo-poco adagio-a tempo-adagio-morendo

available from the composer

duration ca.23:00



pedal harp (original) or

version for piano

Program Note

In early 2002 my mother, Mary Ann Coleman, underwent a successful surgery to correct a congenital problem with one of the valves of her heart.  This followed a hip surgery, and for several months she was feeling better, at age 74, than she’d felt in a decade or more.  But then she began to have chest pain, which everyone else attributed to lingering feelings from the heart operation.  She insisted that it was not, and over her doctor’s hesitations, demanded a chest X-ray.  I still vividly recall both the rapidity and the strangeness of the diagnoses: first it was one spot on one lung that wasn’t much concern; then several spots on one lung but still very treatable; and within days, many spots throughout both lungs.  My mother immediately began to make plans to do the things she’d longed for—return to Hawaii, visit Europe—but the cancer was viciously aggressive and within two months she died. 


the crystalline architecture of loss is dedicated to her memory. The title refers to feelings when a loved one passes away--the intense fragility of everything, how easily and quickly life can utterly shatter.  The three separate movements, although following a relatively obvious emotional program, are not given programmatic titles in an attempt to evoke the speechlessness of profound loss.

the crystalline architecture of loss was commissioned by Michelle Abbott who premiered the first movement in Hong Kong shortly after its completion in 2003.  The premiere of the work in its entirely was given by Ms. Abbott at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, in Atlanta, Georgia, and then performed by her on tour throughout the US and UK in March and April, 2011.  I adapted the work for piano in 2009 and it was premiered by Carol Yu the following year at Hong Kong Baptist University's Academic Community Hall.  The version for piano has been recorded on New Ariel Records by Jeffrey Jacobs.

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