York St John University
McCaleb (2021) The Hour of Lead.zip (872.5 MB)

The Hour of Lead (2021)

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posted on 2023-08-17, 12:40 authored by Murphy McCalebMurphy McCaleb

In March 2020, author David Kessler wrote that ‘we’re feeling a number of different griefs. We feel the world has changed, and it has. We know this is temporary, but it doesn’t feel that way, and we realize things will be different. […] The loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving. Collectively. We are not used to this kind of collective grief in the air.’

My personal grieving began two years prior to the pandemic. My father died nine months before my son was born; my mother nine months after. I was there when Papa died, but Mom died when I was in a plane somewhere over the North Atlantic. Processing these events, particularly in conjunction with becoming a father myself, has been complicated, drawn-out, and difficult to articulate.

If I have learned anything from the last few years, it is that grief is not one thing, but many. Sometimes, grief is a void, an acute awareness that something is missing. Sometimes, grief nauseates and surprises you like a piece of mouldy fruit at the bottom of the fruit bowl. Sometimes, grief is like a paper cut on the webbing between your fingers, forcefully re-entering your consciousness when you least expect. Sometimes, grief is like a pool that invites you to sink deeper and deeper. And sometimes, grief is all of these things, layered upon each other like veils.

The Hour of Lead is an expression of some of the grieving that has encompassed myself, my family, my community, and the world at large. Musicians work through the video notation in parallel with each other, but not visibly together; even if it is collective, grief is still experienced and processed individually. Several texts are drawn upon, including a poem by Emily Dickinson, part of St Paul’s letter to the Romans, a mis-remembered hymn by Albert E. Brumley, and a translated Tlingit speech for the removal of grief. Scattered throughout the piece, performers note what is missing – the current holes in people’s lives. This piece is intended to explore our collective grief through sound. It is ultimately hopeful, but that hope is only one part of the residue left through grieving.

This piece would not have been possible without the creative feedback provided by the original performers: Rebecca Armstrong, Matthew Bates, Oliver Bratley, Emily Chalmers, Sophie Clark, Elisabeth Finegan, Annie Graham, George Hitchmough, Brooke Hizzett, James McDonald, Emily Moss, Hannah Shaw, and Jack Welsh. Special thanks go to Catherine Heinemeyer, David Lancaster, David Richmond, Emily Rowan, and Jane Speck.

This piece has been performed twice to date:
11 May 2022, YSJU staff and students, YSJU Chapel
19 April 2021 [preview performance], YSJU staff and students, YSJU Temple Hall


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